Trump and the Deeper Crisis: Volume 39

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Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Prelims

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Abstract

Most analyses of Donald Trump's presidency stress its uniqueness. For many commentators, the “crisis of democracy” refers to Trump's January 2021 coup attempt and his other authoritarian machinations. Some analysts speak of the “Trump effect” on the Republican Party. Yet in most respects Trump is an extreme expression of longstanding patterns. Trump's style of demagoguery draws from the historic repertoire of the Right, while most of his policies as president were consistent with those of his predecessors. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, appears incapable of stopping the spread of far-right politics, largely because the party is unable and/or unwilling to deliver major redistributive reforms. Trump and Trumpism are symptoms of this deeper systemic crisis. This brief introduction previews the chapters that follow, which will examine the roots, impacts, and future prospects of Trumpism and the possibilities for combatting it.

Abstract

Most US activists place a high priority on elections. The default strategy for those seeking policy change is some combination of electoral campaigning and pressure campaigns targeting politicians. Yet policies show a high degree of continuity across recent presidential administrations. Despite substantial differences in rhetoric and legislative agendas, the policies resulting from Republican and Democratic presidencies have stayed within a narrow range, defined by the promotion of corporate profits, the impunity of law enforcement agencies, the defense of imperial prerogatives, and nearly unfettered ecological destruction. Focusing on the Trump and Biden presidencies, I analyze some of the structural barriers that inhibit major policy change. I also explore why the ruling class as a whole has not yet united against parasitic industries like fossil fuels and pharmaceuticals that endanger the interests of other capitalists. I argue that activists must move beyond electoral and legislative approaches by directly disrupting ruling-class interests that have the power to change policy. Only then will we win major progressive reform.

Abstract

Donald Trump portrayed himself as a crusader against corrupt elites, claiming he would “drain the swamp.” Corporate elites generally depicted themselves as either trying to work with him or as directly opposed to him. Yet a closer analysis of Trump's policies and their outcomes in key issue areas, from taxes to immigration to the environment, shows continuity with previous pro-corporate policies. Furthermore, by positioning Trump as opposed to the elite, Trump and commentators on his presidency created a “radical flank” effect that made status quo, pro-corporate policies appear as progressive victories. This analysis suggests that a focus on the personal characteristics of politicians is misleading, and that the focus of political discourse needs to be on the power structure that shapes policy outcomes.

Abstract

Trumpism seeks to maintain white domination. President Trump's policies aimed to restore white power at a time when it seemed to be in jeopardy. This chapter examines Trump's policy record and its impact on the US Black population, focusing on voting rights, policing, and criminal justice. I also discuss the far right's attack on history curricula and public education, specifically its demonization of Critical Race Theory. These efforts to protect and extend white power are not new. They are based on the principles articulated by the Founding Fathers, who asserted the right of white settlers to control the nation. More recent precedents for Trump's racism include the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who, like Trump, ascended politically by mobilizing white racism. While many have labeled Trumpism a fascist movement, I argue that it is better understood as a precursor to fascism. It represents a continuation of the racist origins and traditions of the United States, where the national oppression of African Americans is core to the operation of capitalism. In closing, I offer a strategic proposal for stopping this reactionary movement and preventing it from developing into a full-fledged fascist movement.

Abstract

When Trump entered the presidential race in 2015, many white evangelicals turned up their noses at his candidacy. By 2020, Trump had garnered such commitment from white evangelicals that not only did 80% vote for him, but 60% also refused to accept the election results after his loss. How did this transformation occur, and with what lasting results for the evangelical vote and US politics more broadly? This chapter shows that in the “new culture wars” of the Trump era, race has played an even more central and explicit role in religion and politics than it did in the past. Christian nationalism and the intersection of religion and race help explain the strong bond between Trump and many white evangelicals. COVID-19 vaccine refusal and critical race theory bans provide examples of the continuing significance of that bond. These cases demonstrate the likelihood that Trumpian politics will maintain influence over white evangelicals in the near future.

Abstract

Since 1986, there has not been another federal immigration reform policy that has legalized the status of the undocumented migrants living and working inside the United States. Instead, there has been only criminalization and punitive measures. From the administrations of Bill Clinton to Donald Trump, and now that of Joe Biden, there has been a bipartisan continuity of the “enforcement-only approach,” which has corresponded with capital's increased reliance and preference for non-citizen labor. The abandonment of inclusive citizenship and rights-based immigration reform in favor of restrictive measures allows for capitalists to increase capital accumulation through greater exploitation of migrant workers. Working backwards from this process shows how this method of labor procurement and exploitation extends from the roots of imperialist expansionism abroad: the imposition of free-trade agreements and economic displacement, regional militarization, and the regulation and criminalization of cross-border migration. Because of these factors, it has become apparent that prospects for citizenship and rights-based reform will not likely be advanced electorally within the current configuration of party politics in the United States, and has therefore shifted to different forms of class struggle in workplaces and communities across the country.

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the Trump administration's health policies, with an emphasis on its efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It assesses those policies both in the context of the administration's broader goals and motivations, and in the context of systemic deficits and deficiencies in American health policy. I argue that failures of health policy and health security in the face of the pandemic reflect those longstanding weaknesses, much more so than the administration's actions (or inaction).

Abstract

The US fossil fuel industry is vulnerable to opposition from other sectors of the ruling class. Non-fossil fuel capitalists might conclude that climate breakdown jeopardizes their interests. State actors such as judges, regulators, and politicians may come to the same conclusion. However, these other elite actors are unlikely to take concerted collective action against fossil fuels in the absence of growing disruption by grassroots activists. Drawing from the history of the Obama, Trump, and Biden presidencies, I analyze the forces determining government climate policies and private-sector investments. I focus on how the climate and Indigenous movements have begun to force changes in the behavior of certain ruling-class interests. Of particular importance is these movements' progress in two areas: eroding the financial sector's willingness to fund and insure fossil fuels, and influencing judges and regulators to take actions that further undermine investors' confidence in fossil fuels. Our future hinges largely on whether the movements can build on these victories while expanding their base within labor unions and other strategically positioned sectors.

Abstract

Many analyses point to Trump's behavior on the world stage – bullying and racketeering more reminiscent of a mafioso than a statesman – as a personal character flaw. We argue that, while this behavior was shocking in how unvarnished it was, Trump marks the culmination of a decades-long trend that shifted US foreign policy from a regime of “legitimate protection” in the mid-twentieth century to a “protection racket” by the turn of the twenty-first. While the temperaments of successive presidents have mattered, the problems facing the United States and its role in the world are not attributable to personalities but are fundamentally structural, in large part stemming from the contradictions of US attempts to cling to preeminence in the face of a changing global distribution of power. The inability of successive US administrations – Trump and Biden included – to break out of the mindset of US primacy has resulted in a situation of “domination without hegemony” in which the United States plays an increasingly dysfunctional role in the world. This dynamic has plunged the world into a period of systemic chaos analogous to the first half of the twentieth century.

Abstract

Donald Trump entered the presidency in 2017 with an electoral mandate to reduce US military involvement around the world and to abandon the trade and investment treaties that empowered global corporations. Yet he mostly continued the foreign policies adopted by previous administrations. In recent decades, those policies have increasingly served particularistic elite interests at the expense of the US ruling class as a whole, and they have also been unsuccessful in stemming the decline of US imperial power. This chapter explores the factors that explain this continuity of policy. In analyzing the reasons for policy stasis, it offers an analytical basis to evaluate what might change under President Biden. It also assesses what strategies might be most effective for those who hope to resist US militarism and to undermine the US capacity to enforce a hegemony based on rapacious capitalism.

Index

Pages 203-207
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Cover of Trump and the Deeper Crisis
DOI
10.1108/S0198-8719202339
Publication date
2022-12-12
Book series
Political Power and Social Theory
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-80455-513-2
eISBN
978-1-80455-512-5
Book series ISSN
0198-8719