Friday, February 24, 2017

The Smoke and Mirrors of the Right. . . .

If you view this video of Michael Moore appearing on CNN, you can see some of the confusion concerning what the Trump phenomenon really means. In this video Moore refers to Trump and his cadre as "economic nationalists." But then moments later he insists that they are trying to "deconstruct" or dismantle the government, and then he says that they are "anarchists." Now, it doesn't take a degree in political science to understand that these two positions are mutually exclusive, and I am sure that if Mr. Moore stopped and thought about it for a moment, he would realize the absurdity of the statement. However, it is easy to get caught up in the polemics of anti-Trump, and I thoroughly understand where Moore is coming from

However, what Moore's statement demonstrates is a general confusion concerning contemporary rightwing politics. It is confusing because the rightwing, as many commentators are beginning to observe (even many who are traditionally on the right), seem not to be a coherent ideology anymore, if it ever was. In Canada we saw this confusion begin to make its very public debut during the Harper years. The Harper government was continually flying off in every direction. One day they were using a pseudo-libertarian narrative and the next they were consolidating their power in secretive and nefarious ways. They continually talked about fiscal conservatism and ran deficit after deficit. They told voters that they were going to bring more prosperity to the nation but they made no serious investments in infrastructure, alternative energy, or the growth of new economic opportunities. They pretended to be interested in Canadian economic interests but they were eager to sell the whole country to foreign interests.

The confusion of rightwing ideology is not really that complicated. It derives in large part from the abject failure of the Neo-Liberal economic model that they have been pursuing for the last forty years or so. As it becomes clear that it is no longer credible to suggest that giving everything to the rich and corporations is somehow magically going to result in generalized prosperity, the right doesn't know where to turn. They need a diversion, a smokescreen that will allow them to continue to pursue their goals of wealth for wealthy. Thus the right begins to attempt to portray themselves as economic nationalists on the one had, and they begin to use traditional fear of immigrants and racialized groups on the other.

But of course, this veneer is far to thin to fool anyone who is paying attention. There is nothing "economically nationalistic" about Trump. Economic nationalists don't create lines of clothing that are all made overseas. Trump and his associates have always been devoted followers of Neo-Liberal economics. The entire narrative of "make America great again" is nothing but a political lie intended to garner the support of those who have suffered from 40 years of policies that they have, in fact, been supporting. Trump will, of course, make various gestures that suggest that he is standing up for American workers, but it will all be a smokescreen for the further sell-off of the US economy to big banks and foreign interests. In the meantime they will follow their real interests of weakening the government and selling off the economy to the highest bidder. And the way that they will attempt to maintain their populist following will be to continually whip up fear and anxiety concerning immigrants, refugees, racialized people, and foreign groups and nations.

In other words, when commentators like Andrew Coyne (a long supporter of the right in Canada) say that they right has lost it coherent ideological stance, at one level he is simply wrong. The right is after the same things it has always been after: more wealth for the rich, less wealth for the rest, and keeping average people ignorant, poor, and precarious so that they can't fight back. The only thing that is confused or confusing about the new-right is that they are scrambling for a way to reframe their same old goals, and while they are doing that it can seem contradictory and disorganized.

The irony in all of this is, of course, that Liberals in Canada, and the Democrats in the US, have been doing fine for a long time pursuing the exact same economic agenda as the right, but doing it while pretending to be concerned with the average people. The problem for the right is that the Liberals and the Democrats (and this goes for many other centrist parties in Europe) have paid at least a minimal lip-service to the interests of the working-class and so have not (up until now) suffered from the same apparent public contradiction. In other words, what has made the right so ferociously anti-centrist in the past couple of decades is not that the centrists aren't pursuing a Neo-Liberal agenda, rather its because the centrists have not destroyed the prosperity and power of the working and middles classes fast enough! In other words, in most Western democracies for the past forty years we have had a main rightwing party and a main ultra-rightwing party.

All you need in Countries like the US, Canada, Britain, and France, is enough people who are fooled by the smokescreens of a fake economic nationalism and a very real racist agenda, and the new-right will take us where they have always wanted; a place where a small group of rich people have almost all the wealth, the rest have nothing, and they blame racialized people for all their problems.

Michael Moore would do well to stop buying the fake economic nationalism of the Trump Administration and start talking about the real agenda.

1 comment:

The Mound of Sound said...

This nihilistic illogic underlies Hedges' argument that nothing short of revolution can redeem the U.S. now. For a long time I thought that was hyperbole. Now I'm not so sure.

American society hasn't been this divided since the Civil War. Its democracy has been destroyed by the corrosive effects of neoliberalism manifesting in both political and regulatory capture. Now the executive branch has been captured. Democracy has been supplanted by authoritarianism and oligarchy. Gilens and Page's landmark 2014 study (Princeton) left no doubt that democracy in the US is finished.

The fracturing of American society was not inadvertent. Pitting citizen against citizen is a fine way to distract the plebs while you steal their wealth and political power. See if you can get your hands on a copy of Chuck Thompson's 2013 book, "Better Off Without 'Em, A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession." Thompson, with a great deal of humour, explains why the Blue State versus Red State divide continues as a hangover from the Civil War and how both Americas would be better off simply going their own ways.

What a mess.