Donald Trump’s path to power
How the election has been brewing for over a decade
While the world is still reeling from the election of Donald Trump it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. It took nearly 60 million people to simultaneously come together and push that big red button. This is not just some transient phenomenon that occurred. There are a strong set of reasons for his outcome. Like with anything it’s important to not just understand the symptoms, but also the root cause.
The left are asking the right: What could you possibly think could come of electing this madman? How do you consider this to be a vote against the establishment, when you couldn’t find a candidate more entrenched in it?
But a vote against the establishment it is. And a call for revolution. And in likelihood, they will get it. But not how they wanted it.
When a civilization remains relatively stable for a long period of time certain effects start to take place. One of the long term effects of capitalism is that it tends to become top heavy after awhile. Having money automatically helps the upper class make even more money. This compounds upon itself, and there being a finite money supply, results in middle and lower classes inevitably getting less and less of it as time goes on.
Eventually the discontentment reaches such a point that the society comes together to cause change. But they don’t run after the rich people with pitchforks as often suggested, because the rich people generally have superior defenses. What generally happens is that the discontent people elect a leader, and that leader represents one important thing to them: change.
The climate in the US has been advancing towards electing Donald Trump for a very long time. It was greatly enhanced by the 2008 banking crisis, which resulted in being a wealth grab from the middle class by the wealthy, and ultimately leading up to where we are today. If it was not Donald Trump now, we would get someo like him in the near future due to the climate being perfect for the election of a demagogue. According to wikipedia:
A demagogue or rabble-rouser is a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation.
Here are some of the key characteristics of a demagogue according to wikipedia:
- They fashion themselves as a man or woman of the common people, as opposed to the elites.
- They threaten or outright break established rules of conduct, institutions, and even the law.
- The central feature of the practice of demagoguery is persuasion by means of passion, shutting down reasoned deliberation and consideration of alternatives. Demagogues “pander to passion, prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance, rather than reason
- Demagogues exploit a weakness of democracies: the greater numbers, and hence votes, of the lower classes and less-educated people — the people most prone to be whipped up into a fury and led to catastrophic action by an orator skilled at fanning that kind of flame. Democracies are instituted to ensure freedom for all and popular control over government authority; demagogues turn power deriving from popular support into a force that undermines the very freedoms and rule of law that democracies are made to protect. The Greek historian Polybius thought that democracies are inevitably undone by demagogues. He said that every democracy eventually decays into “a government of violence and the strong hand,” leading to “tumultuous assemblies, massacres, banishments.
And these are some of the most commonly used methods of demagogues according to wikipedia:
- Scapegoating: The most common demagogic technique is scapegoating: blaming the in-group’s troubles on an out-group, usually of a different ethnicity, religion, or social class.
- Fear mongering Many demagogues have risen to power by evoking fear in their audiences, to stir them to action and prevent deliberation.
- While any politician needs to point out dangers to the people and criticize opponents’ policies, demagogues choose their words for their effect on their audience’s emotions, usually without regard for factual truth or the real severity of the danger
- Accusing opponents of weakness and disloyalty
- Many demagogues have found that ridiculing or insulting opponents is a simple way to shut down reasoned deliberation of competing ideas, especially with an unsophisticated audience.
- A common demagogic technique is to pin an insulting epithet on an opponent, by saying it repeatedly [in this case that would be “Crooked Hillary”]
- Vulgarity and outrageous behavior: Legislative bodies usually have sober standards of decorum that are intended to quiet passions and favor reasoned deliberation. Many demagogues violate standards of decorum outrageously, to show clearly that they are thumbing their noses at the established order and the genteel ways of the upper class, or simply because they enjoy the attention that it brings. The common people might find the demagogue disgusting, but the demagogue can use the upper class’s contempt for him to show that won’t be shamed or intimidated by the powerful.
- Gross oversimplification: Scapegoating, described above, is one form of gross oversimplification: treating a complex problem, which requires patient reasoning and analysis to sort out, as if it results from one simple cause or can be solved by one simple cure
- Attacking the news media: Since information from the press can undermine a demagogue’s spell over his or her followers, modern demagogues have often attacked it intemperately, calling for violence against newspapers who opposed them, claiming that the press was secretly in the service of moneyed interests or foreign powers, or claiming that leading newspapers were simply personally out to get them.
The rise of the demagogue usually involves mass persecution against some foreign force that is labelled as the enemy. It usually starts of as inspiration, turns into aggression, and often results in war. The last world war that occurred occurred because there was a depression, there was a lot of pressure on the working class, and living standards were low. Hitler appealed to the lower and working class. He inspired them. He gained a loyal following, and he labelled outsiders as the problem. There was so much aggression fueled momentum behind the movement that he could have directed his fanatic’s energy at almost anything that he might have chosen to label as the enemy.
And in a sense the people got what they wanted. They were so desperate that they were willing to do almost anything to cause a revolution, and they got one one. In the short and medium term, of course, the results were catastrophic and diabolical. In the short term it was for the persecuted (for the victims), and in the medium term it was bad for the attackers. Now, looking at the picture, historically it did ironically serve its economic purpose in a twisted sense: It redistributed the wealth of the civilizations involved to a new working and middle class. Before this the United States was a relatively new country, not yet properly developed. After the war, it was a thriving and wealthy country with a large working and middle class, mostly due to its manufacturing output that it developed. It resulted in it having the structure and resources to continue to be the world’s superpower until today.
But today the working class is squashed into a minority of the population and the upper class are wealthier than ever before. Historically speaking revolutions happen when food becomes unaffordable. This is what caused the recent waves of revolutions known as the Arab spring (which was correlated with the increase of price of food, particularly grains, which occurred right before the revolutions started. Although at the time ideological reasons were equivocally projected as being the causes of the revolutions), among many other examples.
In some ways this has been a long time coming. Many people have been living from paycheck to paycheck for a long time now, compared to the rapidly escalating wealth of the 62 people who recently advanced to having as much money as the bottom 3.6 billion people combined. And the number of people living from paycheck to paycheck has been increasing, recently surpassing 50% of the population of the country, which is the tipping point.
What future is there for them without change? What hope have they got? They are put into a position where they have two choices: One is to continue slipping down the same slope they have been on for over a decade now. The other is to collectively elect a wildcard who is almost guaranteed to bring change, even if it will likely be negative. By choosing this option their future goes from hopeless to hopeful. However history tells us that in the short term and in the medium term, at least, things will only get worse for everybody.
Of course, the effects could possibly be catastrophic for humanity. Tensions between the United States and Russia have been escalating now for years. Trump could go either way. He could either decide to improve the situation, but he is just as likely to erratically and dangerously escalate things far more than any rational leader would do. That is why Clinton was the safer choice. But either way, if WW3 ever arrives, historians will see that has been in formation in a clear series of steps for some time now. Even though in reality it is absurd (why can’t we all just get along?) in another sense there is a certain inevitability to it.
From a distant perspective this is the standard cycle of history. We have a period of peace, but by democracy’s own limitations it does not last forever. In the long term democracy is unstable by design, due to the uneven landscape of society that develops within its framework, and also due to the fact that an economy has to be growing in order to support it. The reduction of affordability of the basic necessities and continued pressure on the working class has been slowly reaching boiling point for decades. Today the only way out that many people can see is to elect an unstable president. After society is destabilized the half of society who have no economic future will get their revolution, and often a war to go with it. Then, historically speaking, what usually happens is that during and after a long and bloody process, the wealth is in fact somewhat redistributed. Either to the people that win whatever war occurred, or more commonly, to the financiers who stayed at the fringes of it selling services or arms either to both sides at once or by choosing one of the sides and sticking with it.
So what should we do now?
The immediate right thing to do is to question the benefit of protesting. However distasteful it may be, Trump is a democratically elected president. Protesting cannot lead to anything good at this point because what outcome could be hoped for, other than to subvert democracy? What should be getting protested it is the fact that votes are not simply counted as one person equals one vote to be tallied.
Even though Trump is almost certainly a textbook demagogue that does not mean that he is necessarily going to destroy society. Although it is true that the destruction of many civilizations have been caused by demagogues, there are plenty more examples whereby they did not cause the downfall of society. It is unarguable that the US should be structured well enough to handle a single bad president, assuming that that is what he will be. To attempt to remove him before he has started only weakens the people’s case for if they get a good reason to do it down the track. The whole world is watching Trump like a hawk. If he does something that calls for it, that is the time to protest, and to do it enough to effect change. It is clear that the energy and desire are there. It seems exceedingly likely that if he is anything other than a good president that he will not last a full term.
The second thing that is necessary is reconsideration the ideas of wealth creation and distribution to the working & lower class. So much manufacturing has been shifted to China that it recently overtook the USA as the worlds largest economy. While there is no sense in competing with China directly in terms of general manufacturing, there is a huge opportunity for specialized manufacturing of goods using high technology and robotics. If things like Tesla’s gigafactory could catch on and be deployed at a large scale in the USA it could potentially become the manufacturing capital of the world again.
Most large economies have their own brand of production which they excel at. Italy has fashionable goods and super cars, both which are billion dollar markets. Germany manufacturing and electronics are reknown for their world class engineering. But the USA, with all its potential to be the world leader in manufacturing and engineering does not yet have its part. Technology is providing the opportunity to once again grab its place as the leader of high tech manufacturing.
High tech manufacturing admittedly does lead to a second conundrum: That by technology in this way the need for employment of people is markedly decreased. This part is a social issue that may need to be addressed by the government and society at large. How can wealth be distributed amongst its citizens when they are not needed for work? Some have proposed a guaranteed income for all people. It’s hard to say exactly how it should be handled on the social level, but one thing that we can be certain of is that if the USA will be to be able to afford to supply all of its citizens with a guaranteed income, that working out distribution of it is a side issue.
In the meantime it is a difficult question as to how we can avoid the consequences of mass disenfranchisement without undergoing the kind of turbulence that destabilizes the country, and possibly the world. But it’s important to recognize at this critical moment exactly what point of history we are occupying.
Originally published at benslaney.com.