Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year Inverted Totalitarianism Went Belly-Up

The final weeks of Barack Obama's term have sadly been defined by some of the worst crackdowns on civil liberties the United States has (so far) seen this decade. Last month, his administration introduced a law called H.R. 6393, which, if passed, would allow the government to counter-act websites that the state deems to be fake news outlets. And on Christmas Day, Obama signed the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, which establishes a government agency with the purpose of suppressing such sites.

These measures are just the tail end of the saga of unjust actions that the U.S. government has taken throughout the last several decades, and indeed for the last several centuries. Genocide, slavery, economic exploitation, perpetual war, environmental destruction, the creation of a surveillance state, and countless other unjustifiable policies have been justified by the country's leaders to the public through fear, disinformation, and scapegoating, with the government's effort during the last few months to justify the laws mentioned above with a good old-fashioned Red baiting campaign being no exception.

The good news, though, is that I'm convinced this will be the last time the state can succeed with such propaganda efforts for quite a while.

The tactics I've mentioned all fall under one category of effort on the part of the state to gain public support for its oppressive actions: inverted totalitarianism. The methods that this term signifies, as Chris Hedges assesses, is applied to American society as follows: "Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent."

What's recently disrupted this order, though, is something somewhat counterintuitive: the (minority-decided) election of a leader whose political brand is invertedly totalitarian to the extreme. The means Donald Trump has used to gain support fits every part of the definition of inverted totalitarianism; by almost consistently misrepresenting the truth while making public statements, seeking to portray himself as a victim of biased media and governmental institutions, and inciting anger towards groups and individuals that he chooses to scapegoat, he has effectively created a cult of personality wherein his supporters (literally) pledge allegiance to him despite the encyclopedia of evidence that he is not someone worth following.

What's backfired about this approach, though, is that aside from his loyalists, it's caused the country to turn against him. According to some surveys, 70% of Americans view him unfavorably, and while just 54% view him as honest and trustworthy, a minuscule 29% said in September that they would be excited to see him as president, and 24% said they would be proud. Especially considering how this may be one of the higher points of his popularity since the favorability ratings of presidents tend to peak early in their terms, it's clear that the next president will not be welcomed by the vast majority of the population.

The result of this, I believe, will be an effort on the part of all save the members of Trump's ever-diminishing personality cult to overthrow him and the oppressive system he represents. I believe this will be the case because when this revolution inevitably materializes, it will in a lot of ways be led by those on both the liberal and conservative sides of the political spectrum. In a piece from earlier this month, I predicted Trump's presidency would provoke the rise of a possibly unprecedented progressive backlash against the new president and his agenda. It turns out, though, that a great deal of those on the right could join this effort, because liberals and conservatives in fact share many goals.

A survey from 2014 shows that the majority of Republicans, like most other Americans, want an end to the failed Drug War and do not think someone should be arrested for marijuana possession. The views of Republicans on taxes have radically shifted in recent years, with 53% of them supporting the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy. The same is the case for their beliefs about the environment, with 54% of Republicans acknowledging the existence of climate change. The government's mass surveillance programs are generally opposed by conservatives as well, with about as many Republicans as Democrats being opposed to the Patriot Act in its original form and 56% of them disapproving of the NSA's electronic communication surveillance. Most Republicans favor raising the minimum wage (though unfortunately only a quarter of them want it raised to $15). And 80% of them want Citizens United, and by extension the role of money in politics, ended.

In short, most Americans support policies which advance social, environmental, and economic justice, with conservatives in many ways being no exception. And with Donald Trump being viewed as hard to like by half of Republicans, I expect the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party will join the rest of the country in resisting the efforts on the part of Trump and leaders like him to ignore climate change, drive up the wealth gap, and expand mass incarceration and with the surveillance state. And especially given how the current income disparity has made it so that the conditions are now very hospitable for such a movement, I also believe this revolt's success is most certainly assured.

The irony of this situation is that inverted totalitarianism's death was caused by inverted totalitarianism itself. Trump won because he played on the anger that so many are feeling towards traditional institutions and leaders, and now that he's president-elect, he, along with the political and economic establishment that he pretends to oppose, are about to lose their power.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Only Ideology That Can Defeat Trumpism, According To Math

A long while back in American political history-which is to say, before the election of Donald Trump-Bernie Sanders supporter John Laurits wrote a piece titled The Only Candidate That Can Defeat The GOP, According To Math. In it, as you've no doubt guessed by now, he laid out the simple facts, which were that Sanders, not Clinton, was the Democratic candidate who could appeal to enough Democrats and independents to be able to win against Trump.

But to consequences yet to be fully determined, Democratic leaders chose to disregard this and other pieces of evidence that their preferred candidate was not up to the job of beating Trump, and they blocked Sanders' nomination. And now, with our political system having hit what the writer Michael E. Sparks considers to be rock bottom, the need for an effective electoral counter to Donald Trump and those who share his neo-fascist political brand is greater than ever.

So it's imperative that as Democrats and others who oppose Trumpism work to defeat it going into future elections, they don't repeat their mistake from this year.

Just as establishment Democrats continue to dismiss the possibility that Sanders would have defeated Trump, they dismiss the possibility that Sandersism has the potential to defeat Trumpism if made the standard ideology of the Democratic Party. Paul Krugman, for instance, who has ironically made passionate arguments in favor of economic populism, has lately adopted a more neoliberal attitude when responding to the idea that Democrats need to start appealing to the working class; another defender of the Democratic political status quo is Nancy Pelosi, who has said she doesn't think Democrats need a new direction because "Our values unify us and our values are about supporting America’s working families."

I'm going to make the case now, like Laurits and others tried to earlier this year, for Sandersism, not a continuiation of Clintonism, being the only way to go forward. And I'm going to start by providing the evidence of why a failure to embrace Sandersism resulted in Trump's victory.

The reason Clinton lost had nothing to do with the third party candidates or Bernie Sanders (the latter of which actually helped her get more votes), but rather a failure on the part of her and the Democratic Party to present a compelling case that they intended to help working people. Specifically, the working people who live in Rust Belt. If Clinton had won just a few more states in that region, she would have received the majority of electoral votes, but that proved to be impossible after the approach she used to this election.

The people who decided the outcome of those races, exit polls indicate, regarded economic issues, especially trade, as highly important. And when presented with Clinton vs Trump, a consequential number of them understandably went with the latter. Clinton, despite having branded herself earlier in the race as pro-worker on trade, was hard to trust on the issue for many people due to her history of supporting neoliberal trade deals, the fact that she had since appointed a Trans-Pacific Partnership advocate to be the head of her transition team, and how her campaign received massive donations from corporate executives who stood to benefit from the TPP. All of this evidently cost her the election in what Michael Moore calls a "Rust Belt Brexit."

Another way Clintonism proved to be an ineffective strategy for the Democrats this year was that it depressed voter turnout. As Moore has also noted, the demographics made it so that Hillary Clinton always easily had enough support to win, but due to her unwillingness to appeal to the Democratic base, not enough people showed up to make it happen. 

The low Democratic voter turnout this year which cost Clinton the election for the most part did not occur because of Republican voter suppression efforts, and the reasons for this fact are easy to guess. Even after the victory of Clinton's extremely unpopular opponent, polls continue to show around 55% of Americans view her negatively, and in a stunning demonstration of how suspicious Americans are of her, one poll from earlier this year found that 68% view her as untrustworthy compared to 43% for Donald Trump. The same survey also showed just 38% would be proud to have her as president, compared to Trump's 39%.

And the reason for this does not have to do with decades of Republican smears on her as she has alleged. Polls have shown that most Americans know how to sift through the false accusations that have been leveled against Clinton, indicating their dislike for Clinton has more to do with the fact that they disagree with her on many important issues.

Just 29% of Americans think that trade deals like NAFTA have benefited the country, 78% want an end to Citizens United and money in politics, 62% are in favor of breaking up too-big-to-fail banks, 58% support a federally funded universal health care system, 63% prefer a $15 minimum wage, and on the list goes of ways in which vast majority of the public wants to end the neoliberal paradigm and make the economy work for everyone. But given Hillary Clinton's corporate campaign donations and her open opposition to many of these goals, it's clear that she was not the right option for those who hold such views, and as a result, she's been proven unable to win a national election.

It's this same problem that has gotten the Democratic Party into its current crisis. Despite Pelosi's assertions to the contrary, for the past forty years the party's values have mainly involved supporting corporations and the super rich rather than working families, and just like Hillary, they've failed politically because of this. It's no coincidence that the Democrats' gradual decline throughout the last few decades has happened at the same time as the party has pivoted to the interests of big business, with the Democratic leadership's abandonment of their base having made them lose most of the white working class (along with some of the nonwhite working class).

And once again, the Democratic Party has suffered a similar fate to that of Hillary Clinton due to its shift towards neoliberalism, with Democrats now holding as few elected offices as they did in the 1920's. This is due to a failure on their part to sufficiently motivate their base to show up at the polls. And if the party continues to try to appeal mainly to the quarter or so of the electorate which supports neoliberal policies, their decline will only continue.

However, if the efforts of Bernie Sanders and others succeed, the Democratic Party can yet become an institution which advances both identity politics and economic populism (which, contrary to the narrative of the corporate media, are not mutually exclusive approaches) and assume the role of the dynamic political tool needed to fight Trump's agenda. And should the Democrats remain a party of the economic elite, it will be replaced by an alternative organization, be it the Green Party or something else.

But electoral politics isn't the only political aspect wherein Trump's opposition will need Sandersism to succeed. Should a major crisis develop during Trump's term, he and his administration will likely try to use it as an excuse to gain bipartisan support for a series of authoritarian and hawkish measures they'll surely push for in response to it. And if the main opposition that they face consists of Clintonist Democrats like Chuck Schumer, who aims to act as Trump's ally, a forceful response from progressives will be absent and enormous damage will be done to global stability, the rights of working people, and America's constitutional liberties.

In short, if the left wants to have any success, it will stop letting its leaders pivot to "moderates" and "the center" and have them appeal to the majority of the Americans, who  support the ideals and values of Sandersism. Lack of a major Sandersist presence in the 2016 general election resulted in the victory of a tyrant, and lack of a major Sandersist presence afterwords will result in a victory for that tyrant's agenda.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Preparing For Trump's 9/11 Event

As of this writing, it's been a few hours since the members of the Electoral College sealed America's fate and officially appointed Trump to be its 45th president. But there's some confusion as to just how bad this fate of ours will be; some expect Trump's term to be America's equivalent of the Third Reich, while others hold a far less extreme (and probably more realistic) view of who this man is and what he's likely to do as president.

However, the fact that Trump isn't literally as bad as Hitler comes as little comfort to me.

I've become convinced that the best year in history to compare 2017 with will not be 1933, but 2001. At that time, you no doubt remember, America elected (if you can call it that given how his opponent won the most votes) a highly incompetent and in many ways comical figure. In the first months of his presidency, his administration acted in an unpopular but politically routine fashion, causing his political opponents to easily recover from their loss in 2000 and get ready to start taking back their government in future elections.

That is, until you-know-what happened. After 9/11, George W. Bush's approval ratings went from 51% to 90%, and his party's favorability ratings went from 48% to 59%, giving his administration an opportunity to turn into something authoritarian and dangerous. Bush and Friends created a surveillance state, violated the Bill of Rights with their policies of indefinite detention and trial-less arrest, went against the Geneva Conventions by adopting torture, and used the attacks to push through numerous other less egregious but still corrupt goals, all with the consent of most people of the time.

This story is, quite seriously, that of a time when America had its bout with fascism. And as Trump enters the picture, I believe we'll need to prepare for something many times worse.

My consideration of a scenario wherein a 9/11-level terrorist attack occurs during Trump's term is more than speculation; it's a possibility that I believe has a very good chance of being realized. Michael Moore, who has a history of making fantastic but accurate predictions about Trump, has concluded this month that Donald Trump's unwillingness to attend daily security briefings is "gonna get us killed:"
So, my fellow Americans, when the next terrorist attack happens -- and it will happen, we all know that -- and after the tragedy is over, amidst the death and destruction that might have been prevented, you will see Donald Trump acting quickly to blame everyone but himself. He will suspend constitutional rights. He will round up anyone he deems a threat. He will declare war, and his Republican Congress will back him.
And no one will remember that he wasn't paying attention to the growing threat. Wasn't attending the daily national security briefings. Was playing golf instead or meeting with celebrities or staying up til 3am tweeting about how unfair CNN is. He said he didn't need to be briefed. "You know, I think I'm smart. I don't need to hear the same thing over and over each day for eight years." That's what he told Fox News on December 11th when asked why he wasn't attending the security briefings. Don't forget that date and his hubris as we bury the dead next year.
In other words, in addition to the countless other ways that Trump has failed upwards throughout his political career, his incompetence is going to bring him a great reward-a crisis which works to his partisan advantage. It's unclear just how many constitutional liberties will become irrelevant in the aftermath of Trump's 9/11, or how little dissent the government will tolerate, or how destructive the inevitable military conflict will be, but given how the Bush team looks friendly compared to Trump and his cabinet members, it's reasonable to assume that post-9/11 America's fascism will seem tame compared to what's coming.

And I'm not the only one who's anticipating this development. Anyone who acknowledges the dangerous nature of Trump and his transition team can easily imagine them doing some very frightening things in the event of a crisis, among them Chris Hedges, who believes that "The pretense of democracy will end" after Trump's 9/11 event. Another one of these political doomsday believers is Ted Rall, who has written in regards to the actions he expects Trump and Friends will take following this disaster: "Remember how, the morning of the election, the New York Times gave Trump a 15% chance of winning? Given that I’ve been saying The Donald had an excellent chance of winning for many months, maybe you should be scared when I tell you what I think there’s really a 15% chance of: another presidential election in four years."

In short, while Trump may not be as big a threat as Hitler was in that he has no plans for mass genocide, and his lack of core convictions make him unlikely to follow through with his promises to deport millions and bar Muslims from entering the country, his state of mind is similar to that of Hitler and his one core value is a desire for attention, respect and control. And should a major crisis occur during his term, his power will be greatly increased, his for now inarticulate and crude brand of fascism will take on a solid and terrifying form, and he'll turn into what could indeed be America's version of Hitler.

But just as Trump's post-crisis rise to authoritarian dictatorship will be far more substantial than that of Bush, I suspect Trump's downfall will be all the more precipitous than Bush's. America has and has been for a long a time a very liberal country, and so the attempted political domination of figures like Bush and Trump is not sustainable. In the case of the former, it only took a few years after 9/11 before Bush and his party became greatly unpopular, Democrats began to win in all aspects of electoral politics, and left-wing ideas came to dominate the debate.

And ultimately, I expect Trump and his Republican Party to meet a similar fate. Since Trump is far less popular or likable than Bush was in 2001, I believe his post-crisis approval ratings will be a lot lower than 90%, and that they'll then go back down to their current level of about 40% within only a few years. This could very well mean that, unlike Bush, Trump won't be able to win re-election. Additionally, the horrific war crimes and assaults on civil liberties that Trump and his party are sure to commit in the wake of the disaster will no doubt come to bite back at them politically, with their opponents being motivated to take an enormous amount of action to combat Trumpism and the neoliberal paradigm which produced it.

Why do I think this will be case, though, if, as Hedges and Rall say, there's a good chance Trump will gut America's system of representative democracy? Well if Trump could defy the supposed odds and win the presidency, I think the American people could very well pull off something similar and successfully fight for the preservation of their country's constitution. If there's anything Trump has taught us, it's that a 15% chance of victory is not the same thing as a 0% chance.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Standoff Between DemExit And DemEnter

As the neoliberal era enters into its final years, with the massive economic inequality that's appeared throughout the last four decades having spawned a new political era of radicalism on both the left and the right, American democracy is naturally becoming more factionalized than usual. The most glaring political divide, of course, is the one between those who support the agenda of president-elect Donald Trump and those who aim to fight him. But that hasn't meant that there isn't an equally significant split within the anti-Trump camp.

Namely, there's a dispute as to whether or not the chief anti-Trump organization should represent corporatism, militarism, and other facets of the neoliberal paradigm. Since the majority of Americans side with anti-neoliberal goals, the victory of the non-corporatist camp is naturally assured, but even within this group a dispute has appeared: whether or not the Democratic Party should fill the role of this progressive organization.

Following the Democratic leadership's sabotage this year of the Bernie Sanders campaign, a great deal of Sanders' supporters, already angered to a breaking point by the saga of betrayals that Democratic elites have perpetrated on their base, decided to finally throw up their hands and leave the party. And at first, this "DemExit" movement looked like it was going to succeed, with the poll numbers of the Green Party's Jill Stein having surged during the summer as a result of it.

But after Stein's disappointing Election Day performance of 1% of the vote, DemExit has evidently lost much of its initial steam. Apart from Cornel West and Chris Hedges, all the major progressive leaders are deciding to take the approach of "DemEnter" and try to change the Democratic Party rather than build a new one. For just two examples, Robert Reich, who used to be in the Demexit camp, is now advocating for the Democratic Party's reform, while Bernie Sanders, possibly the most powerful voice on the left right now, is doing the same, saying that the party needs a "fundamental transformation."

Indeed, it appears that because of this, DemEnter currently has more support and momentum than DemExit. But just because DemEnter is popular, it isn't necessarily the best solution; as we've seen this year, the Democratic Party, far from being an empty vessel for progressive reform, is something of a political labrynth, with many devices set in place to make it harder for non-corporatists to take control of it. As Cornel West has said regarding the idea of reforming the party, "I have a deep love and respect for brother Bernie Sanders. I always will. I don't always agree with him. I'm not convinced that the Democratic Party can be reformed. I think it still has a kind of allegiance to a neoliberal orientation."

So who's right? From an objective standpoint, the approaches of both DemExit and DemEnter have a lot of merit, as well as a lot of potential for failure, and should the currently dominant option of DemEnter fall short of its objectives going into the 2018 and 2020 elections, we'll end up with a fatally damaged Democratic Party and no viable alternative option to replace it.

And should much of the left suddenly start working towards building the Green Party between now and then, given the third party-hostile nature of America's electoral system there's a good chance that the Greens won't become a viable option by 2020, putting Trump's opposition in a similar position to the one mentioned in the previous paragraph. In either of these scenarios, the left will end up blowing the crucial 2020 election.

Those in the DemExit and DemEnter camps are competing for which group's approach will decide the next course that the left takes, and should this standoff last into the next election, the central cause of both groups will be lost.

But despite the risks that come with this competition, I believe its continuation is necessary for now. We don't know for sure which method will turn out to be the most practical and effective one, so when the time comes in 2020 to unite behind whichever approach proves to be the best, it would be wise to make it so that both are viable options by then.

In short, progressives will need to hedge their bets throughout the next three years as DemExit and DemEnter fight it out. But aside from the uncertainty of this situation, the shared goals of DemExit and DemEnter have an almost certain chance of ultimately triumphing; America's descent into its worst period of wealth inequality has created the factors for a class revolt, and when this uprising occurs sometime in the next several years, the objectives of the left will be realized regardless of which party it happens to be aligned with at that point.

So for now, I recommend that regardless of whether you're in the DemExit or DemEnter camp, you continue working towards your current approach, because when you look at the bigger picture, there's no way you'll fail.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Democrats Are Trying To Fight Fascism With Fascism Lite

In recent weeks, Democrats and others have responded to Hillary Clinton's loss by creating what James Kunstler describes as "The Deepening Deep State." Amid legitimate concerns over the effect that fake news has had on this election, those with the power to regulate online traffic have taken actions which infringe on free speech. For instance, the solution to fake news that Google and Facebook have come up with is cracking down on sites which they deem, based on often unfair standards, as unreliable.

What's really troubling about this rush towards censorship, though, is that the U.S. government is joining in. On November 30, the House passed a bill, called H.R. 6393, which, if approved by the Senate, will empower the state to follow Google and Facebook's precedent by censoring websites that they consider part of Russia's disinformation campaign. This measure, as you can imagine, would also open the door for online censorship on the part of the state.

And the justification being provided for these actions is similarly worthy of suspicion. The Washington Post's evidence for certain websites being tied to the Russian government is highly questionable, as is the CIA's supposed proof for Russia's role in the DNC email leaks. 

In other words, if there's a government campaign to spread false information which advances a corrupt agenda, it's likely coming from the U.S. government. And needless to say, the Democratic establishment is very much participating in this cynical effort. This tactic, in addition to being McCarthyite, is what Glen Ford, the editor of Black Agenda Report (one of the supposed Russian propaganda websites listed by the Post), rightly calls "Fascism with a Democratic Party Face."

"The term 'fascist,'" writes Ford in an explanation for this charge of his, "is bandied about today more than at any time since 1969, but there is little discussion of what fascism actually looks like in the 21st century. The truth is, it looks like Democrats and Republicans; it operates through the duopoly, the political apparatus of the ruling class. Donald Trump’s fascism is largely the residue of the fascism of apartheid America, under Jim Crow, which had many of the characteristics of – and in some ways presaged – the “classic” fascism of pre-World War Two Europe. The establishment corporate Democratic and Republican brand of fascism is far more racially, sexually and culturally inclusive, but just as ruthless. And, at this moment in history, the corporate Democratic fascists are the more aggressively warlike brand."

And indeed, these Red-baiting antics are just the latest in a long series of similarly authoritarian actions that Democratic elites have taken since their shift to the right began around forty years ago. The modern Democratic Party, as Ford iterates, is a branch of the corporate state which (not coincidentally) has also emerged throughout the last forty years, and this fact has naturally led it to adopt the same fascist tendencies as the institution that it serves.

Namely, though the Democratic Party isn't classically fascist as Ford acknowledges, its brand of fascism takes on a more subtle form than that of Donald Trump: inverted totalitarianism.

The invertedly totalitarian method of fascism, as I've focused on in detail before, gains consent from those it oppresses not through nationalist propaganda, but through convincing the population that they are not in fact being oppressed. And the Democratic Party's political model of making its neoliberalism and militarism seem acceptable to its largely anti-corporatist, anti-war base perfectly fits inverted totalitarianism's description. For decades, the Democratic establishment has used an abundant means of propaganda tactics to keep the left from revolting against it, from the always useful "but the Republicans are worse" excuse to an outright effort to keep the Democratic base ignorant of its party's true agenda, and for the most part, this has effectively kept the Democratic Party safe from replacement or reform.

And even as this dynamic heads toward what will most certainly be political extinction, with most on the left now working to fundamentally change the Democratic Party for the better or, should that plan fail, build a third party such as the Greens, Democratic elites are evidently doubling down on the inverted totalitarianism.

From David Greenberg, the L.A. Times columnist who recently argued that Democrats don't need to shift away from their current economic elitism because, as he insists, their message has "always included a central commitment to economic fairness along with social inclusion and equal rights," to Nancy Pelosi, the re-elected House minority leader who thinks that Democrats don't need to be set on a direction which supports America's working families because "our values unify us and our values are about supporting America’s working families," establishment Democrats are continuing to deny, against all evidence, that their party has become too neoliberal to succeed.

The reason I'm leveling these complaints against the Democrats when a party that's even worse is about to come to power is that, as we've seen in the case of the 2016 election, the current Democratic Party's model of status quo centrism is no match for the populist right. And if we want to defeat right-wing populism in time for the pivotal 2020 election, we'll need to work towards the rise of the politically formidable ideological model presented by the left.

Hopefully by then, this site won't be shut down on suspicion of it being a Russian fake news outlet.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Brace For Impact

In September, a poll was taken asking Americans which year they believe to be the greatest in their country's history. The prosperous post-World War II years were popular, as were (inexplicably, I feel) the most recent years. But by far the most commonly preferred era, according to all demographics, was the year 2000.

Perhaps this had something to do with how 2000 was the year of the turn of the millennium, or the fact that it was the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency (which makes it more likely to appeal to Democrats) and the year of George W. Bush's election (which makes it more likely to appeal to Republicans). But I strongly suspect that 2000's popularity comes from how it could be considered a pleasant lull before the storm that ensued afterwords.

The years between 1992 and and 2001, in spite of their problems, where a relatively high point in history, with the end of the Cold War having created a period where world events were largely stable, the risk of economic collapse having been greatly alleviated because of the U.S. turning its national debt into a surplus, and a breakthrough in human progress having occurred with the sudden popularity of the World Wide Web. But afterwords, as we know, the situation would take a sharp turn for the worse, and even during those years certain people were predicting such a deterioration of events.

Specifically, Johan Galtung, William Strauss, and Neil Howe foresaw the current geopolitical, economic, and political crisis. Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist, predicted in 2000 based on historical patterns of how past nations have risen and fallen that the United States' military and economic empire would come to an end within 25 years. His view of the future correlated with the one presented by William Strauss and Neil Howe, who also reasoned in a 1997 book that, based on past trends in American history, world events would reach a climax around 2025.

I'll talk more about their predictions later, though. What this piece focuses on is how such a scenario is likely to transpire. And I'll lay out this model of the near future by assessing the current directions that all the major factors shaping history right now are headed in, namely politics, military conflict, economics, and ecology.


For the past several decades, public faith in established political institutions has been deteriorating, and not just in the United States. A prime suspect for this is the enormous redistribution of wealth and power that's taken place since the 1970's with the normalization of unrestrained, predatory capitalism throughout much of the world. Whatever the cause of this crisis of confidence in government, though, it's lately evolved into a crisis for the stability of government itself.

The author Umair Haque has developed a series of events which so often occur in the lead-up to the collapse of republics: stagnation, demagoguery, and tyranny. In the first stage, faith in traditional politics and the ideological center erodes as the quality of life goes down for most people. In the second stage, divisive and dangerous figures arise as political leaders by tapping into the crudely populist sentiments that many have come to hold amid an era of widespread economic unfairness. And in the third stage, the demagogues destroy or at the very least thoroughly demoralize the nations that they've taken control of.

We've recently entered that last stage.

While there's still a possibility that a demagogue even worse than Donald Trump will emerge in 2020, for now it looks like his election was the culmination of all the toxic, neo-fascist political energies that have been quietly gaining strength for the last few decades. His brand of fascism, though not anywhere near as frightening as that of Adolf Hitler, has the potential to develop into something resembling it as he and his equally dangerous transition team become tempted to adopt more authoritarian tactics after assuming power.

And they'll be joining a growing number of similarly reactionary world leaders. A great deal of democracies have devolved into tyranny throughout recent years, starting with the election of Vladimir Putin in 2000. This trend has been especially prevalent in the 2010's, with victories for Trumpist leaders having taken place in Turkey, Hungary, and Poland within the past three years. France, Germany, and other European countries are likely to soon succumb to fascism as well as ethnic nationalism surges in the region.

"I believe New Fascism is the single most important political development in our lifetimes," wrote Haque last year regarding this phenomenon. "It is a critical moment for global society — a turning point. Like every turning point, it is a test. A test of the best of us: whether or not civilized societies can in fact stay civilized, in the most essential sense of the word — or whether we risk plunging once again into an era of world war and genocide." And so far, it seems society is failing this test.

Military conflict

Speaking of world war, the current geopolitical situation seems to have as much in common with that of the early 1930's as does the current political situation. As world powers have built up their economic and military strength to unprecedented levels since World War II, they've unconsciously created the factors for World War III, with the structure of the world stage alone making conditions very friendly for the possibility of major conflict. Modern civilization is a tinderbox for a global military clash, and it could very well soon be lit.

While the long-feared threat of war with Russia has been alleviated by Hillary Clinton's defeat, President Trump will of course introduce a whole new set of risks for world war. Specifically, a great concern that I have is how Trump and his foreign policy aides will respond to a major terrorist attack. If a 9/11-like event occurs during Trump's term, the Trump administration, in addition to using it as a tool to push their authoritarian agenda, would likely react by starting several major wars as was the case with the Bush administration.

This scenario, which seems likely given the normalization of terrorist attacks that's occurred around the world in recent years, holds a good chance of leading somewhere very frightening indeed, as Trump's reckless foreign policy ventures inevitably set off a larger series of conflicts within the already unstable world stage.

On November 8 this year, it appears that when Americans were choosing between Clinton and Trump, they were making a choice between two different but equally destructive versions of World War III.


The transformation of the world's economic system in the past forty years into a tool to funnel wealth to the top, in addition to creating the political crisis that I discussed, has greatly increased the potential for financial meltdown. Income inequality has lead to collapse in the past as the unacceptably top-heavy nature of such economies stifled growth and made it harder for debt to be repaid, and the factors for such a disaster amid the current era of inequality are falling neatly into place.

Firstly, though I've made this point before, it can't be emphasized enough: our current banking system is not sustainable. Due to a series of irresponsible changes that have been made to America's financial sector in the past twenty years, namely the Wall Street deregulations of 2000 and the Wall Street bailouts of 2008, the economy now operates on a system of borrowing and accounting fraud which takes place for the short-term benefit of too-big-to-fail banks, and this order is expected to soon come crashing down. And when this crisis hits, it will likely be bigger than that of 2008, given the unprecedented global debt and stunted economic growth that's appeared since then.

But this will only be one of the earlier manifestations of the larger economic downturn that's certain to befall civilization in the years and decades to come. The mad scramble to exploit the earth's resources and churn out perpetually accelerating economic growth that's taken place in the last several centuries is finally coming to an end, and this next recession may be what officially ushers in the new economic age of stagnation, scarcity, and decline. And even that downturn will pale in comparison to the longer-term effects that the coming climate crisis will have on the economy and other aspects of civilization.

In the meantime, though, the downfall of the current economic, political, and geopolitical paradigm will be a spectacle to behold. And the most important date that this shift seems to be associated with is 2020.

The breaking point

Returning to the predictions made by Galtung, Strauss, and Howe, while their forecasts seemed far-fetched at first, given all the factors I've mentioned it's looking more and more like they were spot on.

According to Strauss and Howe's book, American history behaves in eighty-year cycles consisting of peaks and collapses, with the latest point of collapse having taken place in 1945 and the next one being expected to take place in 2025. And according to Galtung, empires tend to rise and fall in respect to a similar timetable of events, with the current global empire being set to have its day of reckoning at a similar time. But with certain recent developments, chief among them the election of Donald Trump, this process of collapse appears to have accelerated, with Galtung now naming 2020 as the end date.

The survival of the American republic in its current form before modern-day state successions, constitutional crises, and the deterioration of political discourse into tribal warfare tears it apart, estimates Galtung, will end by 2020. The same is the case, he also says, for the existence of the post-Cold War status quo of global military power as major world conflicts end the U.S.'s dominance in that area by 2020. And though he doesn't focus on when the current economic paradigm will meet a similar fate, those who have view 2020 as a pivotal year for this aspect of world events. According to said sociologists, the recession that I mentioned, along with a period of social upheaval as a result of massive wealth inequality, is also expected to emerge by 2020.

In short, crunch time is fast approaching.

"I am nervous," said Neil Howe in 2013 regarding the state of the world as it enters into the next climax of historical events. "I am nervous about the future right now. I think we have a lot more deep issues, deep crises, to save in the economy. I am also very nervous about what I see geopolitically. We cannot possibly afford the government we have promised ourselves. And, that will be a painful process of deleveraging, and it is not just deleveraging the explicit debt that we have already actually formally borrowed, it is all the implicit debt. And, I think we will deal with it, because we have no other choice. But, my point is this: No one simply solves a terrible problem on a sunny day when they can afford, at least for the time being, to look the other way. Problems like that are faced when people have no other choice, and it is a really grim day. And, it is white-knuckle time, and horrible things are happening with markets around the world, or horrible things are happening, at least historically; we have seen that geopolitically around the world. And, that is when people are forced to act."

It's the factor which Howe talks about in that last sentence, though, that provides us with hope. Because aside from the supporters of Trump and other demagogues, polls show that at least in the U.S, most people recognize the problems with how civilization has been conducting itself in relation to economics, geopolitics, social issues, and ecology. And if, as Howe recommends, they react to the coming crises by taking action to fix the system that created them, the post-2020 world could turn out to be a considerable improvement on past eras.

Regardless of the final result, though, we're certainly in for a wild ride throughout these next few years.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The New Backlash

In my previous article, I argued that the differences between the two main factions of the political left are too dramatic for them to fully reconcile any time soon. However, to follow up with something encouraging after publishing that somewhat negative piece, I'll now make the case for something else that I believe will happen  throughout the next few years: the emergence of a left-wing backlash during Trump's term which will be more powerful than the right-wing backlash that occurred during Obama's term.

The latter movement, as we know, has made a serious impact on American political history. After the Democratic sweeps in 2006 and 2008, grassroots conservative activists-mainly the ones on the far right-wasted no time trying to regain their dominance over politics. In the months after Obama's inauguration, the political vacuum of right-wing populist anger that had appeared was filled by the Tea Party, Fox News demagogues like Glenn Beck, and far-right groups like the Oath Keepers.

And while the Tea Party peaked early in Obama's presidency, the former followers of it and lesser right-wing populist movements that appeared around that time have since enormously influenced government. Tea Partiers managed to get a considerable amount of their representatives elected in 2010, and later elected their ideological heir Donald Trump to the presidency. They've also turned the tables on the Democrats, with the Democratic Party now being in worse shape electorally than Republicans were in 2008.

This all would seem to vindicate the post-election celebrations of Trump supporters. But the hidden weakness in the political structure that the far right has built in the last eight years is that not that much of the electorate helped build it. Specifically, around 26% of Americans were involved in the construction.

"The full backlash wasn't really 47 percent," wrote Will Bunch in his 2010 book The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, And Paranoid Politics In The Age Of Obama, referring to the percentage of the vote that John McCain received in 2008. "As the first weeks of the Obama administration dragged into months, the parameters of the hard-core resistance emerged, with a figure that was attached to 26 percent, maybe less. These were the 26 percent of Americans, according to Newsweek, who still approved of George W. Bush in the waning days of his presidency; the 26 percent who in 2009 said they'd like to see Sarah Palin as Obama's successor in 2012, according to CBS; the 26 percent who reported to Fox News they were outraged when President Obama bowed to the Japanese emperor; the 26 percent who believed Obama's 2008 election was not legitimate, that the much ballyhooed antipoverty group ACORN had somehow swooped down and 'stolen' the contest by recruiting new voters in the heavily black and Latino communities."

And when you look for the polls that show how big the similarly radical left is, the figure is more than two times bigger than 26 percent. It's 52 percent of Americans who believe in high taxes on the rich to redistribute the wealth; it's 59 percent of Americans who supported Occupy Wall Street; it's 56 percent of Americans who have consistently believed throughout the last 30 years that the wealth should be more equally distributed; and it was 53 percent of Americans who would have voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 general election had he been the Democratic nominee. None of this is surprising, seeing as even more than 52 to 59 percent of Americans generally support the goals of Sanders and Occupy, if not Sanders and Occupy themselves.

In other words, left-wing populists outnumber right-wing populists by 2 to 1 at the least. And thus during the Trump era, I believe we are going to witness a backlash to the backlash which far surpasses the former one in its strength and impact.This belief of mine is supported by the fact that unlike was the case with the right-wing backlash just a month after Obama's 2008 election, the left-wing counterrevolution has already started.

Bernie Sanders has emerged in the weeks since the election as a dynamic figure in the effort to organize a progressive backlash, participating directly in the anti-oil pipeline protests in Standing Rock, North Dakota, calling for an overhaul of the Democratic Party's corporatist leadership, and holding public events that resemble his campaign rallies. He's just one of the many progressive leaders who have been working towards such a movement in the past month, among them Michael Moore, who's advocated for an anti-Trump resistance "that will dwarf Occupy Wall Street."

And if public opinion polls and the behavior of Americans so far after the election are any indication, he'll get one. In addition to all of this, donations to organizations that oppose Trump's agenda have surged, with the fundraising of the ACLU, for just one example, having gone up by 7000 percent within the first 24 hours after the election.

Even Trump's supporters have admitted that his presidency will provoke massive resistance, such as when Rush Limbaugh said in July regarding the political dynamics that would be put into motion in the event of a Trump victory on a Election Day, "I want you to think: What’s going to happen that night? What’s going to happen the next day? What’s going to happen every day there after? What’s going to happen the day Trump gets inaugurated? What is the left going to do? They’re not going to just sit idly by and accept this."

No, we are not. Throughout Trump's presidency, it's reasonable to assume that there will be a constant series of protests, victories in electoral politics, and pressure put upon political leaders on the part of the left. And as progressives build this new political structure, the quarter or so of the population that built the old one will not only be rendered largely apathetic due to Trump's reassuring presence, but will be shrinking due to an increase in millennial and nonwhite voters.

In short, whereas Donald Trump and the Tea Party took control of the American political steering wheel in the age of Obama, Bernie Sanders and whatever Occupy-esque movement that emerges during the coming years will do the same in the age of Trump. And in this case, I suspect, the new driver will retain their role as the defining force in politics for quite some time.

But this movement will not just be in opposition to the new president. It will be going up against every leader and institution which defends the current economic paradigm of predatory capitalism, the Democratic Party being no exception. Unless Democrats soon start genuinely representing their base, the New Backlash will most likely become centered around an alternative political organization that's capable of addressing their needs, be it the Green Party or something else.

Whichever party or individual becomes the leader of this movement, though, every factor points to its success. And by the time it's likely gained control of the government four years from now, those on the left will be the ones saying that they've taken their country back.

Progressives will have some big opportunities throughout the next four years. Let's get to work on taking full advantage of them.