Sunday, June 9, 2019

President Trump is our Punishment

In 2019 all people of good will are tormented by the same burning question: “When will Donald Trump get his comeuppance?” Will he ever be punished for his flagrant villainy or will the injustice prove not just that there’s no God but that all our lives are sickening jokes? The shamelessness, vulgarity, childishness, psychopathy, narcissism, financial corruption, and con artistry—his list of depravities is long and familiar.

But notice that the easiest job in the world belongs to the destroyer, because through entropy the universe naturally flows towards dissolution, whereas creating something new and sustainable is practically miraculous, especially when there’s no intelligent creator. As such, Republicans, the proverbial foxes guarding the hen house, have had it easy since at least 1980. Their effrontery lies in the fact that they serve nominally as politicians who are supposed to govern, whereas their true agenda—not even kept hidden any longer—is to sabotage all functions of the government that benefit especially the majority of Americans. Republicans since Reagan serve only the richest of the rich, especially the top one percent, and those wealthy individuals live in their own gated worlds and needn’t rely on the government. With President Trump’s chaos and treachery, Republicans have removed the mask and stomped on it: theirs is the party now of apocalyptic anarchy for the duped masses and of kleptocracy for the scheming, monstrous upper class. Effectively, their motto is to steal what you can from the empire in its state of moral decay.

What if, for that reason, though, we’ve been preoccupied with the wrong question? What if Donald Trump can’t and shouldn’t be punished, because his mental disorders and senility render him subhuman so that holding Trump accountable for the damages he’s done to American values would be like punishing a rampaging donkey? Instead of tearing our hair out wondering whether this season of the reality TV show of American politics will end with Trump impeached, indicted or somehow disgraced, perhaps we should reflect on the possibility that Trump’s reign is a punishment—for everyone but Trump. It’s not Trump who deserves to be punished, but Americans in general, together with the “free” peoples that have followed the American example, and our punishment has finally arrived in the hideous form of a troglodyte’s holding the highest office on the planet.

Americans generally are culpable for leading the world, with China, in carbon emissions and for their ecological deficit, as their ecological footprint greatly exceeds their biodiversity. (As the Global Footprint Network explains, “A national ecological deficit means that the nation is importing biocapacity through trade, liquidating national ecological assets or emitting carbon dioxide waste into the atmosphere.”) China, parts of Europe, the Middle East, and some developing countries are also debtors in that regard, but no country cheers for consumerism like the United States. Americans generally allowed their culture and political systems to degrade to the point where Trump could be and was actually elected president. Perhaps we do always get the leader we deserve.

What does it mean to say the free world deserves to be molested by Donald Trump’s presidency? We don’t know ourselves, and Trump embodies our collective hypocrisy; Trump is our Jungian shadow. America, of course, is culturally divided between its urban and rural areas: the big multicultural cities are liberal while the less educated and less diverse parts are conservative. Liberals think they’re on the right side of history, but they stand for nothing because they no longer know what they were supposed to believe in. By participating in their society’s demise and acquiescing to the compromises of weak-willed, centrist Democrats such as Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton; by demonizing the white male victims of globalization in their hollowed-out ghost towns; by profiting off of Trump’s showmanship in the mass media, while pretending to be offended by his unconventionality; and by not taking to the streets in massive, sustained protest against their country’s slide into oligarchy, American liberals have demonstrated above all that they don’t know themselves. Donald Trump is showing Americans and so-called freedom-loving people everywhere who we really are.

If Republicans stand for the wealthy, the Democrats should stand for everyone else. But after Reagan’s onslaught of deregulation, the neoliberal Bill Clinton praised the economic institutions of globalization that led directly to the transnationalization of America’s biggest companies and thus to the collapse of the American middle class. Obama, the liberal’s false messiah, proved the hollowness of his progressive rhetoric when he began his presidency by bailing out not just the banks that were chiefly responsible for the housing market collapse, but the individual bankers who presided over it, rather than giving comparable aid to the homeowners who couldn’t pay their mortgages. Meanwhile, most Americans have no idea what “socialism” means, because of Cold War-era propaganda. So what’s left for American liberals to believe in? Given Machiavellian standards, the Democratic Party is hampered by its feminism and multiculturalism, and compared to Republican purity, the Democratic vision and rhetoric are as bland as Canada. No Democratic candidate is psychotic or radical and fearless truth-teller enough to deserve to defeat Trump in 2020.

To love freedom in the American sense is to be an egotist, a short-sighted consumer and materialist, dismissive of history, of the world outside the United States, and of the consequences of the irresponsible exercise of liberty. Personal liberty in the Age of Reason was about rational self-control, which gave a citizen the right to political self-determination. Democracy was a responsibility rather than an unconditional right; we had to earn the right to vote, not just by killing Nazis, but by learning how the world really works and mastering our worse impulses. In the current Age of Post-reason, in the noosphere of bluster and nostalgic delusion, freedom is our presumed right to whine endlessly as misbegotten adult babies. Nothing is more infantile than deranged old President Trump—nothing apart from the Western world as a whole. But we think we deserve better than to be represented by an evil adult baby, which is why we ought to be punished by the results of Trump’s monstrosity. We inflict our selfish lies on the rest of the planet (“Money buys happiness,” “Maximizing profit is a sustainable economic strategy,” “Capitalism is meritocratic”), so we’re cursed to behold our true image in the spectacle of Trump’s salting of the earth after America’s cultural collapse.

Young American liberals today will call themselves “progressive” and insist on rectifying all known microaggressions in the intersectional landscape. Perhaps these progressives are known pejoratively as “social justice warriors” because the courage of their convictions often extends only as far as motivating them to craft outraged tweets, not even to bother voting (Hillary Clinton could have used more of their votes in 2016), let alone to reckon with the ultimate causes of aggression and oppression. The preoccupation with microaggressions (with correcting a verbal slight or insulting eyebrow arch that interferes with the victim’s “safe space,” and so forth) in the face of the inevitable holocausts perpetrated by civilizations in general, including the European and American empires, with their antinatural zeal that stems from the technoscientific will to power, shows that the current form of American progressivism is mainly a folly of youth. 

Languishing in the 24-hour coverage of Trump’s grotesque displays of ignorance and arrogance, we should be mortified by the political victory of that consummate con artist. Liberals proclaim they’re far better than Trump, so they cheer on the opposing team of spineless, feminized technocrats known as “Democrats,” who couldn’t sell water to a man dying of thirst. Meanwhile, American “conservatives” are crypto-anarchists longing for the world to end in fire, and they celebrate Trump’s anti-Americanism in their Republican cult. The more Trump spits on the American flag, as it were, the closer the world’s end seems to be to deranged Evangelicals who are almost unanimous in their enthusiastic support for Trump’s kakistocracy.

Having reversed the ethics of Jesus by embracing capitalism, Evangelicals naturally botch the best lesson about Trumpism they might draw from their scriptures. They scour the Bible to rationalize their twofold betrayal of America and Jesus, in having voted for Donald Trump, and because even the devil can cite scripture in the furtherance of his purposes, Evangelicals discovered they could seize on the biblical principle that God can use an ungodly ruler as his unwitting instrument. So they point to Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor who freed the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, and they surmise that Trump, too, could be doing God’s will in spite of Trump’s many failings and contrary intentions.

What Evangelicals want to believe is that God is using Trump’s presidency for the benefit of Christian America whereas, if anything supernatural is occurring, it’s the devil that’s using Trump to show Americans that the Christian version of the Taliban has abandoned both America’s Enlightenment values and Jesus’s principles of socialist utopia. So-called conservative Christians think Trump is the reward for their steadfastness in the face of decades of liberal secularism. In reality, these twice-over phonies—who would be the first to nail Jesus again to the cross were he to return to Earth—have merited the ruination heralded by Trump’s political fiasco that managed to rival George W. Bush’s. In line with the Dunning-Kruger effect, Evangelicals aren’t mentally equipped to recognize how far they’ve fallen both as political conservatives and as Christians, so they’re incapable also of appreciating the poetic justice of Trump’s serving as the catalyst of America’s downfall.    

Alas, although a papered-over American cancer might be indicated by the naked degeneracy of Nixon, George W. Bush, and Trump, along with the façade of Reagan’s free market libertarianism, there isn’t really any justice in the pain that ensued from those presidencies. If some grand process is at work in monstrifying the Republican Party (if not American “conservatives” in general), the process is amoral. There’s no conspiracy or set of minds that decided to empower Nixon, Bush, or Trump to punish Americans for the shallowness of their attempt to live up to their ideals. Mind you, the cabal that comes closest to perpetrating just such a scheme is, of course, Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy which tipped the scales for Trump. Still, the above is offered only as an illuminating interpretation of the Trumpocalypse, that is, of the catastrophe of his election to high office. This interpretation of mine is a fiction like the other narratives we tell to humanize the inhuman. The reality in question is only the greater absurdity that shines through Trump’s bumbling dreadfulness.  


  1. Interesting article. I found most of it accurate. The one thing I disagree is with the ¨young progressives¨ comment. I was alive in 2016, and know for a fact that these young people you refer to did not lose Hillary the election. She was the worst candidate the DNC ran. Her campaign ¨I´m With Her¨ did not motivate a stone to move in her direction. We all knew she was a neoliberal corporate war criminal. She offered nothing. She did not even campaign in the Midwest states (IL, WI, Indiana). I know I live in Chicago. The DNC ran her because it was her turn. They stole the primary from the one candidate who would have beaten Trump. Another thing you fail to mention. I am not young btw, I just have a memory.

    1. The 2016 turnout among 18-29 year-olds was 50%. These are supposed to be hyper-political progressives. I'm sure you're right that many of them who didn't vote were angry at Bernie Sanders' treatment by the DNC and didn't want to vote for a neoliberal. But if a greater percentage of them had swallowed that anger and voted for her anyway in the key states, Clinton could indeed have won, which would have spared the world the Trump nightmare. She might have been the worst of the Democratic candidates (I doubt she was), but was she worse than Trump?

      It's well known that young-adult Americans are highly idealistic but don't actually vote much. The elderly are much more reliable voters. There are numerous reasons for this discrepancy, one of which is that young people are more radical and cynical: they don't trust the system or any politician. Regardless, the Millennials in particular are being rewired by addictive social media, which is turning them into the Wall-E humans.

  2. Very spot on. While of course the criticism of Trump is front and centre here, as it should be, I really liked how you define the inadequacies of modern liberalism. I think it's especially interesting to see where things will go re: the demonization of white male, non-urban people. Ignoring all the internet vitriol surrounding this issue, I do sense that there has been, in the past few years, an earnest and collective reckoning on the left with how terribly this has been handled over the past decade. Today, I find that leftists are far more likely to question the tendency to demonize and alienate non-"woke" people. I can only hope this comes as part of a more dedicated to build a political coalition that can actually fight back.

    1. There's a lot that's interesting about Trumpism and "woke liberalism." It's not just in the US, but it's most pronounced in American politics. Judging from what's happening in the Democratic presidential campaign, I'm not sure I agree that there's been an "earnest and collective reckoning" about where liberalism (and the centrist or neoliberal promotion of "free market" globalization) has gone badly wrong.

      I agree with Bill Maher when he says there's no sure-thing candidate to beat Trump, even among the twenty or so who are running. (He thinks Oprah Winfrey would be a sure thing). Maher's is a radical take when he says the policies advanced in an American political campaign are secondary or even irrelevant. The decisive issue is just whether the politician looks strong or weak.

      I've put this in terms of masculinity and femininity. The Democrats look feminine, not just because of their "socialist" policies but because of their lack of arrogance, psychopathic con artistry, or (much more preferably) a radical truth-telling vision. That would be fine if they were running for a job in which feminine skills and values could carry the day. Unfortunately, they're running to take over the world's most powerful country, and commonsense suggests you need to be evil, roughly speaking, to succeed in that particular job (since such power is bound to corrupt or monstrify the leader, in any case).

      The extreme political correctness and demonization of non-progressives is largely an American young person's phenomenon, which means it's not at all crucial to the actual election, since young people don't vote. It's the old people who should be least interested in long-term planning, who are the most reliable voters (and Fox News viewers and political junkies), which is the type of absurdity you typically find in a sign of reality.

      Trump won in the same way George W. Bush did, by firing up "the base" and ignoring the "independents" who typically don't vote in the US. Few of the Democratic candidates seem superficially heroic enough to likewise inspire the radical left-wingers. Regardless of how radical or sound the Democratic proposals may be, the fact that there are so many candidates running this time looks disastrous, since they all end up seeming hypocritical and fake (even though only some are fake candidates who have no chance of winning).

    2. An earnest reckoning would involve a diagnosis of what went wrong with Hillary's campaign, and an explanation of how Trumpism ascended despite the superficial success of Obama's terms in office. Many centrist pundits are saying Democratic candidates shouldn't talk much about Trump but should focus on presenting policies that help the majority of Americans. That's the feminine, weak-looking strategy that could easily lose again to Trump's demagoguery, the problem being that for good reason, no American politician is trusted much, so the policy proposals come across as so much hot air.

      The stronger approach would be to tell a superior story, to spellbind the public with a more dazzling, even plausible myth about what's happened recently to America and how the country could honestly get better. Again, that myth (i.e. a narrative that has religious force) would have to begin with an account of how centrist liberalism (the Democrats' betrayal of the middle class, beginning with Bill Clinton's free trade deals and continuing with Obama's one-sided bailout of the plutocrats, and Hillary's ignoring of the blue-collar states) is largely responsible for the rise of Trumpism, where Trumpism is the unchecked psychopathy (suicidal or anarchic social Darwinism and the "ugly American" syndrome which Trump typifies) in white American males who resent their loss of security under the neoliberal policies that have united the Republicans and Democrats for decades. In short, the liberal myth would have to lay bare how America has become malignant.