“There are among us today, as there always have been, those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them, and in the process of action everything we have accepted out of fear or insensitivity or ignorance is shaken before us and examined… More important, from this total questioning of what has previously been unquestioned, we learn. And such a process is not beyond the common man.” — Arthur Miller
Mass media would like to print tidy articles about Donald Trump’s ascendancy, tracing the roots of his meteoric popularity to former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. This paltry offering to the public debate on the causality of Trump is amnesic at best; at worst, it is distracting. Nevertheless, the media pretends to have done the spadework for us when it comes to the genesis of Trump, citing “Republican voters” who were only yesterday drawn to the xenophobic and authoritarian Brewer. This explanation is little more than a Trojan horse, or a whitewashing of history. The media has not spun its slick web just to mark the trajectory of some social phenomenon rooted in the anti-immigrant myopia and national security madness of late. Whether a cover story, propaganda, or plain ol’ disinformation, it amounts to little more than the art of the deal.
Rewind. Brewer signed-off on the despicable Senate Bill 1070 during her 2009-2015 reign. In so doing, she qualified many of the racist sentiments that have bedeviled the Mexican-US border for centuries. She put a finger in Obama’s face, raised taxes, and declared her support for the poor; all the while holding fast to opportunism despite her signature tough talk and Republican credentials. To whatever extent Donald Trump seems to be Jan Brewer 2.0, such is not the case, and he is far more significant than the daily rags let on.
The rise of Donald Trump has made it abundantly clear that Marxism has an important role in public life. For Marxists and their political allies, one of the most salient features of Trump’s candidacy also happens to be something that the ruling elites invariably loathe. That is that a significant racism remains in American society today. Furthermore, despite all neoliberal efforts and wars, a cohesive, multiracial, multiethnic, and multigender revolution remains possible in 21st century America. This is more than enough to give the 1% night terrors.
Looking to our television sets, radios, social media feeds, or lunch truck palavering, we see what plays out everyday and in plain sight: an increasing public awareness of the oppression that ideologically, racially, and materially divides workers. This recognition is extends along color as well as class lines. One ramification of a growing pubic consciousness of racism and classism is a realization that that the ruling elites, employers, bureaucrats – the bosses and plutocrats and oligarchs– comprise the few who benefit the most from our division as it stands. Hence, Marxism, capitalist divisiveness, and Trump have all come together!
Marxists explain that economic disparities often go hand-in-hand with racial inequities, or for that matter, disparities pertaining to gender, sexuality, age, creed, or ability. Repressing some in perpetuity while simultaneously hierarchizing the productive forces of society should, for human being today, provide enough discomfort to elicit goose bumps … or worse. This should be true for anyone who has felt a drop of acid rain, or breathed a breath of fouled air from sources half-way around the world. Such pollution actively poisons workers whose children starve, while Trump promises to “make America great again” by offering us more of the same.
Trump’s climb is today a clear reminder that divisive oppression pervades the lives of workers in our capitalist society. It presses into service all social problems imaginable, including the racially charged, bigoted, and xenophobic nationalism that Trump is hawking around the country. When this happens, a “Trump” of any stripe will appeal to the everyman’s corrupted commonsense. Such a figure will likely curry favor with millions of Americans whose lives the capitalist system so miserably controls.
The dysfunction of judgment that the current Trump problem represents is part-and-parcel of a long vein in American history: a history of profits over people. Nevertheless, we recognize that the taproot is entirely assailable. It has been thus for some time because radical philosophy arms us with the tools necessary to engender a deeper, systematic analysis that explains the social divisions on which Trump and his class prey and depend. This is worth recalling lest we forget that the ruling class’s ideology routinely attempts to etch distorted realities upon the consciousnesses of white workers. These workers assume their supremacy in manifold ways and thus further the capitalist project. The very thing that seeks to exploit them is that which subordinates all slaves under the capitalist system, irrespective of race or anything else.
Like the goose bumps mentioned above, capitalist exploitation ought to give thinking and feeling people reason to recoil, if not rebel. Worker’s submission to a world of racial supremacy, and its concomitant false consciousness, is precisely what sabotages national and international cooperation against the capitalist disease. This false consciousness makes the international socialist project difficult to affect and sustain. Never mind contradictions like the 40-plus percent of homeless persons in America who are white, or the 45 percent of homeless persons in America who are below the age of 30. Never mind all of this because, as Trump espouses (just like the Nazis before him), “Work sets you free.” And by work, what Trump and his artless deal mean is endless slavery under capitalism.
For the unthinking, skim-milk conservative in the US, the poster child for racially charged populism in this election cycle happens to be Trump, who also is the likely nominee for the Republican Party. What he shares in common with his party members, like Brewer, is certainly more than just a racist, capitalist succession of governance. What they all share is his ultra-nationalistic rhetoric that panders to groups whose oppression they have propagated for years, and to whose false consciousness Trump now pays lip service.