I’m not a prophet, but I wanted to get my thinking on the record before the first votes come in tomorrow. I’m not even a pundit–hardly anyone reads this page, it’s mostly just a way for me to keep track of my thoughts as they evolve and change with circumstances.
Anything could happen tomorrow to change the race. If Santorum wins Iowa again, for example, that would knock Trump out of the headlines for a while. If Hillary wins New Hampshire next week, that would do the same to Bernie Sanders. And anything can happen between next week and next November–ten months are a relative eternity. Just ask John McCain, who pretty much lost everything on one day (September 24, 2008), when he suspended his campaign so he could return to the Senate to fix the US economy (or maybe it was September 15, when he said “the fundamentals of our economy are strong”). The point is, he made it clear that he had been blindsided by a catastrophe that he didn’t and couldn’t understand.
Some people say that McCain lost it at the Republican convention, when he nominated Sarah Palin as his running mate, but in retrospect, it seems more to me like he was laying the groundwork for Donald Trump’s ascendancy. Sarah Palin showed the world that a right wing candidate for public office could pretty much say and do whatever they felt like (and their families could too), so long as they pandered to the resentments of the right identity group.
So yeah, I do think that Trump is going to finish the job that Sarah Palin was too greedy and too much of a quitter to finish herself.
The funny thing is that it’s still all about the economic meltdown of 2008, though no one in the establishment seems to recognize that because the stock market’s recovery was so strong. Despite its occasional ups and downs (like the one that’s going on right now), their portfolios are as sound as John McCain said the US economy as a whole was back then. No, to understand Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ appeals on a gut level, you have to punch a clock–or more to the point, not punch a clock, and not have many prospects of doing so any time soon.
If it feels like the center isn’t holding, it’s because it’s not. If it feels like the ground is crumbling beneath our feet, it’s because it is. We are living through what a Marxist would call a contradiction.
Any economic system that delivers almost all of its rewards to a small minority will be fundamentally incompatible with a political system that vests its power in the hands of the majority.
For neo-liberal Republicans, the Laffer Curve was supposed to be the magic formula that would resolve the contradiction; for neo-Liberal Democrats, the rising tide of global capitalism was supposed to lift all boats. Unfortunately for the neo-Liberals of both parties, neither solution did what it was supposed to. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it took the destruction of the welfare state and much of our infrastructure to make this clear. This is why the establishments of both parties are having such a hard time selling themselves–and this is why we are as vulnerable to Fascism as we’ve been since the 1930s. If the cognitive dissonance wasn’t so painful, maybe they would understand the quandary they’re in.
But as students of cognitive dissonance know, what’s more likely is that the GOP establishment will convince itself and a big enough chunk of middle America that Trump is just the shot in the arm that this nation needs. That’s how most people resolve cognitive dissonance–by angry denial and wishful thinking.