America’s liberal elite is both horrified by Donald Trump, and incapable of mortally wounding him. What’s needed instead is a profound leftward shift, led by new faces.
Now that yet another week of President Trump’s frantic activity is safely behind us, and slowly receding into memory, we can reflect on the chaotic wasteland his foreign trip left behind.
The US President visited three places: Brussels – where he met the key European leaders, London – to see Theresa May and the Queen, plus Helsinki – where he held a summit with Vladimir Putin.
While most pundits noted the apparently strange fact that Trump was much friendlier to (those perceived as) US enemies than to its traditional friends, this shouldn’t surprise us too much. Instead, our attention should turn in another direction. As is often the case with Trump, reactions to his acts are more important than what he actually did or said.
Let us begin by comparing what Trump uttered with what his partners said. When Trump and May were asked by a journalist what they think about the flow of immigrants to Europe, Trump brutally and honestly rendered his populist anti-immigrant position: immigrants are a threat to the European way of life; they are destabilizing the safety of our countries and bringing violence and intolerance. So, we should keep them out.
A careful listener could easily notice that Theresa May said exactly the same thing, just in a more diplomatic and “civilized” way: immigrants bring diversity, they contribute to our welfare, but we should carefully check whom we let in. Thus, we received a clear taste of the choice which is more and more the only one presented to us: direct populist barbarism or a more civilized version of the same politics, barbarism with a human face.
Generally, the reactions to Trump from all across the spectrum, including Republicans and Democrats in the US, were one of global shock and awe. Which sometimes bordered on pure panic. We heard how Trump is unreliable and he brings chaos.
For instance, first he reproached Germany for relying on Russian gas and thus becoming vulnerable to NATO’s supposed enemy, but days later he praised good relations with Putin.
Then there are his manners: when meeting the queen, he violated the protocol of how you behave in the presence of a monarch!. And he doesn’t really listen to his democratic partners while being much more open to the charms of Putin, who is nowadays cast as America’s big enemy.
Indeed, the way he acted at a press conference with Putin in Helsinki was not only supposedly an unheard-of humiliation (just think of it – he didn’t behave as Putin’s master!), and some of his statements could even be considered outright acts of treason, we heard.
Rumours reappeared of how Trump acts as Putin’s puppet because his Russian counterpart must have some hold over him (the infamous alleged photos of prostitutes urinating in Moscow?), and parts of the US establishment. Democrats and some Republicans, began to consider a quick impeachment, even if we get Mike Pence as his replacement.
Overall, the conclusion was simply that the President of the US is no longer the leader of the free world: but was the President of the US really ever such a leader? Here our counter-attack should begin.
Let us first note that the overall confusion of Trump’s statements contains some truths here and there: wasn’t he in some sense right when he said that it is in our interest to have good relations with Russia and China to prevent war? Wasn’t he partially correct to present his tariff war also as a protection of the interests of the US workers?
The fact is that the existing order of international trade and finances is far from equitable, and that the European establishment hurt by Trump’s measures should also look at its own sins. Did we already forget how the existing financial and trade rules that privilege the strong European states, especially Germany, brought devastation to Greece?
Concerning Putin, yes I personally believe that Russians probably meddled in the US elections, but Putin was caught doing… what exactly? Just what the US is doing regularly and massively itself, except in their case, they call it the defence of democracy? So yes, Trump is a monster, and when he designated himself as a “stable genius,” we should read this as a direct reversal of truth – he is an unstable idiot who disturbs the establishment. But as such, he is a symptom, an effect of what is wrong with the establishment itself. And the true Monster is the very establishment shocked by Trump’s actions.
The panicky reaction to Trump’s latest acts demonstrates that he is undermining and destabilizing the US political establishment and its ideology. So our conclusion should be: yes, the situation is dangerous, there is uncertainty and elements of chaos in international relations – but it is here that we should remember Mao’s old motto: “There is great disorder under the sky, so the situation is excellent!”
Let’s not lose our nerve. Instead, we can exploit the confusion by systematically organizing another anti-establishment front from the left. The signs are clear here – the surprising electoral victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, against 10-term House incumbent Joe Crowley in a New York congressional primary was, hopefully, the first in the series of shocks that will transform the Democratic Party. People like her, and not the well-known, and tired, faces from the liberal establishment, should be our answer to Trump.