Donald Trump is not under siege, however the people of the United States, indeed much of the world, are under siege by him. I think many sections of the left are incorrectly analysing political developments.
Upon appearances Trump is under siege, but the left needs to look beyond appearances to uncover the true reality that underpins current political processes . The dominant picture, even amongst sections of the left, is that Trump’s candidacy for President was an insurgency, first against the Republican establishment and then against the internationalist, pro globalisation, centres of economic and political power in the United States.
I think this view points out the real limitations of the term “populism” often used in political discourse to describe the Trump phenomenon, and other phenomena like it. I much prefer the term “demagoguery,” which I think captures the essence of these phenomena better.
Some in the left, who do adopt the populist image, argue that Trump is under siege. It is not just Trump supporters who argue this.
The view goes something like this. The elite establishment has at its disposal a “deep state,” which it is employing to either discipline Trump whilst in office, or to remove him altogether. This is most especially seen in widespread, negative, coverage and commentary of Trump administration contacts with Russian officials and various other shenanigans and picadilloes of little import.
I think the left should be very critical of this point of view. Firstly, it accepts the position that the Trump administration is a genuine insurgency at odds with the establishment, which I don’t think it is, and it ignores what Trump, but better still the Republican Party, is *really* doing almost, astonishingly, behind the scenes.
If we ignore what much of the media is focusing on and examine Trump’s policies, on the EPA, trade, foreign policy, financial market deregulation, climate change, health care, taxes, unions and the labour market, and so on you can see that his administration is a gift to the rich and powerful even more so than the administration of George W Bush, which is saying something.
But these horrid policies are nowhere near as scrutinised as one irrelevant triviality after another. Such things as what Trump said to the Russian ambassador, Jarod Kushner trying to set up a diplomatic back channel to Moscow, the firing of the head of the FBI, Trump shoving aside the kleptocratic Prime Minister of Montenegro and so on, are much covered and discussed.
The real policies pursued by Trump, the Republican controlled Congress, and Republican controlled state legislatures and executives, represent a major assault on the population of the United States, one of the most significant such assaults ever, but we are being left with the impression that Trump is looking after the little people whilst being laid under siege by the establishment who will stop at nothing to remove him lest he upset the established system of power.
This image, promoted either wittingly or unwittingly, is highly functional for the Trump administration. Trump and the Republicans can kick people in the face whilst at the same time appear to be kicked in the face themselves by the establishment. That’s a propaganda coup of immense proportions. For the left to accept the analysis that underlies the standard image, and even worse to structure its organisation against Trump with respect to it, would be disastrous.
What the left needs to do is to point out and reveal Trump’s policies, their sources and benefactors, but also the policies of the wider Republican Party at the federal and state levels and forget about the trivia. Doing so would be a first step in organising Trump’s real victims, who aren’t on Wall Street or behind the Beltway, namely the people he mobilised to support his candidacy.
Failure to do this might lead to the removal of Trump, which is doubtful anyway, but it would leave much of his policies in place and it is the latter that matters.