The title of this article is inspired by “anticipatory retaliation” a euphemism employed by the American establishment to justify unprovoked attacks on perceived enemies who haven’t done anything yet.
They Started by Killing the Better Mousetrap
For the greater part of the 20th century American capitalists made building better mousetraps their principal claim to fame. In their heyday, after World War II, nobody could get near them. Virtually all the rest of the world’s industrial infrastructure had been obliterated during the war. The cases of Germany and Japan were the most dramatic. It was clear they would never make it back. Meanwhile the Yanks possessed half of the world’s wealth. They were on a roll that seemed interminable.
It wasn’t long before these American capitalists got distracted by the quicker, easier, bigger money to be made in financial services. That’s how they lost their manufacturing edge, and with it their R&D capacity and their grandiose factory installations. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Arsenal of Democracy” became America’s Rust Belt. The bean counters, America’s new high priests, told the managers of the American industrial powerhouse that, if they offshored production, they could make greater profits. That was true. They made more money, lots more. But along the way they gutted their industrial base, their working class and the American Way of Life.
Then bigtime technology struck, and it turned out to be a double-edged sword. When blended with hard-core capitalism it was explosive and, once introduced, the world would never be the same again. The computer accelerated scientific and business processes in the same way that gunpowder revolutionized warfare. A general, a publicist and an accountaint, empowered by scientific innovation, could take over the world. And they did.
Cascading Side Effects
The unforseen side effects of this revolution were as important as the processes themselves. While the general, the adman and the bean counter amassed fabulous power and wealth, normal citizens found themselves increasingly redundant. Some of them enjoyed the protection of labor unions but that didn’t last long. The same technology that supercharged war and commerce made it possible for business owners to undermine the unions and leave the workers on their own. By the early 21st century many of them found themselves homeless on the streets of America, raising their families in cars parked in Walmart parking lots. So devalued was their labor that they could work two jobs and still not earn enough to rent a decent home.
Company executives, stockholders and the politicians they sponsored were so busy reaping their harvest that it never occurred to them to temper that system of raw exploitation. They had done their best to forget that the richest country in the world was built on a platform of sharing enough wealth that their working classes would eventually make up the greatest market in the world. So they doubled down on laissez faire greed and Darwinian self interest by cutting back what few job guarantees and social programs that remained in favor of massive tax cuts for big businesses and the filthy rich.
That was all at the end of the 20th century. In the 21st the accounts devised a diabolical system of mortgage loans that further impoverished the poor by virtually guaranteeing the repossession of their homes while at the same time defrauding gullible stock-market investors who should have known better. With banks and hedge funds tanking from both ends, the working classes were again mere victims of a perfectly legal economic storm, reminiscent of the mechanisms that drove President Ronald Reagan’s trickle-up economy in the eighties, only moreso.
Help Is on the Way, He Said
Only occasionally in human history does there appear a figure capable of distilling the most salient qualities of a country into his own persona, becoming the quintessence of their aspirations and the living expression of their hope for the future. It wasn’t until recent times that it occurred in the United States in the person of Donald J. Trump. Looking back, it was inevitable that someone in profound syntony with America’s pitch-to-the-lowest-common-denominator success formula would come along to hornswoggle a confused country. President Trump’s innate genius for fraud permitted him to oversimplify the intricate workings of the United States government down to the level of its humblest, intellectually-challenged citizens and convince them that he had the solutions.
Just as fruit rots and falls from the tree, the American Annointed One’s time came round. He was not a remarkable man in American history. His coarse character, ready opportunism and surreal mendacity just happened to mesh with the American ethos after seven decades of hard-core capitalist degradation and amoral metastasis. It could just as well have been any other lowbrow populist conman, but it was Donald Trump who was destined to pick up the stray American ball and stumble/run with it. The gods observing from Olympus were bemused by such utter absurdity and let him run.
Donald Trump’s four-year term as President was characterized by sham and grotesquerie. His blatant, self-serving, country-destroying policies seemed merely curious at first but then, as white supremacy, racism, magical thinking, the degradation of women and the caging of children flowered, Americans who didn’t have a vested interest in know-nothing nihilism became seriously concerned.
Trump’s syntony with the country’s cheated and brutalized working classes permitted him to assume their leadership, to win a presidential election on a promise to “drain the swamp,” and to spend four years polluting it. A lot of Americans were delighted with his unlikely success. Others were horrified. Bystanders around the world were mainly surprised that such a low person could rise to such a high place in the government of the greatest country in the world. Some of them even began to question that label of “greatest country in the world.”
Meanwhile, due in part to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that was being mishandled so adroitly by the President, the uber-rich were getting richer and the working classes were finding their lot increasingly precarious.
A Change in the Script
After four years of conscientiously keeping his campaign promises and smashing through the American government and its agencies like a wrecking ball, President Trump and his team, rigorously selected for one sole quality, their loyalty to the fuhrer, found themselves faced with an opposition substantial enough to block his re-election pretensions.
By 2020 the country-wide outrage at the President’s feckless performance in office reached such a level that the anti-Trump movement expected to win the presidential election by a landslide. In the end it won by a mere million votes. Their candidacy of an elderly Democratic party hack and a bright young feminine California prosecutor managed to defeat Trump, but not Trumpism, far from it. The Democrats lost seats in the House and–if they are frank–are not at all optimistic about gaining a majority in the Senate in the upcoming runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia scheduled for January 5, 2021.
What Has Changed Then?
Not that much. The forces of opposition to Trump have won a watered-down victory that doesn’t empower them to change much, especially if they fail to win both Georgia Senate seats in January. The new president-elect’s choice of cabinet members smacks of the rancid Democratic pols of yesteryear, as does his own track record tinged with racism, militarism and corporate suck-upism, not to mention the Ukranian and Chinese economic hanky panky. Who knows what went down there?
Soon after the media started reading the presidential election results as a Biden victory, President Trump and his merry men, noting how close they had come to winning, set up a Political Action Committee (PAC) to raise funds for a 2024 presidential election campaign . The ultimate destination of those funds remains in the fog, though a Business Insider headline from Nov. 23, 2020 reads: “75% of every donation to Trump’s ‘election defense fund’ could be spent by the president himself on things like paying family members or financing a 2024 bid.“
Whom to Blame?
At bottom, who is responsible for the Democrats’ poor showing in the 2020 presidential election and their easily predictable helplessness over the coming four years? The truth is the Democratic National Committee severely limited its election chances by decapitating their own progressive candidates, people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (though this rising star is still too young to run for president).
They were the Democrats most inclined to bring about meaningful change in America as opposed to the tired, old-line Democrat retreads who head the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and now the White House. The current situation serves to confirm economist and academic, Richard Wolff’s allegation that the United States has only one politial party, the Capitalist Party, made up of two parts, Republicans and Democrats. These latter represent the left wing of the party, according to Wolff. But Americans should start to ask themselves, what do they have to gain with a left wing that is an appendage of the right wing? They will be lucky to be left with a beautiful corpse.