Donald Trump and the ritual of shock and awe in American duopoly

(Written for Kindle Magazine)

By Saswat Pattanayak

The shock and clamor surrounding Donald Trump’s ascension to power is entirely unwarranted. The sentimental protests, tearful mournings and fearful disbelief about how to make sense of Trump are self-serving exaggerations. Self-serving, because taking such positions merely distinguishes us from the nastiness that defines Trump. To the mortified, he is the indecency that is impossible to explain and he is the vice we have apparently fought all along. Trump is the worst of humanity, the enemy of the marginalized, the maniac who cannot be trusted with a nuclear button, the groper-in-chief who must not have become the commander-in-chief of the most consequential country in this planet. There is an inversely proportional relationship we share with his moralism. He is the anti-mirror, he is the nightmare personified, he is the friend of Putin, he is the American Modi. He is the enemy of the Muslims. He is the enemy of the women. He is the enemy of the poor. And no wonder, he even dashed our hope of having the first female president in American history. Where do we go from here now? Will our world not end now?

More ridiculous than Trump’s victory is the collective grief prevailing in its aftermath. More irksome than the erratic ignorance of Trump is the irresponsibility of our political memories. More culminating blow is landed to us from our hunky-dory imaginings of the American states of affairs preceding this poll than from the Canadian immigration website crash. It is our luxuriously privileged indulgence in our botoxed worldviews that allows our imagined future tragedies to surpass the reality of our past indifference. We are eager to lament an unseen tomorrow while justifying the legacies that have been harrowing for decades. In fact, keeping with that adulation of our rectitude, we are hoping for our noble old behaviors to be emulated in coming years. Have no fear, Obama assures us, we are all now the cheerleaders for Trump. No matter how disqualified he was, no matter the sexual predator that he was, no matter the tax evader that he was, no matter the racist, Islamophobe, misogynist untrustworthy xenophobe that he was, long live our democracy, which we shall continue to introduce in every land of this world under his leadership.

Lest the energy of dissonance and dissent is channelized differently, Hillary Clinton reminds us that peaceful transition of power is what we not only believe in, but cherish. All our banking institutions and corporations and bosses of both the big parties are not going to be overthrown. We are going to accept the results gracefully like we always have because we have unequivocal faith in the system they own. We must continue to work together with them to relish the American greatness that we have defined in all its past, present and future tense. Hallelujah!

Trump is not a miracle. Trump is culmination of American exceptionalism which has been preached by every president preceding him. Trump is the logical apotheosis of humanized capitalism, where the winners take all, where executive decisions are sacrosanct, where we feel it right to sponsor deaths and tortures and waterboarding and drones and assassinations and weaponization of regions that we consider inferior.

Today liberal America is shaking with moralist rage, in fear and anger. There are protests outside the Trump Tower. There are letters school children are writing to Trump. There are celebrities urging their fans to continue the fight. An unprecedented climate of uncertainty hovers over America. Apprehensive of what the first 100 days of Trump can result in. Will illegals be deported? Will there be wars? Will other countries now be scared of our hooliganism? Will there be visa restrictions on people? Will there now be assaults on women’s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights? Will black people be safe any longer? Will hardworking people flourish anymore? Will a few elites enjoy concentrated wealth? Will our healthcare industry fail? Will our education become unaffordable? Will there be public protests and police atrocities? Will the rich now manipulate taxation system? Will we ever have a female president? Will we be able to explain our children about what our president should do and what he actually does?

All these and many more questions plague the well-meaning liberals. They are finding everything surreal with Trump’s triumph. The world is no longer the same. The good old days of freedom, respect, dignity, decency, morality, virtues and values are past us. Trump has forced us to wake up from our American dreams.

Maybe it is high time that we did and maybe we owe that to Donald Trump. After all, it is not Trump who stands exposed today. It is the sheer hypocrisy of American liberals that stands exposed. Liberals conveniently forget that it is not Trump who had deported the largest number of people and separated family members in millions within past eight years. It is not Trump that built secret chambers of tortures to round up human beings that have been called “illegals”. It is not Trump that ordered the wars and interventions all around the world that resulted in assassinations of world leaders. It is not Trump who won the Nobel Peace Prize and launched the industry of drones resulting in deaths of thousands of innocent civilians – women and children – in faraway lands. It is not Trump that has made America the biggest rogue nation in history. It is not Trump who privatized healthcare and education and forced people to debt. It is not Trump who bailed out the Wall Street or launched attacks on protesters at Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter. It is not Trump who caused the new Jim Crow and massive incarceration of Blacks and Latinos. It is not Trump who refused to recognize same-sex marriage for decades, or who prevented women candidates from becoming nominees of major political parties. It is not Trump who prevented Shirley Chisholm a nomination, it is not he who stopped Cynthia McKinney’s dream, it is not he who halted Hillary Clinton’s journey to White House when she aimed at it for the first time.

Indeed, Trump shall also be held accountable in coming days. But unlike Modi who had bossed over riots and massacres before being elected head of India, Trump has had no impacts on political landscape of the United States. He is no American Modi. Unlike Putin of Russia, Trump did not have any bureaucratic experience or political support for him to rise to unchecked power. He is no American Putin. Unlike any other president in American history, Trump had no sway over politics or military prior to this. He is no typical American president either.

He is a result of a democracy that the United States takes pride in. It is existential to American identity. This is the democracy that understands only one language – a language of money and competition. And both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump used this language to their best abilities and only one of them won by a slight margin. To be especially afraid of the newest master of this language is to be afraid of this system itself.

The values that have emboldened this system lie at the foundation of this country. From celebration of Columbus and observation of Thanksgiving to colonization of numerous lands – whether Puerto Rico or Hawaii or dozens more such annexations; from erasure of the indigenous Americans from every stream of public life to judicial killings and systematic disfranchisement of black people, America’s strength has always been its excesses. And this might of American state has constantly been met with resistance of freedom fighters throughout – from Frederick Douglass to Oscar Lopez Rivera, from Paul Robeson to the Black Panthers.

To suddenly lose the good old days flavor, now that a certain Donald Trump has risen to power is to insult the rich histories of struggles that have duly acknowledged and battled against American excesses, one president at a time. This placement of anger on Trump is at the same time an undermining of decades-long organizing efforts by the working class against the ruling elites. United States has never been great, and as long as its plutocracy exists – with support of both the major parties, probably never will become great. Indeed, no country is great because of its ruling class; its greatness is measured by the dignity it amasses despite its ruling class. Whether it be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, their taste of success is not a yardstick to evaluate how much Americans have been liberated. In fact, the ceremony of voting and electoral theatrics are necessary exercises to keep the power-hungry relevant, and more importantly acceptable.

The filthy rich Clintons who run dubious charitable organizations and charge millions of dollars via their political double-speak should ideally be despised. Bill “I-don’t-know-that-woman” Clinton’s assaults on women and his wife’s steadfast support for his misogyny should ideally be abhorred. Hillary Clinton’s views on black youths and gay marriage that took opportunist turns for political gains should have been grounds enough for her disqualification. As the biggest receiver of Big Pharma concerns and Wall Street interests, Hillary Clinton should ideally have been rejected by liberals who espouse progressive values. The manner in which Democratic Party bosses manipulated Bernie Sanders campaign should have distanced every conscientious liberal from her. And yet, under this obligation to hold voting as a sacrosanct exercise, and to elect that candidate who has more probability of winning, regardless of the content of character (which ensured the silencing of Jill Stein from the discourse), the liberals find a pressing need to forgive everything that is wrong about Hillary Clinton. And yet magically, they reserve the same yardstick exclusively for assessment of the Republican candidate. Likewise, Donald Trump should ideally have been disqualified from addressing any nation, considering his history of hate speeches, his admittance of being an assaulter, his tax evasions, and his fear-mongering pleas. And yet, the Republican voters feel compelled to make their candidate win at all cost and pass the yardstick unto Hillary’s.

This is the sort of democracy that Fidel Castro had long ago dismissed as phony. A system which justifies a status quo by means of validation from those it aims to oppress. It nullifies all possibilities of revolutions by using a mandate to justify continuation of a duopoly. The domination of two wealthiest parties is such that not only the presidential debates do not have provisions for third parties, but even the media at large ignore the views of political leaders that challenge both parties at the same time. People who vote for third parties are ridiculed for being spoilsports, and even blamed for all the political mishaps. This year too, it was no different – the Democrats blamed third party voters for the victory of Trump, while over 10% of Obama voters and 9% of registered Democrats did end up voting for Trump this poll – which is way more significant a number than the entire voter population that supported third parties.

The capacity to imagine beyond duopoly is systematically discouraged. In effect, every couple of terms, each party gets a chance to enjoy power with tacit understanding. The outgoing president graciously makes space for the incoming one. The same rogue policies continue to appease big businesses, they further prison-industrial complex, and the presidents outdo each other in aggressions abroad. Whether it be Kennedy or Reagan, Clinton or Bush, Obama or Trump, foreign policies of this hawkish nation rests on the idea of a few enemy states to engage with militarily. Hillary Clinton’s win wouldn’t have changed the course in any way whatsoever. Russia, Iran, Syria, Libya, Pakistan and North Korea were among many enemy states directly envisaged by her. Trump will end up substituting a couple at best. But the same game shall go on without interruptions.

The illusion of freedom to choose a candidate, the desire to elect a winner, the urge to submit to ruling class whims – elections are festivals to celebrate our collective surrender to our exploiters. And in these times of intense inequality, poverty, homelessness, wars and displacements, euphoria surrounding Trump’s victory is an act of political masochism. And more crucially, getting all depressed owing to Clinton’s defeat amounts to political complacency. This was indeed the nastiest battle in recent history – but only a battle between two power-hungry, egotist rich individuals. Both had irreparable flaws and neither exhibited leadership traits that could provide a vision for a better world. If Trump’s pet peeve was China, Clinton’s was Russia. If Trump did not disclose tax returns, Clinton hid her transcripts on corporations. If Trump had a history of assaulting women, Clinton had a history of standing by an assaulter. If Trump was threatening to make America “great” again, Clinton had already aided in making America “great” many times in the past. No matter who among them would have won, the world would still be dreading American intervention and drone strikes and unilateral declarations against regions it deemed helpless.

That said, there are a few critical lessons from this election. Especially for the young people and children who are failing to understand how to look upto a sexual assaulter and a bully as their role model. The answer is, it is not possible to treat Trump as a role model. But it so happens that our children are not told the whole story by the liberals. In the entire history of the United States, there was hardly a single President who had the accomplishments to be a role model. The lesson number one is that winning is not everything and often times, people do not win because they are correct. A president is basically a winner in a race to power, just as there are winners in various other fields. Simply because most people believe in a faith, a party, a person does not mean that makes it alright to unquestioningly adopt the same. Simply because there are authorities in law, politics, academics, religions does not mean the authorities are to be held inviolable. Just because plutocratic systems have been shoved down to us disguised as democracy does not mean this is the system we must protect at all costs even if the victors are assaulters. Secondly, there is no such thing as Karma. Feel-good liberals and conservatives alike tend to believe in such fatalistic theories and pass them on to next generations. If Trump/Clinton are the type of people who dominate the political stage while Stein/Baraka kind of candidates receive less than 2% of votes, it is not because of good/bad karma, but because of our comfortable indifference towards capitalism and willful ignorance of ongoing movements against it.

Finally, the lesson is not in expecting hope to be trickled down from politicians whose source of power is private capital interests, rather to painstakingly gather all the hope that we can, trace its foundations in centuries old aspirations to free the lands and people of greed and monopolies; in not allowing these corporate czars from defining what is a people’s revolution, rather to collect the scattered leaves on the paths of revolutions scarred by the martyrs bloods. The lesson is to use Trump’s rise as an opportunity to look beyond the hype of the two-party system and to reimagine the political landscape. Instead of waiting for any messiah who will “fix” everything for the working class, it is the working poor themselves whose organized efforts need to bring down the power corridors.

Capitalism is inherently ableist, sexist, racist and individualist. Trump is its outcome and White House is its upholder. The eyes need not be set on the prize that devours us all, but on the one that liberates us all. Communism alone can offer that alternative. If we can imagine. As the capitalistic contradictions reach zenith in the citadel following Trump’s rise, the good news is, it is not going to be as difficult to reimagine. It is only inevitable.


Obama is winning his War on Women Candidates

Democrats are desperately seeking more women to come out and vote today, preposition being Obama is the natural choice for women in this country and with more women voting, more is the likelihood of him getting reelected. To draw home that point further, the Democrats under Obama have devised a phrase “War on Women” to discredit their assumed rivals. And liberal women are all lining up to vote their Messiah who has emerged as the White Knight, rescuing distressed damsels of Sandra Fluke variety who subsumed under propaganda of the liberals are uncritically and unconditionally making uninformed choices while reelecting their male boss from the White House.

“War on Women” is a phrase only the Democrats could have come up with, considering they have been waging wars against women for decades. And in recent times, they have been battling women at the electoral polls. And yet a sizable section of liberal feminists continues to identify with their oppressors rather than with their comrades.

Obama/Romney vs Lindsay/Stein:
Comrade Peta Lindsay is the latest victim of Obama Patriarchy. Ms Lindsay, a Marxist-Leninist is challenging the President on the Party for Socialism and Liberation ticket. She being not only a committed communist, but also a progressive black feminist, is posing a genuine threat to Obama and his Fluke brands of activisms. Her party indeed provides absolute alternatives to the electoral monopolists today chaired by President Obama and his Democrat/Republican colleagues, especially outlining progressive visions for working women and men of this country that destroys the make-believe world of Obama/Romney camp that is presented to the American public.

Comrade Lindsay has a ten-point program that are as follows – 1) Make job a Constitutional right, 2) Make free health care, free education and affordable housing Constitutional rights, 3) Shut down all U.S. military bases around the world—bring all the troops, planes & ships home, 4) Stop racist police brutality and mass incarceration, 5) Defend our unions, 6) Equality for women and free, safe, legal abortion on demand, 7) Full rights for all immigrants, 8) Full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, 9) Save the planet—End capitalism, 10) Seize the banks—Jail Wall Street criminals.

Unlike Obama and his gang of hypocrites, Ms Lindsay actually demands free healthcare and demands employment as a constitutional right. Exposing the hypocrisy of the Romney/Obama group voicing their concerns for working women, Ms Lindsay says, “The two (dominant) candidates will present their wives to speak to for a ‘women’s perspective,’ but their presentation will be based largely on a bourgeois perspective. Ann Romney, who is the daughter of a factory owner and has hundreds of millions of dollars. She recently made the point that she ‘made the choice’ to be a stay-at-home mom, but for most Black women, no such choices are available. Michelle Obama may come from the working class, but the Obamas are millionaires and have been solidly in the upper class for decades. I want to speak to the experiences of poor and working-class Black women.”

Precisely because she wanted to address the poor and working class Black women – just like Cynthia McKinney wanted to do last election before Barack Obama gathered supports from Goldman Sachs and his friends at the Wall Street to shatter Ms McKinney’s political career as a Presidential aspirant – Ms Lindsay has this time faced stark opposition from President Obama to the extent that the Democrats worked with the Republicans to make sure that the rules concerning the much-publicized Presidential Debates that shape and inform the opinions of voters in the United States are manipulated to the extent of censoring and forbidding candidates like Ms Lindsay from addressing the working class of this country.

Who owns the Presidential Debates?
Amy Goodman interview with George Farah reveals how the Obama regime secretly negotiated contracts with Candy Crowley of CNN to specifically omit any question that mentions alternatives to him and Romney. Although the Committee on Presidential Debates is constituted to entertain divergent visions and to present to people the presidential candidates with alternative views, during Obama’s tenure, it was decided to censor the two radical alternatives to Obama/Romney aspirations – both challengers happened be two women Presidential candidates – Peta Lindsay and Jill Stein.

Of course the only people dangerous to patriarchy, and in effect to capitalism, are radical women. Last election, it was a black woman of tremendous strength and courage who was victimized by racist attacks in the Congress – Cynthia McKinney – who decided to quit the Democrats and contested on the Green Party ticket to pose a serious threat to Barack Obama. And this election, it is Peta Lindsay who has been so censored by liberal media that she remains virtually unknown to huge majority of voters in the country. Not a moment goes by without liberal media touting their love for women, and yet soaked in unfathomable hypocrisy, they vociferously silence the alternative voices aired by progressive women candidates.

Instead, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney – all three women whose political worth are measured by their undying love for their erring husbands are today symbolizing feminism for most educated women across the country, thanks to the manner in which Obama/Romney president ticket has manipulated media, through outright lies, enormous capital and direct control of the processes of debates and dissent.

Anti-Feminism: How Democrats Killed Equal Rights Amendment
Democrats with help of their dominant media forums comprising such corporate bigwigs as CNN, New York Times and Washington Post, have been miseducating young women voters of this country with atrocious lies about their past involvements with women’s rights movements. The truth is Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which was introduced in the Congress back in 1923 and comprised sections that would have outlawed any unequal treatment of women on account of sex, constantly faced challenges along the path to its realization by the Democrats alone.

ERA, drafted by feminist and suffragist leader Alice Paul, had recognized that right to vote for women meant little if women continued to be discriminated against through other social means. Paul’s National Woman’s Party advocated for ERA to be introduced in the Congress, which materialized with the help of radical feminist Susan B Anthony’s nephew Daniel R Anthony, a republican member. It would take three more decades before President Eisenhower – another Republican – would ask a joint session of Congress in 1958 to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. He would become the first president to openly express support for a law that was to ensure that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Democrats specifically refused to support ERA during Eisenhower’s time. Noticing the growing discontent among progressive feminists, John F Kennedy saw it as opportunity to cash in on women as a vote bank and promised them that he would support ERA and ensure its passage. But soon after gaining power, Kennedy played hide and seek with ERA demands and his core officials started opposing Equal Rights Amendment in public. Embarrassed by the fallouts, Kennedy offered a compromise – a “President’s Commission on the Status of Women”. This was nothing but a mockery of women’s rights movement for it tried to investigate whether or not there actually was any trend of discrimination against women, conveniently ignoring the positions forwarded by feminists that indicated discriminations indeed were the order of the day. PCSW of course was nothing but an organized committee to merely enlist women against communism in Kennedy’s favorite pastime called the Cold War. Like his predecessor Democrat President Truman who allowed McCarthy to list the men who the government wanted to target (a scoundrel who was silenced only by Eisenhower through his executive privileges), Kennedy created a committee to recruit women to do what McCarthy had left midway.

The only saving grace in PCSW was Eleanor Roosevelt, who had earlier opposed ERA under heavy pressure from the Democrats, but later on regretted her mistakes and finally lent support to ERA. But even her support to ERA did not convince Kennedy to work towards passing ERA into law. Instead he initiated another compromise by the name of Equal Pay Act of 1963 which remains to this date immensely lacking, and wage gap between men and women continue to be sustained. When President Obama was asked a question regarding the wage gap during the 2012 presidential debate, he refused to answer it, continuing the regressive tradition of Democrats initiated by Kennedy.

Kennedy’s compromises naturally reveled in their contradictions, leading to angry feminists forming National Organization for Women (NOW) to continue demands for Equal Rights Amendment which the Democrats had been refusing to recognize. Shirley Chisholm, the black woman representative was the only exception who exposed the hypocrisies of fellow Democrats on the floor of the congress. In her famous “Equal Rights for Women” speech Ms Chisholm attacked the Democrats for refusing to allow ERA from becoming a reality since four decades –

“I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every Congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land — the Equal Rights Amendment.
Let me note and try to refute two of the commonest arguments that are offered against this amendment. One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?….
A second argument often heard against the Equal Rights Amendment is that it would eliminate legislation that many States and the Federal Government have enacted giving special protection to women and that it would throw the marriage and divorce laws into chaos. As for the marriage laws, they are due for a sweeping reform, and an excellent beginning would be to wipe the existing ones off the books. Regarding special protection for working women, I cannot understand why it should be needed. Women need no protection that men do not need. What we need are laws to protect working people, to guarantee them fair pay, safe working conditions, protection against sickness and layoffs, and provision for dignified, comfortable retirement. Men and women need these things equally.”

Despite Chisholm’s leadership and staunch feminism, the Democrats refused to still pay heed. Ironically, once again, it was a Republican President Richard Nixon who did what Kennedy was slyly refusing to – he became the first American President to endorse ERA’s approval. ERA – constantly opposed by the Democrats each and every Congress finally died following a deadline set for it to be ratified in 1980.

Not only that, but even Chisholm’s demand for the marriage laws to be reformed in a sweeping manner was met with Bill Clinton’s infamous Defense of Marriage Act. Once again, the Democrats were at the forefront of annihilating feminist progresses and movements by passing a law that defined marriage as a legal union between only a man and a woman. Clinton, the visionary leader of the Democrats today, swiftly declared that under the law, no US state is required to recognize same-sex marriage. This was in the classic tradition of the Democratic Party’s long lasting attack on feminist movements in this country.

Democrats as Dangerous Compromises:
Destroying ERA and introducing DOMA are not the only contributions of the Democrats. The more damaging are their “compromise” laws which they sign from time to time in order to distract the feminists from core issues and to treat women as vote banks for their power plays. Under Obama’s regime, the PCSW equivalent was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is a pure hogwash, to begin with. Although Obama team have been highlighting how women-friendly this Act is, the reality is it does not even address discrimination, let alone provide for a fraction of what ERA stood for in terms of women’s rights progresses.

What the Democrats are not saying the women is that Ledbetter Act does not enforce companies from disclosing the amount of pay they are offering to men and women at workplaces. Without this a reality, it is absurd to even claim that women will receive “fair” pay when they are not even supposed to know what a “fair” pay amount is. Similarly, using LGBTQ as a vote bank, Obama has signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010”. Far from being a civil rights victory for the oppressed minorities, this is indeed akin to legalizing entry of black people into the armed forces of America to fight against oppressed minorities worldwide on behalf of militarist rogue regimes of the United States. Another Democrat and anticommunist Harry Truman in 1948, had ensured that black people – while they were still being treated as slaves in their home country – were going to be fighting on behalf of their masters to kill innocent people – specifically Communists – abroad. Paul Robeson, the great black revolutionary famously opposed such absurd proposition which suggested that black people should fight in Korean War. Its about time, progressive LGBTQ leaders move away from fundraising for Democrats for letting them die in unjust wars abroad while White House politicians continue to fool around with their human rights issues as electoral agendas.

If invoking executive privileges to force black people and sexual minorities into military is not a big deal for Democratic presidents, then legalizing same-sex marriage should not be a hindrance either. Indeed, ending racist police brutality would not be so difficult after years of movements demanding the end to the pig culture. Or shutting down military bases, including Guantanamo Bay would not have been so difficult either. Or providing full rights to all immigrants. Or, to ensure free healthcare. Or, to end capitalism by seizing the banks.

But, then, that would actually be progressive, radical, feminist a vision. A vision that Comrade Peta Lindsay has. And in this election, Barack Obama and his buddy Mitt Romney are out to destroy precisely that – with active collaboration of their quintessentially uncritical voters.

(Saswat Pattanayak, 2012)