Where Trump’s Support comes from

In my previous post,  I wrote about how much of the American working-class, in general, reject the ideas of both Clinton and Trump. Where, then, does Trump’s support come from?  In an earlier post I also wrote about how the middle-class is generally more conservative when it comes to things like inequality and climate change, and so members of this class are therefore more likely to be Trump supporters.  The following passage from a recent Guardian column by Sarah Smarsh confirms this:

Earlier this year, primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000 – higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters. Forty-four percent of them had college degrees, well above the national average of 33% among whites or 29% overall. In January, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams reported findings that a penchant for authoritarianism – not income, education, gender, age or race –predicted Trump support.

These facts haven’t stopped pundits and journalists from pushing story after story about the white working class’s giddy embrace of a bloviating demagogue.

Mainstream media is set up to fail the ordinary American

Based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric and available data, it appears that most of his voters this November will be people who are getting by well enough but who think of themselves as victims.

The column is well worth reading in full.

American Presidents

From the two most prominent runners for US President, we could perceive that “anyone can be President – even one of these two”.   You may understand where this kind of argument comes from.  The fact that Trump and Clinton are the forerunners for the Oval Office is surely a perversion of the concept of American freedom?  Hasn’t this concept become stretched and twisted and distorted?  It is surely positive that anyone can campaign to be President, but these two, making it all the way through that great American democratic system?  Surely this is a sick joke taken too far?  Is this an absurd level of democracy?  Too much democracy?  Are we to blame, or is it the stupid half of the country?  America, the land where anyone can be President – it’s the American Dream, right?  And it is reality for Clinton and Trump, in front of us now, in its fantastical magnitude.

Conversely, this so-called race between Clinton and Trump is an example of how unlikely it is for anyone to become President, let alone be able to campaign for election.

Poor people, ordinary working people, and even moderates who fight for the needs of ordinary people may find it nigh impossible to campaign effectively for Presidency.  Even the mildly left-wing Bernie Sanders was swimming against the much stronger establishment current; With all that has happened to the US and its economy in the past few years, the establishment still had no appetite for Sanders.  Of course, millions of people actively supported Sanders in a movement not seen in the US in recent history, but the lives of those activists and supporters, their needs, ideas and voices are of little concern, and the media did not air them.

The central point here is that although anyone can run for President, the main discriminating factors are not intelligence, truth, ethics; They are wealth, power, and ruthlessness, with a dedication and loyalty only to people and institutions who share these traits and the system which encourages it.  Anyone who does even slightly differently, like Sanders, is instinctively expelled by the system itself.

Alas, Sanders was betrayed by his own party whose interests are always corporate, and thus, were choking politically and financially on the very moderate policies Sanders espoused.  He should have known – others did.  Sanders was as bad for the Democratic Party as Trump was for the Republican Party, even if it was for opposite beliefs.  Better, then, for the media to portray him as a crazed radical (or,at least, misguided, during kinder moments) who may have had good intentions, but was not the sensible choice.  Ordinary Sanders voters were not coaxed though.  Unlike Sanders in his defeat, his movement of followers remain convinced that Clinton is not a genuine alternative.  Her being the lesser-evil to Trump is not a point the many newly politically mobilised people find endearing .  They can think for themselves – now more politically sophisticated and experienced than ever.  And they’re talking to each other and convincing each other.  Many thousands of them actually transferred their allegiance from the Democratic Party to Jil Stein and her Green Party.

The resultant argument and movement against voting for the “lesser evil” is the most pervasive I have yet witnessed from the US, and it may not merely be because of visibility on social media (though social media likely helps); In 2008 social media was awash with support for Obama, including from my naive self – there was very little talk then of a third alternative to combat capitalistic trends; Now, social media is awash with confusion and enlightenment in equal quantities firing off in every direction.  This (like everything) is of course potentially very good and bad, and contains the ingredients for social effusion; Disillusion; Revolution; Reaction. Let’s wait and… no.  Let’s discuss, and read, and write, and protest, and see.

 

Adolescent America 

If we were to generalise  the American middle class, we could say that it behaves in a way such as a spoilt teenager might, who causes their parents grief because they do not get their own way all of the time.  The fact that global warming is a major concern for the whole planet, or that poverty and inequality increase as a result of current and past American economic policy, shouldn’t get in the way of a middle-class American’s pursuit of wealth, or, indeed, of their delusion of being able to become wealthy.  And utlimately, that’s what it all is, delusion.  Any scientific findings that contradict their illogical perceptions and dreams, are to be ruthlessly fought and suppressed.

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires”.

That quote may have been erroneously attributed to Steinbeck, but there is nonetheless an element of truth to it. Its truth increases if you replace “poor” with “middle-class”.  Some of the American petit-bourgeoisie sure do “love that smell of the emissions”,  as Sarah Palin once so bluntly put it.  “Adolescent America” is now personified through awful Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – their vacuous bickering, throughout what is supposed to be the highest forum for debate in the US, the Presidential Elections – is starting to look like the last great tantrum of the bourgeois baby boomers.  The politics of American capitalism has certainly reached its crisis.

Credit must be paid, though, to the American working class, who have fought as tirelessly and as determinedly as any working class around the world. They backed Bernie Sanders, and fought for him against all the odds, and although Sanders capitulated to Clinton in the end, that hasn’t caused the core of the  American working-class (educated and energised as it is) to capitulate to the promises of Clinton nor the rhetoric of Trump.

A Terrifying Thought

A thought terrifies me.  There is a person standing in front of me, and I’m desperate to make him understand.  I’m vulnerable, and I am dependent on his mercy.  He doesn’t know me, and his attitude and actions towards me are compelled by a system, by society, by his own preconceptions, or a mixture of the above. I don’t want to cause harm, I just want to live quietly and get along like everybody else.  Whether I can or not, is up to him.


It is awful to think that people can become so anonymous to each other.  Ordinary individuals, with all of their aspirations, can care so little for other individuals in our everyday environment.  Through various forces, otherwise decent, ordinary people have been led to believe that vulnerable people are the problem, and not the powerful few who egg us on.

It can happen to any of us, that we suddenly find ourselves at the mercy of others due to circumstances beyond our control.

Many of us experience relatively minor forms of bureaucracy which frustrate our everyday lives; the clerks at the banks, post office, welfare office, the hospitals, insurance company workers, solicitors, politicians, HR managers, and, perhaps most often, our bosses and colleagues at work.

But what about more extreme forms?  Refugees fleeing war, innocent children whose homes are bombed, homeless people searching for shelter to sleep and money for food –  what happens when these innocent people come up against the “rules” of an apathetic all-powerful system perpetrated and perpetuated by us on behalf of the powerful and privileged?  For the victims, these “rules” take the human form of a customs official, an airforce pilot, a police officer.  Pervading bigotry among other ordinary people, encouraged by the media and the economic-political system at large, exacerbates the whole mindless situation and intensifies the horrible downward spiral.

Leo Tolstoy wrote on this subject regarding a character who was faced with the prospect of execution before firing squad:

…obsessed with a single thought, a simple question: who had condemned him to death?  Who was it?

It wasn’t the men who had interrogated him at the first session; clearly none of them had wanted to, or had the authority… who was it, then, who was punishing him, killing him, taking his life… with all his memories, yearnings, hopes and ideas?  Who was doing this?  And [he] felt he knew the answer: no one was.

…It was some kind of system that was killing him… taking his life, taking everything away, destroying him.

‘But who is doing it? [The soldiers of the firing squad are] all suffering like me!  Who is it? Who?’

A Day of Brexit – What Facebook Thought

Results of the Brexit Referendum has dominated the narrative over the past 24 hours, through mainstream media and social media.  I thought it would be interesting to share some of the points, observations and opinions on it, from an Irish point-of-view, which were posted on facebook and appeared on my feed.

Tariq Ali:

The Referendum results have created a full-blown crisis in the UK and total panic in Brussels. Denmark and Holland will go next. The French elite will be under huge pressure to concede a referendum. The German establishment will be meeting frequently and in secret to prepare a Plan B, which will mean a serious restructuring of the Eurozone.
It was a revolt against the political establishment (Ed Miliband acknowledged this fact) and had Corbyn come out for LEAVE his party would have been in a very strong position. The Tories are wounded. Labour and others should demand an early election. Impossible to wait till 2020. And the election campaign should be waged fiercely for an anti-capitalist programme and fighting the Right on racism/xenophobia, etc. Mass campaigning of the sort that won Corbyn the leadership is the way forward.

PS: After I debated Varoufakis he came and whispered in my ear: ‘Tariq, don’t doubt that if there is a Brexit, I won’t be shedding any tears.’ Time for him to say it in public…

Screenshot 2016-06-24 at 19.34.47

FB User: 

Corbyn had an opportunity to stand up to the right-wing in his own party and put forward a principled Left and socialist position on the bosses’ club that is the EU. If he had, he would have been vindicated by the popular anger of the working class.

Instead, Corbyn and others on the Left capitulated. To quote Brendan O’Neill, the Left threw their “lot in with the very people it was founded a few hundred years ago to challenge: kings and tyrants and other benign guardians of the stupid people.”

Why? Because they were so frightened of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage that they sided with the Tories and EU to keep them in check? Cowards. Cowards who have abandoned the idea that working class have agency and can defend its own interests without having to rely on the benevolence of its enemies.

There’s a reckoning coming and it’s now time to rebuild a mass socialist alternative that stands in the legacy of Tony Benn and Bob Crow. It’s up to Corbyn et al now to decide which side they want to be on.

Screenshot 2016-06-25 at 11.52.01

Via a Facebook user: 

One thing is clear: The decision of Corbyn, the Labour left, and much of the wider left to support a Remain vote in the EU referendum was an incredible political own goal.

The referendum showed massive working class anger and disaffection. Had they argued for a leave vote, they could have dramatically changed the debate, and been well positioned to benefit from the enormous instability this will cause within the Tory government.

Instead, they sided with the establishment and the capitalist class. In doing so, they allowed UKIP and the populist right to be the main voice of people’s discontent and allowed the debate to be focused to a significant extent on immigration with no effective means of combatting anti-immigrant sentiments.

And of course, taking a remain position hasn’t stopped the Blairites and the media from blaming Corbyn for the result and looking for his head.

And what did they do it all for? To defend the anti-democratic, neo-liberal, racist EU austerity project.

There will now be a political crisis and a major discussion about what kind of exit should happen; it is still possible to cut across and challenge the anti-immigrant right and their narrative. But it would have been a lot easier if the left had held its nerve and stuck to its principles on the EU from the start.

Screenshot 2016-06-24 at 19.43.49

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Anonymous Facebook User: 

In Barking and Dagenham, where less than half of the population now identify as white British, 62% of people voted to leave. In neighbouring Newham, one of the poorest and also the most ethnically diverse area of the country, 47% voted to leave.

FB User:

Difficult decision to make I’ll admit. Big business, TTIP etc on one side, racist fuckers leading on the other. The left should have properly backed breaking from Europe to take the arguments away from the bigots.

One thing that is clear is this morning is hilarious, “the markets”, the banks, big business have gone demented because of a democratic decision made by an actual population of people, imagine that? Pity the head bangers are heading up the Leave side. And all racists across Europe are going to jump on the bandwagon and raise their profile through this decision. The Left across Europe needs to get its shit together to channel this decision in the correct direction and demonstrate the real reasons this decision is important to stop the neo-liberal agenda of the European project.
A social Europe based on solidarity YES
A Europe based on controlling populations and pushing an economic agenda NO

Screenshot 2016-06-24 at 19.50.56

Ugh, Capitalists … : 

Screenshot 2016-06-24 at 19.59.35

 

Huey P. Ashmore:

People going on about how Brexit is a victory for backward racists like Farage should probably remember that the EU is paying the quasi-dictatorship of Turkey a 3 billion Euro bribe to block Syrian refugees coming into Europe with military force.

Screenshot 2016-06-24 at 20.04.20

Ruth Coppinger TD:

Media and establishment shocked by Brexit. The left case against the undemocratic and neo liberal EU was not as widely publicised as it would have been had Corbyn and the left made it, but those are factors in the large working class turnout that delivered the result. We need a Europe for the millions, not the millionaires.

Screenshot 2016-06-24 at 20.07.24

 

 

Making Sandwiches

I Worked Hard For It All, Without Help From Anyone.

She was working from home alone and had become slightly hungry.  She thought about her options from what was available and resolved to make a ham and cheese sandwich.  All the necessary ingredients were there in her cupboards and fridge – her favourite bread, cheese, style of ham, butter, sauces etc. – and so she began preparing them.  Finally, when the sandwich was as she prefers a sandwich to be, she ate.   She made her lunch and ate it.  Following her satisfying lunch she was fuelled to do all of the other activities that she did during the day (with the aid of quite a bit of coffee).  It had fuelled her to continue to work hard and get on with her life for a little longer; fuelled her towards hitting more of those targets and the rewards promised to her for her hard and important work.  A step closer to that bonus, securing that commission and getting that new high-powered German luxury executive saloon.  But there is a background to her sandwich which has been neglected.

A few days earlier she ordered groceries online from her local grocery store (because being a busy person, she had no time to go to the shop).  Some of those groceries would become her sandwich ingredients.  A woman whom she would never meet received her order and processed it. That person gave the order, in turn, to her colleague who collected the groceries as they were listed; she spent about 40 minutes gathering them in a trolley.  Once they were all collected and verified, the order was arranged in bags and crates for delivery to the home of the sandwich loving lady.  At the appointed time, a delivery driver – one of three on duty in the shop at that moment – would lift the crates into his van and deliver them to her home.  When the customer signed for the delivery, the delivery man was the only person whom she had contact with throughout the process.

A day before the delivery, the bread, cheese, ham, butter, sauces and everything else was packaged in the facilities of the respective food companies and delivered to grocery stores all around the area.  Packaging people packaged, delivery drivers delivered to shops and supermarkets. Prior to the packaging process, bakers baked the bread (with everything that that involves), cheesemakers made the cheese (with everything that that involves), butchers – and people working for meat companies – oversaw the production of the pre-packed sliced ham, and creameries and sauce factories were filled with employees doing various things to mass-produce butter and sauce.

Prior to that, the bakery company needed to order the ingredients to bake bread, the creameries needed ingredients to create cheese and butter.  All the different producers needed the tools to make products from their ingredients, and they needed engineers, technicians, IT experts and mechanics to ensure the tools and machines continued to work efficiently.  Prior to that, countless people did countless things to make all of this happen.

How many people does it take to make a ham and cheese sandwich?

When she considered what to eat for lunch that afternoon, the process would have been more or less the same had she decided to have a salad or a chocolate bar or anything else.

invisible working classWe are all connected.  We are all part of something called society, doing something which contributes to one another’s lives.  All of what we have is only made possible due to the work of others and this simple fact is generally ignored.  The working-class, producing all of this essential stuff, receives no media coverage for their achievements and thankless drudgery, and will never experience owning that luxury executive vehicle.  None of us – however hard working – has achieved anything on our own.  It has been made possible by the efforts and struggles of countless humble people.  They carry this out daily, invisible.  The very expression of our individualism – and we are all different and unique and wonderful – is dependent on each other.

Food for thought the next time you make yourself a sandwich.

 

 

Writings of the Irish Revolution

labour in irish history
You may not find James Connolly’s Labour In Irish History (1910), amongst other “1916” related works in the average bookshop.

Does it say something about our consideration of the Irish Revolution generally, that the rebels’ original writings remain obscure and are not available in any of the main Irish bookshops – you will not find them in Eason or Dubray anyway.  One would find it difficult not to notice the great many books currently being made available about the 1916 period – some good, many bad, new re-tellings and recently re-published old ones – but these are mostly summaries, opinions of characters and ideologies, secondary sources, or second-hand accounts of events.

I have seen no publications of any of Patrick Pearse’s work for example – someone often described as a poet and play-write.  Also conspicuous by its absence is James Connolly’s essential Labour In Irish History; its procurement is most likely to be gained only in back-alley partisan bookshops, from certain political groups, or on-line.  Apart from the Revolution Papers why is there no complete re-publications of anything written by Arthur Griffith? – a person who, although he did not participate in the Rising, was a prolific political writer of that time on behalf of Sinn Féin.  I have my own opinions on why all of this might be, but here I am only raising the question.

Can we understand what the rebels intended without having read what they wrote?  After all, Pearse, Connolly, and Griffith were very different politically and disagreed on fundamental issues, (Griffith was quite conservative, Connolly was a socialist).  These stark ideological differences are not generally acknowledged (and I fear not generally realised) in an environment where those names, often mentioned in the same breath, are synonymous with the nationalist struggle against Britain and nothing else.  It seems to me, that the current environment being promoted is one which acknowledges the characters of the 1916 period, and celebrates them, but does not encourage us to understand them.