Trump and the Crisis of Oligarchy

Many observers will remember the end of the impeachment story. First the Senate’s refusal to hear witnesses in connection with the charges against Trump, and then impeachment supporters were unable to get 50, let alone the 67 required votes; only one senator broke ranks with the Republican establishment: Mitt Romney. Some experts, such as Ian Bremmer, have already suggested that Romney should be considered the leader of the Republican Party, since he advocated the Senate exercising the judicial role assigned to it. The symbolism of Trump’s refusal to shake hands with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, will be remembered, as well as the response of the latter, who publicly tore up the text of the president’s annual message to Congress the day before the Senate voted to acquit him.

Everyone loses except Trump. The Democrats not only lost the fight for impeachment, like the earlier Mueller investigation, but lost ingloriously, in disgrace. Since the days of Hillary Clinton, who blamed Vladimir Putin for her defeat in 2016, Democrats have not learned how to lose with dignity. The Republicans showed reluctance in understanding the essence of what Trump stood accused of, and voted on a clan-tribal basis, demonstrating their willingness to support any member of the same party in the White House.

Impeaching Trump: The US Political System Enters an Era of ‘Fight Without Rules’
Dmitry Suslov
The US House of Representatives’ impeachment of Donald Trump will result in legislative paralysis, characterised by an inability to pass budgets, multiple shutdowns, as well as an approach to any issue, including foreign policy, through the prism of internal political struggle

The changes taking place in the US are only beginning to be comprehended. Trump the troublemaker uncovered the contradictions which had accumulated over the last half-century and been hidden deep inside the system. The root of the problems lies in discrediting the democratic and civilian components of the American system. Many have written about the diminishing role of public participation and initiatives in post-war America. In particular, Robert Putnam, the researcher who popularised the notion of social capital, linked what is happening with shifts in media technology. But just as importantly, America has become a country of corporations, ruled by military-industrial and media elites that can impose their priorities on society. Instead of being the rational choice of informed citizens — one of the best definitions of democracy by Joseph Schumpeter — America has become an oligarchy that governs poorly-informed citizens.

Some experts blame Russia for the oligarchy, and not without a reason, but in the American system, the merging of the oligarchy with the structures of political power, has deeper and more ancient roots. Oligarchic groups, separated by competitive interests, are alienated from society. Elections have become a means of consolidating the interests of the oligarchy, and the American economy has become a globally operating military-industrial complex with the transfer of production of services and consumer goods outside the country. At the same time, while understanding the ideological significance of the topic, the elites swear by the ideas of democracy and assure the Americans that God has chosen them and blessed their global mission. The Cold War and the triumphal march of the United States after its end helped to conceal the contradictions between the elite and society.

Now these contradictions have appeared on the surface, and in an extremely aggravated form. The figure of Donald Trump, also a representative of the oligarchic group, has a considerable symbolic significance. In American presidential history, it is difficult to name a person with such a strong combination of egocentrism, lack of professionalism, and a willingness to defame any of his critics. The prophecies of Russian thinkers about the coming triumph of a boor in Russia and Europe, it seems, turned out to be relevant for America. 

The emergence of internal contradictions became possible also due to a noticeable decrease in the role of America in the world. Its adventurous foreign policy (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, etc.), as well as the rise of China and other non-Western powers, contributed to the aggravation of the crisis of the oligarchic system. But today, the idea of ​​the global spread of democracy that dominates the political class does not enjoy widespread support in society. This is partly why both political parties are in crisis; their leadership is not ready to change. Is it surprising that, against this background, many refuse to perceive Trump as the worst option, as evidenced by a marked increase in his ratings.

The current election campaign cannot only resolve, but aggravate the crisis of the oligarchy and the alienation of society. The impeachment defeat highlights the benefits of Trump in the election race. He is the current president, demonstrating to voters certain economic and foreign policy achievements, including an important deal with China. In addition, he is a president whom the Democrats twice, and unsuccessfully, tried to remove from office. Trump will repeatedly recall to the Democrats that on his side is the verdict of the law, and on their side is revenge and a thirst for power.

At the same time, the Democrats themselves have not yet nominated a single strong candidate. It is not clear who exactly will get the nomination, but every one of the contenders has serious shortcomings. Biden is too self-confident and vulnerable in connection with the role of his son and himself in Ukraine. Sanders and Warren may be perceived as too radical. Many see the talented young Pete Buttigieg as an insufficiently experienced idealist politician, a kind of white Barack Obama. Less time is left for the ideological consolidation of the Democrats, so a lot of bets are likely to be made again on slandering Trump and showing surprises from his biography.

The Squad Against Trump and Democratic Establishment
Pavel Sharikov
The members of the Squad have diverted the energy of Trump, who commonly makes mistakes when posts tweets. The four members of the House express rather radical political views and are subject to very harsh criticism from the Democratic Party establishment.

Russia should keep its distance, observe, and draw conclusions. Whatever the Western media and politicians say, Russian interference in American politics is insignificant and ineffective. No matter who triumphs, one cannot expect any weakening of sanctions or serious attempts to build bilateral relations. Both Trump and his opponents have already shown that they see Russia as an adversary and are ready to conduct dialogue only from a position of strength. Therefore, Russia should assume that the period of tension will be lengthy and not prepare for full cooperation, but rather, seek to prevent the escalation of the conflict and strengthen its own capabilities. The main foreign policy priority should not be America, but building multilateral ties in Asia and Europe. It is also important that the conclusions were drawn not only regarding the future foreign policy of the United States, but also the internal problems that have hit that country. In light of the US example, it is important to understand and re-evaluate the dangers of oligarchic rule.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.