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Will the US Revert to ‘Just Like in Grandma’s Time’ Again?

Donald Trump’s opponents persist in their delusion that his arrival to power was an accident, and if they manage to throw him out of office, history will resume its natural course, and everything will be just like in grandma's time again. The United States continues its descent into a deep system-wide crisis that in some ways is reminiscent of the developments in the last days of the Soviet Union, especially in terms of the disdain demonstrated by the Washington elite toward the vast majority of the American people. Should the elite further refuse to recognize how serious the crisis has become, and if they will not acquiesce to curtail their ambition and search for compromise, it will be disastrous for the United States and the rest of the world, argues Andrei Korobkov, Professor of political science at Middle Tennessee State University.

On February 4, 2020 President Donald Trump delivered the traditional annual State of the Union Address, marking the beginning of the last year of his first term in office. This was quite an unusual speech in terms of content, form and especially the surrounding circumstances. In addition to Democrats, many other groups within the American establishment see Donald Trump as a system-wide threat to their power and privilege ever since he announced his bid to run for president in 2015. We have to admit that they were right. Trump’s reforms and the ideas he stands for are designed to completely reshape many fundamental principles that have underpinned US domestic and foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century and in early 21st century.

Nevertheless, the endless and unrelenting attempts to remove Trump from office, or at the very least discredit or intimidate him, have actually backfired. This was hardly surprising. After all, the US elite has been remarkably consistent in repeating almost every stupidity committed by the Soviet communist bureaucrats in the Perestroika years, in particular, in its endless attempts to prevent Boris Yeltsin from rising to power. Just like these bureaucrats, the Democratic Party mandarins and others on the other side of the aisle from the president have persisted in their delusion that Trump’s arrival to power was a mere accident of history, and if they manage to throw him out of office, history will resume its natural course, and everything will be just like in grandma's time again. After all, for them, the system that they built and that feeds them so well is the pinnacle of a creation that will live forever, while any attempts to question its moral supremacy are to be treated as a sign of mental deficiency or criminal intent.

For this reason, serious dialogue with Trump and his supporters is impossible, just as even the slightest attempt to analyze the deep-running processes unfolding in American society, since anyone coming forward with a proposal of this kind is instantly ostracized. Therefore, an all-out campaign against Trump precludes his opponents from taking a closer look at the questions associated with the global geopolitical shifts that are underway and the ensuing need for a structural realignment in US foreign policy. An open discussion on the system of group preferences and privileges, the so-called positive action or reverse discrimination, as some call it, is even less likely. This system emerged in mid-1960s from the civil rights movement, and was concocted by President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. That said, it had a striking resemblance to the Bolshevik policy of promoting “social and ethnic diversity” within the elite. It is quite natural that those who owe their elite status to this system will fight to preserve it to the bitter end. Acting as a form of self-censorship, the culture of political correctness made any open discussion of group preferences impossible. As a result, publicly criticizing this system became outright dangerous. For this reason, the adepts of this system do not regard Trump as an opponent but rather as a mortal enemy that must be annihilated. It is for this reason that the president is subjected to endless attacks that only make him stronger.

The Democratic primary increasingly resembles a “race on gun carriages” among members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party’s Central Committee in mid-1980s. The race for the 2020 Democratic nomination has come to epitomize the panic that has consumed Democratic Party leaders, as well as the bubble of virtual reality that surrounds them. Three of the main democratic candidates, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders, are almost 80 years old. Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren are over 70. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also almost 80, and luckily she is not on the primary ballot. In a party that claims to represent American workers two candidates, Bloomberg and Stayer, are billionaires, which gave rise to a wave of sarcastic proposals for the Democrats to hand the nomination over to the billionaire who offers to pay more. They criticize Trump for being too rich and too far from the people. Of this lineup not a single candidate can be regarded as a serious challenge to Trump, which raises serious questions about the ability of party leaders to see the political situation clearly, which is increasingly frustrating for party activists.

The last straw was the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, the state that traditionally opens the season of primaries and caucuses. The shameful failure of the Iowa Democratic Party’s new vote tallying system has again raised the question of party and leadership integrity. At first many thought the party officials did not properly prepare for the vote, but the ensuing chaos has made even party loyalists doubt the honesty of party officials. A growing number of people now allege that the election results were falsified to snatch victory from the left candidate Bernie Sanders and to save the disintegrating position of former Vice President Joe Biden, who used to be a favorite among the Democratic Party elite.

With the approaching election and the growing popularity of leftist candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the party mandarins are coming to see them as a threat comparable to Donald Trump and are ready to fight them with the methods they have been using against the US president. This reminds Democratic activists of the dirty methods Hillary Clinton and party officials used against Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primaries and which can aggravate tensions in the country and in the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the latest developments have added a few intriguing wrinkles to the situation. The positive action policy, together with an ethnically active and racially oriented immigration policy, has led to rapid growth in the share of minorities in the US population, including among the basic elite groups. Since the share of whites is decreasing, large groups of their representatives are protesting this policy. This, in turn, has split the country politically into a party of whites (Republicans) and a coalition of minorities (Democrats). For example, Trump received only 8 percent of the African-American vote, while Hillary Clinton got the rest, 92 percent. Aware of this trend, Trump orchestrated his 2016 presidential campaign so that many white voters would accept him as the defender of their group interests. He not only succeeded in this, but he also lured many white workers away from the Democrats, which carried the day for him in the old industrial states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

But racial and ethnic splits are not the only influences distinguishing the coalitions that have developed in the fight for and against Trump’s policy and personality. At this point, Trump’s supporters include white middle-class voters, small and medium-sized businesses, the military and other security personnel, as well as voters from the real economy sectors (industry and agriculture) who want the president to lower the tax burden and revise Obamacare, as well as to mitigate the negative effect of the past 30 years of economic globalization, in particular, by imposing tariff barriers to once again protect domestic producers.

Donald Trump has recently set the goal of luring certain minority groups away from the Democrats, primarily African-Americans, Asians, Spanish speakers and Jews. He has tried to do this by spurring economic growth and improving the prosperity of Americans as a whole and certain minority groups, in particular, as well as by advancing foreign policy initiatives, such as the Middle East initiative. The latest polls suggest that he has achieved considerable success with this approach.  

Donald Trump is being opposed by a diverse coalition that brings together groups of ethnic, racial, gender and other minorities that are interested in maintaining and expanding positive action programs; the bureaucracy that is interested in keeping the status quo; highly ideologized and, as a rule, militantly liberal show business, the elite media and academic communities, as well as essentially globalist financial and hi-tech capital controlled by those that consider Trump’s protectionist initiatives to bolster the real economy unacceptable.

At this point, the Democrats have found another problem: the increasing strength of far left candidates during the primaries creates the threat that they might win and gain the Democratic Party nomination – this would not suit big business that is now sponsoring the anti-Trump hysteria. They could discontinue their support for the party or even side with the much hated Trump camp, which, after all, has just complicated conditions for doing business for them, whereas a more liberal President could simply take more of their money. For example, Ms Warren has already promised to introduce a 5 percent tax on the superrich. It is no surprise that Michael Bloomberg, with his $54 billion fortune, has recently joined the election race while Democratic Party leaders are desperately trying to block the nomination of Sanders and Warren, even through dirty methods. In the long run, this could lead to a split in the party, which in the American majority election system guarantees a Trump victory.     

So, the president had every reason to be in a winning mood during his speech to Congress. Moreover, on that day it was clear that the impeachment organised by the Democrats in the House would fail shamefully in the Senate (eventually the Democrats only received support, in part, from one Republican, Mitt Romney. It is no secret that he hates Trump and continues to hope that if the president is forced to leave the White House the Republicans might still see Romney as a viable candidate). In the long run, it’s possible that this impeachment plot will be seen as the opposition party’s abortive attempt to stage a Constitutional coup against a lawfully elected president based on fabricated charges. Immediately after this failed attempt, the Democratic leaders in Congress announced the start of new investigations against Trump. This step shows once again that they do not understand the situation in the country and in the Democratic Party as such.

Meanwhile, the situation around the President’s speech is no less interesting than the speech itself. A number of Democrats in Congress tried to undermine it while others just left the hall during the speech. Contrary to tradition, Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not properly introduce the President and in the end ostentatiously tore up the copy of the speech he gave her. In turn, he avoided shaking her hand. The Republicans in Congress began chanting, “Another four years.”

All of this attests to the ongoing split both in Congress between the parties, and in the country as a whole. The Democrats were ready to display their disapproval: they refused to applaud or they shouted out their opposition during the President’s speech. As a seasoned media player, Trump forced them to back down in some cases by inviting guests they couldn’t turn away from: a little Black girl who received a scholarship, a 100 year-old Black war veteran, a military man who was brought in from Afghanistan to see his family, a Spanish-speaking employee of the immigration service, and Juan Guaido whom the United States is promoting as an alternative president in Venezuela. 

The president himself acted fairly aggressively when, during the State of the Union speech, he gave the top civilian award - the Medal of Freedom - to the cancer-stricken far-right radio show host Rush Limbaugh whom the Democrats look upon with disdain. The president talked at length about his successes in economic policy, especially how it has improved the welfare of minorities who form the Democratic Party’s electoral base. Expanding his influence among these groups is Trump’s most important goal (for example, African Americans, who make up 13 percent of the US population, account for 25 percent of the Democratic electoral base). For the president, the excellent state of the US economy is his biggest bargaining chip, something the Democrats cannot counter. They can only claim that Trump is twisting the numbers, and that economic growth comes from the policies carried out by President Obama during his presidency. The president, in turn, listed for the umpteenth time his foreign policy successes, such as signing trade agreements with Mexico, Canada and China. Tightening policies against Cuba, Venezuela and Iran (including the recent assassination of General Suleimani) was also presented as an achievement. He noted his desire to overhaul much of the US’ infrastructure, which was blocked in 2019 due to the inability to reach an agreement with the Democrats in Congress, who spent the year concentrating on impeachment.

Trump raised a number of other controversial issues, including his appointments to the Supreme Court, new proposals to restrict abortions, criticism of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform and, especially, strong condemnation of the Democrat’s immigration policy and his own policies seeking to tighten it. Democratic proposals in healthcare and immigration, as well as the situation in Venezuela, were used by Trump to accuse his opponents of promoting socialist ideology in the United States - a step designed both to mobilize the republican base and to pull some of the centrists away from the Democratic Party. Russia was not mentioned once in this State of the Union speech which is interesting and unusual (of course, the Democrats immediately tried to present this as Trump's incompetence in foreign policy and his “dependence on Putin.”)

Overall, the president’s speech was, on the one hand, good for him and demonstrated, as planned, his determination and consistency in fulfilling his campaign promises (in this regard, it can be considered a keynote speech in opening his election campaign) but, on the other hand, it was revealing in terms of the rapid polarization of political life in the United States and the mounting mutual aggressiveness of the parties. This dangerous trend was confirmed and continued over the next several days, when the president and Speaker Pelosi exchanged new abusive comments.

This suggests that the United States continues to slide into a deep system-wide crisis, and some aspects, especially the attitude of the Washington elite who look down on the majority of the US population, are reminiscent of the trends observed in the late Soviet Union. If the elite continue to refuse to recognize the seriousness of the crisis and their unwillingness to moderate their appetites and strike a compromise, it will be disastrous for the United States and the rest of the world.

This suggests that the United States continues its descent into a deep system-wide crisis that in some ways is reminiscent of the developments in the last days of the Soviet Union, especially in terms of the disdain demonstrated by the Washington elite toward the vast majority of the American people. Should the elite further refuse to recognize how serious the crisis has become, and if they will not acquiesce to curtail their ambition and search for compromise, it will be disastrous for the United States and the rest of the world.

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