Now that the electoral college has has confirmed Trump’s presidency and his inauguration approaches, I wanted to address the shape of the incoming Trump administration, the dangers, the sensibilities.
And why there is legitimate, palpable reason for concern and anxiety that isn’t anything to do with being ‘liberal elite’ or ‘lib-tard’ or whatever dumb labels anti-progressives like to throw around due to lack of vocabulary.
As these concerns are multifarious, I’ve decided to break them up into three different posts, starting with this one, to deal with three different areas: the second deals with the wacky or dangerous ‘basket of deplorables’ (to borrow a phrase) being brought into office around the Donald, and the third is focused on the foreign policy dangers.
Aside from a couple of posts right after the election over a month ago, I have consciously refrained from posting overly negative or scaremongering things about Trump or the incoming administration since then. I did cover the case for electoral fraud by the GOP, but that was all. This refrain was for three reasons; (1) I wasn’t a Hillary supporter, so it seemed futile to try to bash the Trump machine when she was the only alternative in November, (2) with all the widespread media and political vilification of or opposition to the Trump presidency, I didn’t feel any need to join in or to contribute to a character-assassination of his as-yet-unconfirmed administration before it even has a chance to do anything, and (3) I wanted to wait a while and see how things developed and what kind of moves and signals Trump and his people would make.
Concerning (2), this refrain was all the more necessary when all the accusations started flaring up again about Russian agents ‘hacking’ the election, which is a highly misleading maneuver, given that by ‘hacking’ they don’t actually mean ‘hacking’ – they just mean that WikiLeaks was receiving compromising data on the DNC from a Russian source (which might not actually be true anyway -Assange had always insisted the leaks were from within the DNC, while the deaths of some of those involved in exposing the DNC’s activities suggest this was the case too).
Also, given how many governments and countries US intelligence agencies have interfered with and in a much bigger way than mere hacking, the whole thing with Russia just seems like a pointless distraction from cry-babies. I actually don’t care if Russia ‘hacked’ the election or not – as the content of those leaks (particularly regarding the DNC’s suppression of Bernie Sanders) was more damning than the idea of the hacking itself. Besides, as mentioned already, the GOP seemed to have rigged the vote in key states – so maybe the CIA, Obama and the others should focus on that instead of the Russia claim.
I tend to believe the Russian state *is* trying to influence political and democratic processes in Western nations (and that this could be dangerous for all of us); but there doesn’t appear to be much evidence that it is doing so via any particularly illegal or even unusual activities, but rather that it simply played the same game that multiple countries – especially the United States – often plays and that it did so very successfully.
But, getting back to the Trump administration, one unavoidable thing right from the outset is that, amid the questionable ideologies, ugly sensibilities or regressive tendencies present in the Trump cabal, this is a campaign – and an incoming administration – united by very great wealth.
These are very rich people with very rich friends.
Contrary to the carefully manufactured campaign image (brainchild of the Breitbart gang) of the Saviour of the Working Class, The Guardian and others report that Trump’s administration is going to be the wealthiest group of individuals ever to occupy the White House. This strikes me as particularly interesting in the context of socio-political movements of the last several years and what could be described vaguely as the millennial ‘zeitgeist’.
If the Occupy movement, for example, was a vast, grassroots protest against the 1%, this Trump administration looks very much like the Empire Strikes Back: very much like the revenge of the 1%. It could be characterised potentially as emblematic of the final, absolute defeat of everything the Occupy protesters, in their millions, were – symbolically or actually – trying to rally against.
If you had picked out a random Occupy protester five years ago and asked them what their worst-case scenario might be, this is probably what they might’ve envisioned.
Actually, they probably couldn’t have envisioned it being this bad: they might’ve thought the worst-case scenario would be a cabal of bankers and millionaires occupying the White House, but they wouldn’t necessarily have thought that cabal would also be awash in anti-liberal, anti-progressive social agendas, racist, misogynist ideas and be so openly anti-environmentalism.
Nor that a total Republican sweep of the board would allow said cabal far more scope for enacting its agenda than Democrat Obama ever had.
But this is where things now stand: just five years after mainstream politicians and media suppressed and ridiculed the Occupy protesters, government itself is now under a hostile takeover by the absolute antithesis of the Occupy protest.
And that same mainstream media and political establishment is to blame, not just for downplaying or ignoring a genuine, popular protest movement, but for then suppressing another genuine, social/political movement in the Bernie Sanders campaign and conspiring to uphold the ultimate Establishment candidate in Hillary Clinton – a strategy that allowed Donald Trump and his alt-right-backed corporate mafia to sell themselves as the ‘anti establishment’ option when they were really nothing of the sort.
And then, on top of all that, the same mainstream media that had belittled Occupy and then dismissed or diminished Bernie Sanders supporters proceeded to give Trump and his campaign unparalleled levels of coverage and sensationalist promotion – even if it was, on the surface at least, just to reiterate over and over again how they were utterly opposed to him being president.
It helped, of course, that so much of the electorate is so easy to manipulate. Trump’s often-quoted campaign trail line “I love uneducated people” was pretty much him laughing in everyone’s faces.
‘The Republicans have moved so far toward a dedication to the wealthy and the corporate sector that they cannot hope to get votes on their actual programs,’ Noam Chomsky wrote shortly after the presidential election, ‘and have turned to mobilizing sectors of the population that have always been there, but not as an organized coalitional political force: evangelicals, nativists, racists and the victims of the forms of globalization designed to set working people around the world in competition with one another while protecting the privileged and undermining the legal and other measures that provided working people with some protection, and with ways to influence decision-making in the closely linked public and private sectors, notably with effective labor unions.’
‘Trump supporters, who are led to believe that Trump will do something to remedy their plight,’ Chomsky continues, ‘though the merest look at his fiscal and other proposals demonstrates the opposite — posing a task for activists who hope to fend off the worst and to advance desperately needed changes.’
Goldman Sachs and George Soros insiders, including Steven Mnuchin (an extremely wealthy banker who Elizabeth Warren has likened to ‘an evil Forrest Gump’), are bound to his administration: which is something the ‘Alt Right’ are understandably silent about, given that they’ve spent months portraying Trump as the alternative to ‘Wall Street’, the alleged Soros agenda and the neoliberal Hillary.
This was always BS, however; and it was a BS operation that the Alt-Right was always in on.
And Trump then appoints another Goldman Sachs executive (the third so far – after Steve Bannon and Mnuchin) to his administration. This, remember, is the guy who spent much of his campaign talking about the corruption of Wall Street and the ‘establishment’ and pointing out Killary’s entanglement with banking and corporate interests (as of course did Bannon’s platform, Breitbart). Reports suggest Gary Cohn – according to Reuters, an elite banker retaining some $190 million in Goldman stock – is to lead the National Economic Council.
The incoming Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who – along with alleged white nationalist Steve Bannon (pictured below with the odious KellyAnne Connway) – came up from Goldman Sachs and financed Trump’s campaign, is accused of personally profiting massively from the 2008 financial crisis (for some character reference: his ‘foreclosures machine’ was widely reported to have once evicted a 90 year-old lady from her home over 27 cents).
The Breitbart/Goldman-Sachs man Bannon himself, by the way, is reportedly worth $10 million.
So how and why did all these downtrodden ‘working class’ people ever think that a presidential candidate being run by Goldman Sachs – a central player in the 2008 financial crisis and once described as “the root of all evil” – was going to work for their best interests? Probably because – under the guidance of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon and others – Trump played the deep-rooted racial, cultural and gender-based tribalism card so well.
It also helped, of course, that Hillary Clinton – a criminal with more skeletons in her closet than the Museum of Skeletons – was the opponent.
To be fair to Hillary for a moment, it is also likely – as evidence seems to suggest – that the GOP rigged key states to create the Trump victory. And given the reported interests of the Koch brothers in ensuring Republican domination, this too might’ve been a corporate operation: all of it designed to enable or maximise corporate interests, including – judging by the nature of Trump’s team and administration picks – by organising massive tax cuts for corporations and wealthy interests, reinforcing the oil industry and fossil fuel lobbies against the rise of alternative energy, dismantling or suppressing environmental protections across the board, diminishing or reversing social programs and welfare, etc, and strategically filling all significant positions with people sympathetic to those corporate lobbyists and socio-political dinosaurs.
To illustrate already how this dynamic between the incoming administration and the socio-political conscience of society is likely to play out, the DAPL/Standing Rock situation provides a clue: while activists across the board, including organised veterans, were gathering in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, the Trump team was affirming its complete endorsement of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Of course, this is presenting a worst-case scenario – and perhaps we should offer some benefit of the doubt for now, especially given that Hillary Clinton was probably a worse choice than Trump. But it is naive to expect anything else from an administration that is clearly being populated by the 1% billionaires and doesn’t even begin to pretend to reflect society.
The new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is one of the biggest oil moguls there is. Another oil mogul in the Trump camp, Harold Hamm, is said to be worth $15.3 billion.
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary, is a billionaire whose brother was the founder of the infamous Blackwater mercenary firm that got its hand so bloody in Iraq. Aside from controversies in Iraq, DeVos’ brother Erik Prince has also been under federal investigation for money laundering and for selling mercenary services in Libya.
DeVos is said to complain about being linked to her brother, wishing instead to be seen as her own person. Well, she served on the board of an institution that sought to overturn child labor laws. She also advocates for removing the separation between church and state.
Senator Jeff Sessions (set for Attorney General), who has previously been regarded as highly xenophobic and racist, also is a millionaire. Wilbur Ross, set to be the next secretary of commerce, has a net worth of approximately $2.9 billion.
Ben Carson – probably the token African-American fixture put in place for appearances – is reportedly worth $26 million and is quoted as having likened fair housing policies to ‘Communism’.
Bush administration returner Elaine Chao, picked by Trump for transportation secretary, is reportedly worth $20 million. Chao also happens to be married to Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senator who was famously central to the decision for Republicans to cripple Barack Obama’s administration and prevent him from being able to get anything done in his presidency: which makes Trump’s debate mantra of “Obama was a disaster” all the more Machiavellian. He is also extremely wealthy.
Virtually every figure in or around the Trump ‘movement’ is a big money Fat Cat. Newt Gingrich – a man who famously divorced one of his wives while she was in hospital being treated for cancer – was, in a pre-Trump world, a farcical figure in American politics. A career characterised by fraud controversies and official ‘ethics’ complaints filed against him, he is still being touted for some place in the Trump administration, though it won’t be a Cabinet position.
Gingrich, by the way, is also a millionaire. So is super-villain Rudy Guliani, a former mafia man and 9/11 insider.
The list goes on; and will probably get bigger.
As The Intercept was reporting back in November, Trump’s transition team was full of corporate lobbyists. ‘The Trump transition team is a who’s who of influence peddlers, including: energy adviser Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist for Koch Industries and the Walt Disney Company; adviser Eric Ueland, a Senate Republican staffer who previously lobbied for Goldman Sachs…’
Of course, Hillary was doing the same thing. The difference is that, for all Hillary’s corruption and dirty dealing, a Democrat White House would’ve, by nature, been far more inclined towards a progressive balance and – for the sake of appearances, if nothing else – would’ve had to balance social, liberal and even environmental concerns and interests with whatever corporate agendas would also have been there.
A Trump-led Republican government populated by people like Bannon and Mnuchin is unlikely to try to do anything of the sort (and, moreover, given the passions and prejudices of the very specific voter-base it tapped into in order to win the election, it won’t consider itself obligated to): and this is already perfectly clear in the make-up of Trump’s transition team and his administration picks.
Just think about this for a moment: in the space of about five years, the climate went from Occupy Wall Street and the popular consciousness explosion of the 1% versus the 99% meme to a billionaire president-elect mired in malpractice lawsuits and establishing a White House of other billionaires or millionaires (with lots of socially-regressive talk thrown in for good measure).
It’s almost as if they’re literally laughing in the faces of the millenials in particular and the 99% in general; but they always were laughing, going back to Trump’s famous and aforementioned “I love uneducated people” line, which was essentially mocking the very people who were whistling and cheering him – and they probably whistled and cheered at that too.
All they’d need to do to cap it all off is sit on a throne made of gold. Oh no, wait – here’s a picture of them sitting on thrones of gold.
It isn’t a crime to be wealthy, of course; and you might not consider it a bad thing necessarily that extremely wealthy people with vast business interests occupy the White House. I tend to think it means an administration, from the very outset, that can’t be trusted to consider the interests of the other 99% of the population.
But the bigger problem reveals itself when you combine that Scrooge McDuck theme with the kind of horrendous character-references and ideas that many of Trump’s administration picks are carrying into office with them. That is the subject of the next post.