Denounced by many but stopped by no one, the Trump administration has been an odd sort of juggernaut. Tearing down past policies and building up walls (both literally and figuratively), this administration has been a rush of drastic action. While most modern presidents have tended to define themselves by what they are creating, it would seem this president is most concerned with the opposite. The “Trump doctrine” seems to be the reversal of the Obama legacy and anything seen as even mildly progressive. The eagerness of the current administration to reverse progress on multiple fronts raises questions about what exactly it is that we’re witnessing and why. Every day under Trump feels much longer to exhausted dissenters, and no one’s quite sure where the nation is headed.
Furthermore, the denunciation of President Trump is a very low bar for which to praise someone. The oppressive status quo that preceded President Trump shouldn’t be a standard any of us desire to return to. If we move forward without acknowledging that it was that standard of Republicanism that created him as a political figure, and enabled and supported him in his quest to reach the presidency, we’re in an even graver situation than we imagined.The utter ridiculousness of the current presidential predicament has led some, even within the ranks of the ruling Republican Party, to distance themselves from the president, which has raised the hopes of some desiring an impeachment or forced resignation. Many Democrats and liberals have uncritically celebrated Republican Trump detractors like the Bushes, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Bob Corker and Sen. Jeff Flake, seemingly forgetting the atrocities of all Republicanism and not just “Trumpism.” “We need all the help we can get” has become a sorrowful, disempowering liberal talking point, as if “help” from someone who seeks to harm us (albeit by slightly different methods) is actually help. The terrible pasts of Trump’s Republican denouncers is erased as soon as they proclaim their disapproval.
The Trump presidency didn’t fall out of thin air, nor was it a coup or a deviation from “American values.” This presidency is a manifestation of many of this nation’s core values, fully exposed for the entire world to see. If Donald Trump’s white supremacist nationalism were not an American value, he wouldn’t be the president. His supporters are not apparitions. The GOP, Tea Party and other far-right elements that created him did so using the US political system which is “democratic.” With the support of US capital’s oligarchs and political administrators, Trump secured the White House. Now it’s from those same elements he takes direction, just like any president did before him, and just like any president who could have been elected in place of him would, too.
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Just one example: Trump has a pressing agenda on the environmental front. In a recent PBS Frontline documentary titled “War on the EPA,” billionaire coal baron and climate change denier Bob Murray [CEO of Murray Energy] boasted about how he directs the Trump administration on climate policy. Praising Trump EPA’s head, climate denialist Scott Pruitt, Murray said:
Scott Pruitt — he is the star on the Trump team getting more done probably than any other appointee to date. I gave Mr. Trump what I called an action plan very early. It’s about three-and-a-half pages and — of what he needed to do in his administration. He’s wiped out page one.”
Donald Trump — who makes up for what he lacks in critical thinking with showy arrogance — is influenced by several right-wing camps. White nationalists who want a sympathetic White House have had their dream realized in the form of a president who not only understands their movement, but encourages it. Additionally, the president is thoroughly satisfying the whims of capital. His top economic adviser, former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn (a Democrat) had considered resigning after Trump’s loathsome condoning of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. Cohn explained the reasoning that kept him on in a White House press briefing in September:
“Why am I here? I am here just for this reason,” Cohn said…. “Think about the opportunity that I’m involved in with President Trump and being able to rewrite the tax code. Something hasn’t been done in 31 years…. “The amount of impact that we can have on the US economy and on US citizens and changing the forward outlook of the United States — this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would never miss this.”
The infamously conservative Koch brothers were more hesitant to be involved this administration publicly than the Democrat Cohn. Charles Koch lamented that the choice of Clinton or Trump in the 2016 election “was like opting for cancer or a heart attack.” However, the Koch brothers have still exercised the ultimate influence in the White House via their strong network of “advocacy groups,” which have helped shape the Trump agenda, despite the public fallout between them. Through their organizations like Americans For Prosperity and Concerned Veterans for America, the Kochs have been able to push and pass legislation on their conservative list of legislative goals.
The possibility of a Republican overthrow of Trump has been considered, even from within his inner circle. Vanity Fair recently reported that months ago, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon warned Trump “the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment — the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president.” In addition to this, a source told Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, “Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.”Billionaires and elites who dislike Donald Trump are, of course, still manipulating the situation that is his presidency in order to accomplish their wildest dreams. However, given the obvious tension at play, we shouldn’t be surprised if this moment we’re in doesn’t last. Instead, those very elite may throw Trump to the side when they are done with him, sacrificing his presidency in order to set capitalism where they would like it to be. Donald Trump operates as an individual carrying out the will of a white supremacist movement. His alienating and discriminatory behavior is not always good for business, but the outrageously bigoted base that the Republican Party poked, prodded and instigated during the Obama presidency desired this sort of “leader.” Trump is divisive, and attacks people within his own party, much like the Tea Party elements that cleansed the Party of Eric Cantor, John Boehner and others. Now fully encouraged and organized, the mobilized far-right constituent elements of the GOP have become somewhat of an uncontrollable monster. Trump is too risky for the longevity of the Republican Party, long-term business interests domestic and abroad, and the nation as a whole.
However, we cannot simply rejoice at such possibilities. If one thing is certain, it’s that with or without Donald Trump as president, we’ll still have to contend with white supremacy and its supporters, who elected this president in the first place. Moreover, we will still have to contend with the violence of capitalism. The forces that pushed Donald Trump to the forefront of the US empire are intrinsic to the US project, and they will not go away with him, should he be cast out. If something happens that removes this president from office, it will be no shock to see those who once praised and used him quickly separating themselves from his name and administration. He may well be tossed asunder as the president “everyone” despised. Yet the millions of people who elected him will still be working, living and voting again, based on the same principles that motivated them to vote for Trump.
Presidents are powerful, but more powerful than them are capitalism’s controllers, working in the background, directing for their interests. White supremacy, too, is a grounding undercurrent of this country’s history and present-day functioning. If the Trump presidency concludes, we will still be faced with a powerful system of oppressions. Until we confront the systems that enabled Donald Trump’s rise to power, we’ll always be at risk of seeing someone like him empowered again.