Brexit, Trump, and the Business of Intolerance

24 Jan

To those out of desperation without intolerance in their heart, I am very sorry.

Although human history is fraught with examples of evil forces who exploit the common man through the use fear and intolerant rhetoric to attain only that which they desire, this past year has been especially prolific in this regard as the world witnessed two of the most vivid examples of hate based instrumentalism that will ultimately and unfortunately only make the lives of those who chose it that much worse. In the process of these cons revealing themselves however, the unfortunate result to those who have chosen fear and inflammatory rhetoric over reason and inclusion, is that these very people will quickly experience some of the harshest consequences, consequences that ironically will hit their interests, (those they desperately sought to protect) very  hard.

In June of 2016, a slim 52% majority of Britons decided via referendum that it was no longer in Britain’s best interests to remain part of the European Union (EU). In the face of a dwindling economy, the decision as presented by proponents of the exodus was simple, the outside world was something to fear, both in terms of increased competition via neo-liberal linkages with the rest of the EU (and by extension the World) and the ease with which outsiders could enter Britain and steal jobs away from home grown British citizens. Although the vast majority of urban centers voted for inclusion, some of the most economically challenged non-urban centers voted on masse to support EU withdrawal. As such, when the final votes were tabulated, separation from the international community was ultimately chosen, even if by the thinnest of margins. Although this result was astonishing as it marked the formal decision of a First World nation to delineate from cooperation, this result was still not even the greatest example of fear based instrumentalism that would transpire in 2016.

Although the 2016 US Presidential was unique in many ways, one of the main underlying reasons that propelled a crass, inexperienced, demagogue to be elected as the 45th president of the World’s most powerful nation was nothing new at all. It was simply just another fear based instrumentalism that has existed for centuries. As such, while Trump’s victory is perhaps the most contemporarily relevant and powerful example of this phenomena, it is again nothing new as leaders have been using this dubious tactic for centuries to secure only that which they desire. In the Machiavellian sense having the “ends” justify their “means.”

However, while fear based instrumentalism may be nothing new, what was surprising was that media and various insiders failed to accurately account for it. In addition, not only do these incidents prove that people are willing to sacrifice common sense and sound fiscal and/or security policy in the face of fear and desperation, but perhaps for the first time in modern human history despite the near obvious consequences, not only did so many decide to turn a blind eye to reality, but the salvation sought by these people is ultimately placing many of them in the most dangerous of places; down a path that will perpetually ensure that the exact opposite of their interests comes to pass. More specifically, because of the precarious position many of the these people are already in, which likely (aside from hate) is the reason they chose to side-step years of global progress and make the choice they did, ultimately these choices will only result in  their fates being placed into the very hands of those who have historically sought to exploit them.

How were the demagogues behind these scams able to achieve such a feat? Again through fear based instrumentalism, but also by effectively securitizing the symptoms which plague the lives of the downtrodden rather than identifying the true causes of their suffering and subsequently offering a constructive plan to ease their pain. For example, in the case of the recent U.S. election can any rational person honestly believe that Donald Trump, a politically inexperienced businessman that cowers in secrecy (evidenced by such practices as refusing to release his tax-return(s) despite decades of presidential tradition), with at least  four (4) business bankruptcies under his belt, and countless law suits against him for dubious business practices,  is somehow good for Americans with respect to the economy? Simply on this fact alone and leaving aside his (at least political) dishonesty, poor temperament, racist inclinations, abhorrent attitude toward women, and general all around crassness, how on economic terms alone can a person with such a record be elected president of the United States of America? Granted that unlike Brexit the majority of Americans did not make this choice as this megalomaniac lost the popular vote by close to three million votes, however despite a flawed electoral system (wherein 80,000 people ultimately turned the election), the fact remains that millions of Americans still consciously  made this choice. The question is how could they? Or perhaps the question should be, why would they?

Although the efficacy of Barrack Obama’s tenure in office with respect to foreign policy is debatable, on the domestic front the results he managed to achieve are especially remarkable considering the state of the economy he inherited and the Republican stonewalling he was forced to endure from day one. I will not go over all of his domestic achievements but this chart from PBS is quite telling;

Or perhaps even this more exhaustive one from Washington Monthly;      accomplishments-revisited/

Unfortunately, despite all President Obama accomplished while in office, the wealth disparity between the rich and poor did continue to grow, many American companies were indeed shipping jobs abroad and some of the places hit hardest by the 2008 economic continued to languish despite President Obama’s best efforts and overall economic success while in office. As such, it should come as no surprise that states with large segments of those hardest hit by contemporary economic realities- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin-  were desperate for a change.  In addition, the rise in global terror continued to make headlines and although domestic incidents paled in comparison to the carnage overseas (or even the number of deaths attributed to domestic American gun violence), these instances not only stoked the fires of intolerance through fear (or the actions of opportunistic intolerants), but also helped make the marginalized feel that much more insecure. Although a combination of factors (many of which had nothing to do with Trump or his hate filled rhetoric) led many Americans to make the irrational choice, these two factors were perhaps the greatest.

Unfortunately, on both fronts when one peers beyond the horizon of election euphoria and pomp, the selection of Trump will fail the desperate and fearful on each of these counts. For example, while thousands of jobs have indeed departed America’s borders in  recent years, the question one must ask is who is ultimately making the choice to ship them abroad? Is this decision made by immigrants? Is it made the lower class, the middle class, or even the upper middle class? Emphatically no, as the decision to eliminate American jobs and send work pertaining to American goods and services abroad is made by as always only by the privileged and wealthy elites; those obnoxious leaders and captains of industry who have stepped on the lower classes for their entire existence and are more interested in turning an extra nickel’s worth of profit to beat artificial financial expectations made by other elites for their next reporting quarter rather than investing long-term in their fellow Americans or their country as a whole. This is of course precisely who Donald Trump is and has always been. And this certainly is no hyperbole, as Donald Trump’s record is littered with tales of refusing to rent apartments to Blacks and other ethnic minorities, undertaking dubious business practices centered on not paying laborers for their work upon completion and threatening (and even declaring) bankruptcy in order to avoid paying his creditors, and even has himself shipped countless American jobs overseas in order to reap the benefits of cheap foreign labor. As such, on these points alone the idea that Donald Trump’s interests align with those of the underclass and the historically marginalized is as ludicrous as whoever devised his label as the ‘Blue Collar Billionaire’. And while many aspects of his great con have already been exposed with several of his campaign promises flushed only days after his election, including but not limited to his promise of ‘draining the swamp’ (unless of course he meant draining it right into his cabinet), as his lies and impossible pledges continue to unravel, those Americans at greatest risk of financial ruin- a great many of those who voted for him- sadly will be pushed over the edge with his cronyism, conflicts of interest, and protectionist policies which are doomed to fail. Well fail everyone who is not an entitled elite because as always the only people who will benefit from such a blueprint are Donald Trump and the people of his ilk.

Of course, as previously stated economics are only part of the reason so many people ultimately succumbed to irrational choice as global terror has become more pronounced. However, while worry grows with every passing attack, if one tries to think outside decisions based on fear for a moment, I ask how rationally can any decision to simply securitize perceived threats actually keep anyone safer in a world where non-state actors have reconfigured global politics? Put another way, gone are the days when states alone were the fundamental actors in the international system and gone too are the days when America or any Western nation can hope to be an island of security while the rest of world is not only in chaos but is actually further securitized and provoked by the west through a combination of inflammatory rhetoric, harsh and unevenly distributed sanctions, and disorganized and (globally) unauthorized militarized campaigns? Such a strategy can never work especially in a post-9/11 world because while of course the United States must remain more vigilant, protecting its fundamental interest of survival can never be achieved through more securitization, violence, and the placement of security issues outside the realm of normal politics and into the hands of elites alone. Although those rooted in such an archaic mode of thinking would do well to read the works of Ole Waever and other contributiors of the European schools pertaining to security, essentially any hope to quell violence and address (global) threats is through a de-securitized approach, premised on non-violence, diplomacy, and cooperation with the international community. As such, Trump’s foreign policy which can be essentially summarized as “Bomb the shit out of them” and instigating other global superpowers like China, will from a security perspective serve to not only worsen the lives of those Americans who voted for him, but all Americans and even the rest of the international community as well.

And while this piece has devoted much emphasis to examining the impending harsh reality as it relates to the American experience, those Britons who were also conned by hate filled, ultra-conservative, and divisive forces will unfortunately, along with their British brethren who were not, will also soon experience the full-force of their misguided choice. Not only has the British pound sunk in the months since the Brexit decision was made, but the ill-prepared manner in which the British seem poised to leave the EU will only further sink England’s economy in the near-term given its reliance on tourism and high-finance. Furthermore,  if British leaders do not devise a more apt exit strategy or scrap the decision to vacate the EU altogether, it will not be long before finds its trade partners and attractive professional candidates few and far between which as a consequence will send the British economy into a blown full crisis. What then of the very jobs you thought you were protecting Britons?

In essence the problem for the British and anyone who espouses protectionist principles becomes; how can the destruction of small l liberalism’s reliance on free trade, the protection of which was long a conservative staple, now be considered a conservative mandate by the many who advocate for protectionism especially in an era of globalization? As such, perhaps the greatest irony of the contemporary cons based on demagoguery examined in this piece is not that that they have served to eradicate the future prospects of the underclass, conservatism in the modern context has always done that, but it is that this great con will also serve to erode one of most fundamental tenets of conservatism and conservative elites.

I suppose demagoguery really is good for no one. Again, I am very sorry.

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