U.S. Elections: A Pandora’s Box of Horrors
There was an excruciating, albeit rip-roaringly funny, moment in the ‘Saturday Night Live’ episode aired right after the first U.S. Presidential debate a couple of weeks back when satire and reality seemed to merge. Alec Baldwin was playing Republican Party candidate Donald Trump, and it was difficult to tell if the veteran actor was improvising on lines written by the show’s writers or if it was straight out of Trump’s playbook (provided there is one). Baldwin has reprised the role twice since then, and that feeling has only got stronger.
This fusion of reality and simulacrum perhaps has been the characteristic feature of this U.S. election season. A huge chunk of the credit must go to Trump, who has run his campaign like ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,’ the reality television game show that made him infamous. In recent weeks, since the publication of a leaked tape from 2005 by the Washington Post where Trump is heard bragging about groping women, things have progressively gone more surreal with almost half a dozen women coming forward telling how over the years he sexually harassed them and Trump basically responding by saying that they were not beautiful enough to be groped and harassed and assaulted.
Take a moment to comprehend the import of his remarks. A man who is running for the highest public office in his country is defending rape culture and sexually violence against women.
To those who have observed him over the years, what Trump said is hardly surprising. But what is surprising is the faux concern and horror his party’s leaders showed in the aftermath of the leak as they began distancing themselves from him. Donald Trump did not nominate himself as the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, the party’s rank-and-file and its leadership did. The anti-women politics of the GOP is nothing new and for decades it has waged a war on women, trying to control what women can or cannot do with their bodies. Seen in this context, Donald Trump comes across as not an aberration but the logical culmination of decades of the GOP’s politics of xenophobia, hatred and misogyny. Paul Ryan, John McCain and the rest of the leadership did not find it in themselves to pull support for Trump when he called Mexicans rapists, called for a ban on Muslims trying to come to America, and advocated the mass deportation of undocumented workers, among other things, because he, in his own coarse and crass manner, trumpeted the very politics they did.They tolerated him because they did not want to lose control over the right-wing, populist, primarily white base that helped Trump win the nomination. But that’s precisely what happened and the current push back against Trump is the party establishment’s efforts to wrest power back from a disenchanted and insurgent base.
As CUNY professor Charlie Post wrote recently in the Jacobin magazine, the GOP establishment’s hatred for their nominee is not due to his bigotry but because Trump refuses to promote their naked neoliberal agenda. “Trump, in many ways, is a radical, right-wing opponent of capital’s dominance over the Republican Party. Not only does Trump express the xenophobia and racism of his populist base, but he rejects central tenets of the bipartisan neoliberal agenda that has impoverished segments of the middle class along with working and poor people.”
Trump’s persona and unsubstantial rants on policy issues suggest that he would be a volatile agent of U.S. capital and that is the reason the establishment is pushing for the election of Hillary Clinton, who will be the liberal face of a system that has wreaked havoc across the world. This is the bigger problem and no one seems to talk about it, or at least as much as the misdeeds of the orange-faced, women-hating, minority-fearing, Mussolini-loving, white-saviour leader of the Republicans.
While Trump’s toxic legacy have unleashed a Pandora’s box of horrors whose damage may never be mitigated, fear of Trump entering the White House should not make us overlook the dangers of the Clinton presidency. As journalist Jeremy Scahill rightly pointed out after the second presidential debate, Hillary was the “empire candidate.”
“Both Clinton’s and Trump’s candidacies have f**ked us — albeit in different ways. Hillary represents more of the same bipartisan warmongering. And, under Obama, that has been met with a lot of silence and complicity from liberals. Depressing.”