I must say that political subjects are troubling me yet again.
Now, 'this is not normal' has become a liberal mantra. Every week, I am subjected to a tirade (usually in the first paragraph of a column or thinkpiece) about the alleged abnormality of the Trump presidency. I'm inclined to agree in some respects—the revolving-door Cabinet is certainly an aberration in American political history—but it still bothers me on multiple levels.
We've heard echoes of Trump throughout our political history; Pat Buchanan's 1992 campaign, with his culture-war rhetoric, is a relatively recent example. Indeed, Buchanan endorsed Trump last year, seeing in him a kindred spirit, even despite Trump leaving his 2000 Reform Party candidacy due to the presence in the party of, among other people, Pat Buchanan.
I can't claim to understand, to be frank, why Trump is viewed as an ideological aberration. The ideological state apparatuses have been there all along, subtly programming our prevailing ideology into a largely invisibly but highly grotesque quasi-ethnic nationalism; every time an elementary school student stands, puts their hand on their heart, and recites the Pledge of Allegiance, they are interpellated as a subject of the American Empire.
Thus, it should seem no surprise that this chauvinistic, racialised, über-macho ideology coalesced into the form of Trump. Yet, to liberals, it's an immense surprise. They were sure that when they
held their hands to their
hearts for the daily ritual of vexillolatry, they
weren't celebrating the Indigenous genocide, the horrors of slavery, the endless war, the role of America in the rise of fascism in the early twentieth century, the unspeakably evil bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—no, they
were pledging their
allegiance to an America in which racism is on the fringes, the biggest issue for women today is 'manspreading', and no matter the sins America carries from her past, it'll all work out in the end.
(Speaking of liberal feminism, I saw a middle-class woman on Twitter a few days ago asserting that socialism is sexist because it'll remove the glass ceilings that petit-bourgeois women are 'destined' to shatter.)
And thus, the birth of 'this is not normal' and the increasingly insane Russia-centric conspiracy theories promulgated by hacks like Eric Garland and Louise Mensch. (Just look at the hashtag #PutinBot
—it's abundantly clear that most of the people using it don't know what a bot is, and in some exceptionally bizarre cases, they've replied with the hashtag to standard-fare Weird Twitter jokes.)
The surface narrative must be maintained that, in the words of Hillary Clinton, 'America is already great, because America is good', lest the dark underbelly of America's racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia be exposed. The issue, of course, is that this selfsame dark underbelly has emerged in the form of Donald Trump, Breitbart, and the white nationalist alt-right. Even after Charlottesville, liberals began circulating alleged proof of Richard Spencer's ties to the Kremlin, because…he has talked with Aleksandr Dugin and his wife is Russian and has translated some of Dugin's essays. That's it. Never mind that, despite media sensationalism over Dugin being 'Putin's Rasputin', he's actually quite a fringe figure in Russian political circles
To borrow some terminology from Prester Jane's 'narrativist framework'
, the inner narrative must be guarded by all means possible. From what I've seen, the inner narrative is rather similar to Fukuyama's thesis in The End of History and the Last Man
: liberal democratic capitalism is the final and best form of government in humanity's evolution and it is inherently stable. Trump's victory caused a great deal of narrative dissonance (PJ's term is 'narrative dysphoria' in analogy to gender dysphoria). As such, rather than rethinking the 'inherent' stability and superiority of liberal democratic capitalism, they have created a grand narrative starting from the two basic points that Russian actors allegedly hacked the DNC emails and that Trump and/or his family have attempted some shady dealings with Russian actors and working it into a conspiracy theory so immense as to be impenetrable, linking in everyone and everything from Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden to allegations that pro-Russian and pro-Trump Twitter bots must have been bought and paid for by the Kremlin (even though setting up a bot is incredibly easy and also free).
And this is what has been troubling me.
Back in June, after Trump insulted MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski on Twitter, Stephen Colbert said this
Let's stop pretending that Trump is a symptom of something. He is the disease.
And this encapsulates everything wrong with liberalism. It's an extreme irony that Colbert, who played a character embodying the very worst traits of American politics—i.e., the disease—for nine years, four nights a week, could say that a president who embodies the very worst traits of American politics is not the symptom.
The disease has been running through American politics since the beginning, starting with the subjugation and genocide of Indigenous Americans and continuing through slavery, the Trail of Tears, the endless imperial wars, Jim Crow and segregation, the Know-Nothings, the KKK, the American corporate support for Nazi Germany and role in the Holocaust
(Brown Brothers Harriman spawned the Bush family and IBM cooperated with the Nazi government in the use of their machines to carry out the extermination of the Jews), the Nazi ratlines and Allen Dulles' collaboration, the effective genocide of 3.8 million Vietnamese people in the Vietnam War, the Bangladesh genocide in 1971, the US-backed Indonesian genocide in East Timor, the US backing of the Khmer Rouge, the 1,455,590 Iraqis killed in the invasion,
the continuing destruction of Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen…need I say more?
Wilhelm Reich would diagnose this as an exceptional case of what he called the emotional plague. It's been there for a long time. It's just that now, it's taken off its mask.
And denying that Trump is just its symptom will only make it worse.