Naomi Klein’s title says it all: “No Is Not Enough” as we try to address “a naked corporate takeover, one many decades in the making. It seems that the economic interests that have long since paid off both major parties ... have decided they’re tired of playing the game. ... So now they’re cutting out the middlemen — those needy politicians who are supposed to protect the public interest.”
This is only one way of looking at it, of course. A more dominant way, reflected in mainstream media, is to characterize Trump as an aberration, a sinister buffoon who somehow ended up occupying the most powerful office in the world. But Klein is right when she says that political currents have been leading up to the Trump presidency for decades.
His neoliberal policies have been pushed since the ’80s and even before: deregulation, privatization, mass incarceration, cutting welfare, breaking unions and pursuing American military domination of the world. These policies have left significant portions of the population suffering to the extent that they either sat out the election or, worse, voted for Trump in the mistaken belief that any change would be better than none.
And, of course, Trump also played on the White conservative reaction to antiracist, feminist and pro-LGBTQ organizing and victories.
Klein explains support for Trump as the embodiment of brand loyalty. Most of Trump’s companies, as she points out, don’t actually produce anything. He doesn’t own most of the hotels that bear his name. Instead, he makes money by selling his name, his brand. He’s created a persona (however much it’s based on his own narcissism) that people respond to. He embodies a vision of a world in which people are divided into winners and losers, as on his reality show, “The Apprentice.”
Faced with this stark vision, in which competition rather than cooperation is the rule (as it is in so much of capitalist society), his supporters choose to identify with the winners (people like Trump) rather than the losers. Klein suggests that as long as Trump is true to this identity — even if it includes being misogynist, racist and authoritarian — his strongest supporters won’t abandon him. That’s why trying to defeat him on the basis of his personality was so unsuccessful in the presidential race. What can erode his base and defeat him, Klein says, is to show that he’s not a winner — to make him lose.
This won’t necessarily be easy. Klein suggests that the disorientation attendant to Trump’s tenure in office and his attempts to quickly ram through immigration bans and a repeal of health care are just the beginning of an effort to shock Americans into accepting a right-wing agenda.
She points out that such efforts will be redoubled if there’s a successful terrorist attack in the United States, just as former President George W. Bush used to justify the invasion of Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001. However, people still remember how they were fooled by the lead-up to that invasion and how in the financial meltdown a few years later the government bailed out the banks instead of the people who lost their homes. That could be an inoculation against being fooled again.
But to actually beat Trump, Klein says, we must unite in a common vision of a different kind of world. This vision has to first address climate change, which Klein sees as an existential threat. But it must also be crafted in a way that unites people, that includes racial, gender and economic justice, and a world in which caregiving rather than profitmaking is the priority.
As an example of what she’s talking about, Klein holds up the Canadian Leap Manifesto, which was drawn up by a conference of progressive activists from all different issue areas with the idea that no community will be left behind in a transition to a sustainable future.
“We chose Leap because it raises a defiant middle finger to centrist incrementalism — the kind that calls itself ‘cautious’ but is in fact exquisitely dangerous. ... The gap between where we are and where we need to go is so great, and the time left is so short, that small steps are not going to cut it — we need to leap.”
Some readers may object that most people won’t go for that kind of broad, multi-issue program for change. But the Leap Manifesto caught fire in the middle of Canada’s last election campaign, even though it wasn’t associated with any of the political parties.
Hundreds of organizations and thousands of people in Canada signed onto it. After its defeat in that election, the New Democratic Party adopted it as its platform, much as left Democrats in the United States have been trying to get their party to adopt the ideas of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
In 1916, Rosa Luxemburg wrote prophetically that society was at a crossroads: “either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” A hundred years later, the choice is similarly stark: “Leap” or fall.
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