„Ce înseamnă să fii român astăzi în Comunitatea Europeană? România, o margine a Europei, o margine, dar toate lucrurile tremură la margine, spune cu geniul observaţiei Titu Maiorescu. Şi apropo de această margine, îmi aduc aminte că am fost cândva invitat să ţin o conferinţă despre iubirea creştină în Galda de Jos, o minunată localitate din judeţul Alba. Am simţit, nu ştiu de ce, că mă ascultau oameni curaţi sufleteşte, neîntinaţi de vremurile actuale şi cu o inteligenţă remarcabilă."
Am auzit varii persoane şi personalităţi spunând că în mărturisirea creştină a lui Dan Puric intră şi mult histrionism, că „să nu uităm că omul e actor, obişnuit să joace teatru". Văzând, recent, (şi) ultimul spectacol al lui Puric, intitulat „Suflet românesc", m-am tot gândit cât de multă mărturisire creştină intră în teatrul lui Dan Puric. În mod paradoxal, pentru autenticitatea angajării creştine şi naţionale a lui Dan Puric stă mărturie tocmai teatrul său, unul care nu admite minciuna, care nu e „spectacol", care adică nu te lasă, pasiv, în jilţul de spectator, de consumator al „actului cultural". Teatrul lui Dan Puric nu ne momeşte în afara noastră, nu ne atrage să ne întâlnim, evazionist, în nicăieri, în u-topie, ci ne trimite, prin introspecţie, către întâlnirea cu noi înşine, cu toţi noi înşine, în adâncuri, la rădăcinile noastre. Teatrul lui Puric îmi aduce aminte de istoricul teolog Romulus Cândea, care opunea „cosmopolitismului spiritual", care ar uni umanitatea la nivel de elite, conştiinţa unei „tradiţii generale a omenirii" care ar uni-o la nivel profund, de rădăcini. Teatrul lui Puric nu minte pentru că nu porneşte de la „idealuri", adică de la ideologii, ci de la gest, adică de la memoria de lungă durată sedimentată în gesturile noastre, de la gestul tehnic sau ritual, de la gestul care uneşte realitatea văzută de cea nevăzută. Ca atare, reprezentaţiile lui Puric nu sunt alcătuite din „acte" împărţite în „tablouri", ci din „icoane", din reprezentări care unesc văzutul cu miezul lui de taină şi de viaţă. Forma de exprimare aleasă de Puric nu lasă loc cabotinismului, ochilor daţi peste cap, manierismelor recitative, alintăturilor. E o formă de teatru spartană, minimalistă, de maximă rigoare a partiturii şi execuţiei.
Dan Puric face acest lucru de unul singur. E singur pe scenă. „One-man show". Şi tace. Tace pentru că, la urma urmelor, în afară de cuvântul liturgic, restul riscă mai întotdeauna să fie doar vorbe. Doar gestul, adică fapta, poate salva, poate arăta calea ieşirii din starea de impostură generalizată în care s-a scufundat România E.U.ropeană a zilelor noastre. Ca orice „icoană" în vremuri de ciumă, personajul lui Dan Puric, Charlot-ul lui românesc e şi ţintă. Dan Puric, pe scenă, e ţinta privirilor noastre. E expus. Nu poate greşi. Nu poate minţi. Nu se poate împiedica. L-am văzut „jucând" cu febră, bolnav, curgând apele de pe el, şi rămânând întreg, acolo, pe scenă, „icoană", adică mediator către realitatea sufletului românesc, şi ţintă.
Dacă tăcerea scenică a lui Dan Puric face ca artistul să nu poată fi contrazis pentru că nu există sofişti ai pantomimei, cărţile, conferinţele şi interviurile lui au stârnit şi stârnesc, mai mereu, umorile acre ale unei anumite „elite" care, deşi altminteri se dă în vânt după „motivational speakers", văzuţi ca motor al schimbării întru binele euroatlantic al României, nu gustă misionarismul naţional-creştin al lui Dan Puric, căruia îi iau la puricat discursurile în căutare de erori factuale, de citate aproximative ş.a.m.d. La noi, de un tratament asemănător s-a mai bucurat şi Petre Ţuţea (ba, şi prelegerile lui Nae Ionescu au fost scrutate cu ochi la fel de vrăjmaş). În Vest, publicistica politică a lui Noam Chomsky e frecvent atacată pentru citatele eronate etc. Neajunsul acestui tip de abordare e că el ratează, de fapt, ţinta pentru că românii care formează publicul lui Ţuţea sau Puric şi americanii care citesc volumele de interviuri ale lui Chomsky nu caută precizie scolastică în discursul public al acestor oameni, ci o direcţie, un sens pe care restul discursului public produs în masă de publicaţiile şi organizaţiile de mainstream sau de falsă „alternativă" îl ocultează. Degeaba îi spui florii că există pete în soare, dacă ea simte că trebuie să îşi întoarcă faţa spre acea sursă de energie ca să trăiască. Din ce în ce mai frecventele răbufniri electorale în direcţia a ceea ce intelighenţia de mainstream numeşte dispreţuitor „populişti de stânga/dreapta" nu face decât să confirme practic, la urne, nemulţumirea generală – planetară am putea spune, că tot trăim, din toate celelalte puncte de vedere, sub imperiul „globalizări" – cu privire la dependenţa în care sunt ţinute naţiunile cu ajutorul minciunii generalizate şi corupţiei semantice de sus în jos. Dan Puric numeşte, în cărţile şi discursurile lui, multe din relele care bântuie trupul social şi sufletul României de azi. Şi face acest lucru cu o viociune a minţii, o inteligenţă asociativă şi o precizie a diagnosticului care trădează un om profund afectat de ceea ce se întâmplă României de azi. Ceea ce face el e „pep talk", un discurs menit să le sporească românilor încrederea în sine. Or, niciunui boxer sau niciunei echipe nu îi pasă dacă antrenorul, în pauzele dintre reprize, îi citează cu exactitate din clasici sau nu. Ceea ce îl interesează pe omul care luptă în ring sau în teren e să simtă că eşti în colţul lui, că eşti cu el, că îl ajuţi să reziste şi să învingă. Că îl înveţi să fie robust. E ceea ce face Dan Puric, pe care românii îl simt în colţul lor.
Şi cum să nu-l simtă, când Dan Puric scrie, vorbeşte sau tace grăitor despre toate problemele care frământă văzut sau nevăzut, pe faţă sau pe dos, societatea românească, de la emigraţie, la distrugerea sistematică a învăţământului românesc, de la sărăcie, la mizeria produsă de nimicirea simbolică a galaxiilor de valori naţionale, de la prostituţia politică a intelectualilor de „elită", la abolirea normalităţii în numele unor fantomatice şi lesne manipulabile principii „euroatlantice". Doctorul Nicu Ioniţă, fost deţinut politic la Piteşti, supravieţuitor vertical al acelui cumplit experiment, vorbea despre „procesul de dezorganizare a universului psihologic" pus în mişcare de reeducarea de la Piteşti. Una dintre etapele cele mai importante ale acelei reeducări era critica: „Critica a fost una dintre operaţiile cele mai dificile care l-au extras pe om din matricea lui socială şi, secţionând cordonul ombilical, i-a întrerupt comunicarea vitală cu lumea în care s-a născut, a trăit şi s-a format. Critica în care s-au lansat colegii noştri, sub ameninţarea terorii, a completat şi adâncit fisura din sufletul lor, netezindu-le calea pentru despărţirea definitivă de lumea din care proveneau. Nimic nu a fost cruţat, totul a fost pus în discuţie, totul a fost contestat şi pângărit: societatea, şcoala, biserica, familia" şi patria1. Cei supuşi cu succes acestui experiment, reeducaţii, îşi pierdeau, notează doctorul Ioniţă, „rezonanţa afectivă" şi se concentrau doar asupra propriei persoane „afişând un indiferentism agresiv faţă de suferinţele noastre, pe care tot ei ni le provocau"2.
Dan Puric observă şi el reeducarea în masă – sau, cum o numeau comuniştii, exerciţiul de „psihopedagogie socială – ştiinţa educaţiei permanente a maselor de adulţi" – la care sunt supuşi românii astăzi: „Cineva m-a întrebat când s-au împlinit douăzeci de ani de la prăbuşirea zidului Berlinului dacă sunt fericit, iar eu i-am răspuns că nu, pentru că s-a dărâmat peste noi. […] Deodată am găsit în faţa noastră înfometată de libertate şi normalitate o altă Europă, o Europă cu tendinţe suicidare, agonică, un mare om bolnav îndreptându-se sinistru spre propria lui prăbuşire. […] Europa de azi este o imensă clinică experimentală, unde se aplică pe o populaţie din ce în ce mai amorfă şi rătăcită ce-şi pierde pe zi ce trece conştiinţa de sine, un strict program de reeducare în vederea alienării ei sub flamura perversă a libertăţii, democraţiei şi a drepturilor omului instrumentalizate cu atâta dibăcie"3. Efectele acestei reeducări sunt, ca şi în cazul celei de la Piteşti, smulgerea traumatică a românilor din matca lor, sterilizarea biologică şi spirituală a lumii româneşti, o rată de creştere demografică şi culturală negativă: „Suntem o regiune nenorocită, un penitenciar şi o colonie condusă din afară prin securişti autohtoni obedienţi. Acele minţi minunate ale perioadei interbelice voiau cu toată fiinţa lor să fim o voce românească în Europa […]. Noi nu putem s-o luăm împotriva Europei. Problema se pune cum arată această Europă de astăzi şi care este preţul acestei integrări. Aici nu este vorba să ne izolăm, este vorba să ne păstrăm eposul, identitatea. Eposul înseamnă legende, poveşti, mituri. Cineva m-a acuzat că eu legendarizez. Da, cum să nu legendarizez? Bunica mea e o legendă. Bunica dumneavoastră este o legendă. Putem noi să ne prezentăm în faţa istoriei numai cu CNP-ul? Când legenda face parte din acea dimensiune transistorică a neamului nostru. Asta ne-a ţinut pe noi. Nu numai o realitate penibilă […]. Destinul spiritual al unui neam nu poate să naufragieze pe ţărmul mâlos al unui context istoric. Am fost reeducaţi să ne fie ruşine de condiţia noastră de român. Am început să ne şoptim cu frică identitatea. Să fim inhibaţi şi deranjaţi de ea. Acesta este rezultatul procesului viclean de permanentă culpabilizare a poporului român în scopul exploatării lui"4.
În acest context, Dan Puric înţelege să lucreze asumând marginalitatea României în context E.U.ropean şi a României profunde în România burgheziei de mall de astăzi: „Ce înseamnă să fii român astăzi în Comunitatea Europeană? România, o margine a Europei, o margine, dar toate lucrurile tremură la margine, spune cu geniul observaţiei Titu Maiorescu. Şi apropo de această margine, îmi aduc aminte că am fost cândva invitat să ţin o conferinţă despre iubirea creştină în Galda de Jos, o minunată localitate din judeţul Alba. Am simţit, nu ştiu de ce, că mă ascultau oameni curaţi sufleteşte, neîntinaţi de vremurile actuale şi cu o inteligenţă remarcabilă. […] A venit la mine primarul localităţii respective să îmi mulţumească şi, conform tradiţiei româneşti, să mă omenească. A venit omul ţinând în braţe un coş mare împletit, plin cu bunătăţi, slană, cârnaţi, brânză, pâine, palincă şi vişinată. Şi înmânându-mi-l, îmi spune: Domnule Dănuţ, ştiţi ce faceţi dvs. cu noi? Am rămas blocat, căci nu mă aşteptam la o asemenea întrebare, după care, după un timp, din reflex de autoapărare, am dat un răspuns cât se poate de stupid: Ce să fac? Fac o conferinţă. Nu, nu faceţi nicio conferinţă, mi-a răspuns primarul. Şi fiţi atent acum, inteligenţa asta unică românească! Mă întreabă brusc: Ştiţi ce face gospodina când i se taie maioneza? De data asta am rămas perplex, mă prinsese cu garda jos. Habar n-am, i-am răspuns. Sparge un ou şi o ia din margine, mi-a răspuns primarul. Ce spirit fantastic de observaţie! Şi-a dat seama că eu am luat-o din marginea neîntinată a ţării ca să refac tonusul moral, maioneza aia tăiată"5.
Dan Puric e ascultat de popor pentru că ştie să asculte, are bucuria întâlnirii cu oamenii, nu e blazat, burtos şi îndesat cu eclere şi cârnaţi de Pleşcoi lăsând în urma-i un damf de autosuficienţă. Nu caută să recruteze sofişti tineri pe care să-i îmbătrânească rapid în rele. Succesul lui de public e, din punct de vedere artistic, o consecinţă a talentului pe care i l-a dat Dumnezeu, iar din punct de vedere cultural, o consecinţă a lucrurilor, văzute şi nevăzute, pe care i le-au furat poporului român două-trei generaţii de oameni fără Dumnezeu.
Note: 1. Nicu Ioniţă, Experimentul Piteşti: Spălarea creierului şi reeducarea prin tortură în România Comunistă (Bucureşti: Eikon, 2016), 42-43. 2. Ioniţă, Experimentul Piteşti, 47. 3. Dan Puric, Să fii român! (Bucuerşti: Compania Dan Puric, 2016), 38-39. 4. Puric, Să fii român!, 137-138. 5. Puric, Să fii român!, 156-157.
At the time of this writing, Donald Trump is in a commanding position to win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Naturally, Trump's legions of enemies in what used to be called the "conservative movement" are flailing and despondent. They should be. Trump has, for now, more than revived his momentarily flagging campaign. And even if he is eventually defeated at the polls, this win boosts the chances that his ideas—if we may use such a lofty term for Trump's as-yet unformed and instinct-driven platform—will outlive his candidacy. Trump's run has opened the way, for the first time in more than a generation, toward progress and return—progress beyond ossified ideologies, and return to a superior understanding of man, politics, America and the West itself.
Trump is, in the decisive sense, more conservative than the entire conservative establishment. Unlike them, he is actually trying to conserve something bigger than his job and status: namely, the American nation. Yet "Trumpism" needs something Trump himself cannot provide. John Derbyshire praises Trump's "gut conservatism" as a welcome relief from the failures of the intellectual class. One can sympathize with his point without finding it altogether satisfying. "Gut conservatism" after all still depends on some definition of what conservatism is. Which requires thinking and writing, i.e., intellectualism, and perhaps even philosophy. The gut may be right more often than a broken clock, but—as Trump's contradictory pronouncements over the years illustrate—it is unreliable and so must be ruled by the brain, which nature generously provides for the purpose. Derbyshire is thus too quick to dismiss conservative intellectualizing as irrelevant. Forging a fresh definition of conservatism, or of reinterpreting the old one to meet the necessities of the times, is not merely relevant but necessary.
Yet it is unquestionably true that to this task, our current crop of mainstream conservative intellectuals is not merely unsuited but wholly useless. National Review's anti-Trump symposium reads as if it were written to make the point undeniable. Trump supports ethanol! Burn the heretic! At least listing the "conservative" boxes that Trump fails to check can be considered substantive. The rest of the symposium—like nearly all other conservative anti-Trump broadsides—consists merely of personal attacks. Many of which, to be fair, Trump has coming. But all this hardly amounts to a conservative refutation of, or counterproposal to, Trump's program. The most they could say on that score was to paraphrase, probably subconsciously, Lionel Trilling's dismissal of 20th century conservatism as "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas" and apply it to Trump.
But Trumpism, while not yet a coherent body of thought, points the way to one. Trump himself—no man of ideas, to say the least—is unsuited to the task of thinking through what his popularity means or how to build on it. Others will have to do the real work. Herewith, an attempt to get started.
Trump's two slogans—"Make America Great Again" and "Take Our Country Back"—point to the heart of Trumpism: "America First." Some will no doubt flinch at being reminded of an alleged stain on America's past. This is not the place to explain or defend 1940-41's (unfairly maligned) America First Committee. It's just that those two words capture the essence and appeal of Trumpism as no others do or could.
Trump seems to grasp intuitively something our elites have forgotten or smugly deny: politics is by nature particular. However arbitrary at the highest level of philosophical speculation, here on the ground, the distinctions between citizen and foreigner, compatriot and outsider, friend and enemy never go away. Even the ancient Greek philosophers—the greatest abstractionists of all time—understood the necessity of borders and the permanence of national distinctions. Socrates' "city in speech"—the greatest political abstraction of all time—is closed to outsiders.
It's not hard to understand why globalized elites—including the Republican billionaire donor class—favor the erasure of borders: they get, and stay, rich from it. More curious is why conservative intellectuals go along. No doubt some of their own funding comes from those same donors. Many of them also manifestly enjoy the preening that being on the side of enlightened opinion enables. In their hearts, nearly all "conservatives" long for absolution on the charge of "racism". Like the atheist caricature of the devout husband guilt-wracked for coveting his own wife, the modern conservative believes the leftist lie that his natural affinity for people who look, think and speak like himself is shameful and illegitimate, to be internally repressed and publicly denied.
In this, the only difference between our "conservatives" and the liberals they claim to oppose is that the latter aren't conflicted. Both groups have after all been educated at the same schools and steeped in the same post-American, far-left ideology. Thomas Sowell once eviscerated Rawls' "difference principle"—the insistence that no policy, however beneficial to the common good, should be enacted if doesn't help the lowest of the low—as the "wino's veto." Elite conservatives embrace it fully, not so much as an idea, but rather from the gut realization that privilege requires self-justification. Always taking the side of "the other"—the more alien and distant, the better—over and against their own people and country is a high-octane way to display high-mindedness. Speaking up for one's own is the ultimate sign of a rube—or worse.
This yearning to appear high-minded has caused conservatives to equate principle with abstraction. They take the philosophic argument that "love of one's own" is ultimately an insufficient basis for goodness to be reason's last word and thus assume that anything particular—including their own country—must be, in and of itself, low and unworthy of their unalloyed allegiance: the high qua high always has some admixture of the abstract. Hence the continued insistence that, for America to be good, it must be conflated with its principles. Against any common-sense resistance to the latest righteous, destructive fad, conservatives and liberals alike scold from the same hymnal: "That's not who we are." To which Trump supporters instinctively respond: speak for yourselves. Maybe that's not who you are, but it's who we are, and we're fed up with your sanctimony.
Paleo-conservatives are the notable hold-outs to this trend, but they embrace unreason in a different way. In their reverence for tradition, they must—if only implicitly—hold that tradition is good, or at the very least that their tradition is good for them. But for even that narrow formula to work, the good must have some content that transcends particulars. Those Greek philosophers—indispensable founders of "our tradition"—understood this clearly. But paleos are more hostile to abstraction than neocons are enamored of it, and insist that any theoretical investigation of the good or assertion of principle leads in a straight line to universalism, utopianism, quotas and open borders.
Both sects could learn something from their common inheritance. The American Founders managed to be principled and particularist, abstract and grounded, broad-minded and loyal, all at the same time. The Preamble to the United States Constitution pledges its purpose to "form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." Note that there is no mention of tradition, culture or heritage. Not that the Founders dismissed or opposed these things, but they evidently—and wisely—concluded that unity, justice, tranquility, defense, welfare and liberty are all higher goods. And not merely our goods or good for us (though of course they are)but above all good simply.
Yet, as the Preamble's final five words make abundantly clear, there are practical limits to how much good, and for whom, politics can accomplish. The Constitution and the social compact it enshrines are for us—the American people—and not for foreigners, immigrants (except those we choose to welcome), or anyone else. The original state constitutions of Massachusetts and Virginia—twin cradles of the American Revolution—state much the same: "The end of … government is to secure the existence of the body-politic; to protect it; and to furnish the individuals who compose it"; and "government is … instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community." The same men who declared that "all men are created equal" also, and in virtually the same breath, excluded "all men" from de facto or implicit membership in the American nation.
The American people—like every people—have always felt in their bones their particularity, their uniqueness, their status as a people distinct from other peoples. Elites—donors and intellectuals alike, on both the left and the "right"—scoff at this natural, healthy and true belief as "nativism." Is it then any wonder that the first presidential candidate in a generation to speak of America as something more than just a "shining city on a hill"—as an actual country, to be loved for what it is and not merely for what it represents or could become—has found enormous appeal?
Truth at Last!
The other, related source of Trump's appeal is his willingness—eagerness—gleefulness!—to mock the ridiculous lies we've been incessantly force-fed for the past 15 years (at least) and tell the truth. "Diversity" is not "our strength"; it's a source of weakness, tension and disunion. America is not a "nation of immigrants"; we are originally a nation of settlers, who later chose to admit immigrants, and later still not to, and who may justly open or close our doors solely at our own discretion, without deference to forced pieties. Immigration today is not "good for the economy"; it undercuts American wages, costs Americans jobs, and reduces Americans' standard of living. Islam is not a "religion of peace"; it's a militant faith that exalts conversion by the sword and inspires thousands to acts of terror—and millions more to support and sympathize with terror. "American exceptionalism" does not require, or even encourage, us to democratize the world—a task of which we are in any case incapable. The Iraq War was a strategic and tactical blunder that destroyed a country (however badly governed), destabilized a region, and harmed American interests. The benefits of free trade concentrate at the top (outsize profits) and bottom (cheap panem et circenses); the middle, and especially the working, classes have been hurt by globalization.
When one hears words coming out of a politician's mouth finally reflect—rather than diametrically oppose—what one can see with one's own eyes, the effect, we've (re)discovered, can be exhilarating.
All of which is to say, the root cause of Trumpism is the spectacular failure of our elites to serve the people they ostensibly lead. Those howling the loudest about Trump—the Davos overclass, establishment Republicans, and American "conservative" intellectuals—are in Stage 4C denial that their obliviousness, coupled with their ability (ante Trump) to silence and marginalize all opposition, are the principal causes of his rise. Whether their failures stem from cynicism, venality, greed, rationalization, delusion or honest disagreement (I think it's all of the above) will need to be thought through by later historians. For now, it's enough finally to see clearly their errors and—to revive and rehabilitate a Clinton-era phrase—"move on."
Nationhood, Sovereignty and Immigration
The first task is a simple reassertion of American nationhood and sovereignty. Which begins, yes, with regaining control over our borders and dismantling our insane immigration policies, both formal (e.g., the idiotic visa lottery) and informal (the bipartisan consensus not to enforce any law that results in less immigration—at least from non-European sources).
Let the full enormity of the crisis we face finally be realized. The left supports mass immigration and the Davos economy—top plus bottom against the middle—for obvious reasons. Republicans support it in fealty to their true masters (their donor class) and in the vain hope that they will get credit from the left for not being "racist." More mysterious is why conservative intellectuals, whom one would think should know better, use abstractions to happy-talk themselves into believing all will turn out for the best, despite all observable evidence showing the contrary.
Here I address my neoconservative friends specifically, and also those Trump supporters who are either hostile to or try to wave away America's founding creed. Yes, it is true that "all men are created equal." But Lincoln adds the crucial caveat: all men are not "equal in all respects" (emphasis in the original). They are not "equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments or social capacity." People from different nations with different circumstances, histories, beliefs and traditions will—by definition—hold very different conceptions of good government, some irreconcilably opposed to our own. It has been said that a principal cause of Rome's fall was that "many men who never knew republican life and did not care for it … became Roman citizens." Why then do we Americans continue to import millions upon millions who have never known republican life and do not care for it? In doing so, we do not uphold our Founding creed; we hasten and enable its oblivion.
This fact—and it is a fact, observable in every corner of this country where mass immigration has overwhelmed, eroded, and de-Americanized formerly American communities—must be faced squarely. To my philosophic friends, I acknowledge that to most of you, this truth seems to go against the grain of everything you think you believe and everything you think we've been taught. But it is, on reflection, perfectly in keeping with what we learned. Politics, as noted, is always particular: we learn that from observation and confirm it through theoretical investigation. Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon (and so many others) are, not surprisingly, wiser than the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Machiavelli and Montesquieu (and so many others) further teach us that differing histories, laws, religions, habits, and even climates differentiate the peoples of the world in ways that are not so easy to change—and accustom to liberty some better than others. Our Founders and Lincoln recognized, and warned about, this fact as well. The "abstract truth" of equality is "applicable to all men and all times," but often in an abstract way. Equality means that we may not rule another without his consent. It does not mean that you can take anyone from anywhere and make him, overnight, a good American simply on the basis of his natural right not to be ruled without his consent.
Limited Government—If You Can Keep It
Yuval Levin, in his contribution to the National Review symposium, says that "we need limited government." Not quite. Limited government is not a need but an aspiration that in rare cases becomes an achievement which is experienced as a blessing. It is but one form—a modern form—of republicanism, which is the superior form of government for a people fit for liberty, which not all peoples in all times and places are. Limited government is therefore, in practice, of limited application. The ceaseless importation of people unaccustomed to liberty, coupled with the continued hollowing out of the American middle class, makes the American people less fit for liberty every day.
It would have been more precise for Levin to say that he "wants" limited government—I do, too!—but one must wonder if he understands the El Niño scale of the currents tugging this hope out to sea. A limited government is one whose powers are limited to securing the rights, plus the moral and material conditions necessary to the exercise of those rights, of its own people. That job is plenty hard enough for even the best government with the best people. The more tasks government assigns to itself, and the more incompatible people it takes in, the less limited it will become, until it is perforce unlimited. If so-called "conservatives" cannot understand that mass Third World immigration poses an existential threat not merely to the limited government they profess to cherish, but to the nation that limited government is supposed to conserve, then they have no right to that name. For the one thing American conservatism has most definitely not conserved, in the face of unrelenting onslaught, is the American nation.
Some will no doubt object to this characterization and point to a policy paper or editorial that questions the wisdom of the visa lottery or the carried interest loophole. Fine, let us stipulate to that. You're agin' it! Though it's only fair to note that this newfound conviction has the appearance of a deathbed conversion. Trump's success with the immigration issue has terrified much of the right into switching sides while pretending they were with him all along. Fairness also requires acknowledging that the paleos figured all this out 25 years ago, if not before, and tried to warn us. Instead they watched as "conservatives" who proselytized for open borders were showered with honors while their own careers ebbed away or were actively sabotaged. The paleos can be forgiven for feeling that these born-again immigration hawks owe them an apology. But if it's just too hard to say "I'm sorry I used to denounce you for a view that I now claim to hold," the new converts could at least strive for greater intellectual integrity than the Communists who condemned, praised, and then again condemned fascism—all within less than two years.
Even if one accepts that this conservative Great Awakening is genuine, one must still ask: what has conservatism accomplished in the way of slowing or stopping mass immigration or any other policies that favor foreign and elite interests over American—and especially those of the American middle class? And what is this same bunch likely to achieve if we allow them to remain our leaders? One can concede that conservatives occasionally write against these things, but judging by what economists call "revealed preference," one senses that their hearts aren't really in it. One observes very little conservative agitation against the great erosionary trends of our time but rather complacency coupled with a hair-trigger quickness to denounce as "nativist," "xenophobic," and the small-t trump card, "racist" anyone to their right who writes about immigration in the wrong way. For there is a right way and wrong way. The right way is either to support open borders or to gingerly check the box of having voiced some mild reservations while indicating that you're against "illegal"—but all for "legal"—immigration, are "not a racist" or an "Islamophobe," that building a wall is impossible and won't work, that the topic is really of interest only to obsessive loons, and that there are much more important things to worry about anyway, such as the capital gains tax or Medicare reform. The wrong way is to be opposed in earnest, to point out in detail and specificity immigration's costs and drawbacks, and to try to do something about it.
That alone explains most of the conservative anger at Trump. His position paper on immigration is wholly sound, as are most of his statements. Though it's probably impossible to force Mexico to pay for a wall and in any case unnecessary. Most Americans would gladly fund it ourselves anyway. What's a few more billion added to the national debt? Well spent if it helps preserve the nation. Trump may also have gone too far in his call to ban entry to all Muslims for an indefinite period, except for accredited diplomats. Really? Even business travelers from Dubai? The real issue is permanent resettlement, not travel—assuming a Trump administration would resume enforcing visa law. As is by now completely obvious to all but blinkered ideologues, Islam and the modern West are incompatible. That may not be a permanent fact, but it holds true for now and for the foreseeable future. If it's ever to change, change will have to come from within Islam. As the experience of Europe has decisively shown, we in the West don't have the power to change Muslims. But the reverse is true: when we welcome them en masse into our countries, they change us—and not for the better.
Only an insane society, or one desperate to prove its fidelity to some chimerical "virtue," would have increased Muslim immigration after the September 11th attacks. Yet that is exactly what the United States did. Trump has, for the first time, finally forced the questions: Why? And can we stop now? Yes, of course, not all Muslims are terrorists, blah, blah, blah, etc. Even so, what good has Muslim immigration done for the United States and the American people? If we truly needed more labor—a claim that is manifestly false—what made it necessary to import any of that labor from the Muslim world? From a region and a faith that is at best ambivalent about the societies that welcome them and at worst murderously hostile? This question has, until now, been ruled wholly out of bounds—illegitimate even to raise. Immigration to the United States—by Muslims or anyone else—is presented as a civil right for foreigners: the burden is forced on Americans to prove that Muhammed is a terrorist or Jose is a criminal, and if we can't, we must let them in. Trump alone among major political figures has stood up to say this is nonsense.
But does Trump believe in, or will he enact, any of the policies he's promoted? He has given reasons to doubt. His statements on this, his signature issue, are inconsistent. Should he manage to get elected and not move forward aggressively to control immigration, his support will evaporate more quickly than a raindrop in the hot sun. It's not clear that Trump understands this. Also unclear is how he will build a governing party that can take over the executive branch to implement, and enforce, his vision. But all these are just more reasons why Trumpism is too important to be left to Trump.
It's Not "the Economy," Stupid
Let us turn to the two other core pillars of Trumpism: economics and foreign policy. These again are areas where the conservative establishment and the Republican Party have spectacularly failed their supporters and voters.
Regarding the former, orthodox conservatism holds there is but one correct doctrine: the free market über alles! If that means offshoring the last job from the last factory on America soil so that productivity can tick up, and the CPI down, one-tenth of one basis point, then so be it. The numbers never lie and their movement in the "right" direction proves that outsourcing is the right thing to do and all the laid off workers back home are just losers or whiners. Winners go back to school and upgrade their skills.
Plato and Aristotle teach that in a healthy political community, the richest citizen ought to have no more than five times the property of the poorest. Perhaps that formula is inapt to a modern commercial republic. And without question, the Aristotelian virtue of magnificence—through which accumulated wealth has created so much beauty and splendor in the world—depends on great fortunes. But is it necessary—or healthy—for our richest citizen to hold literally one million times the wealth, not of our poorest citizen, but of the median income? A fortune he is spending, I need hardly add, not on magnificent bequeaths to his own country or civilization, but on social engineering the Third World. Even if this disparity were morally and politically defensible, is there any sane reason to favor policies that widen it—both by pushing the incomes of the lowest down, and those of the richest up? Conservative politicians and intellectuals alike have helped create, and continue to help maintain, a new class of tax-exempt aristocrats, well beyond ducally rich, who are not loyal to the American people, American interests, or America itself. Perversely, yet fittingly, the more conservatives have bent over backwards to kiss the arse of this class, the more its members and the big businesses they run have turned left to openly despise and mock conservatism and conservatives. Seeing conservatives court billionaires—which I have had occasion to do dozens, if not hundreds, of times—is like watching dorks tell cheerleaders how pretty they are: the more their lips move, the more the girls' mouths pucker in contempt.
National Review—and many others on the econo-right—are deeply outraged that Trump came out for ethanol. But why? The policy may be economically indefensible, but far less defensible is conservatism's fetishization of "the economy" as the highest good. To paraphrase James Carville's famous 1992 self-rebuke, what's "the economy" for, stupid? Is it to produce pretty numbers in Labor Department and Heritage Foundation reports? Or is it to serve human welfare? More specifically, what is the American economy for? Is it to raise standards of living for the Third World poor while enriching transnational billionaires at the expense of the American middle and working classes? Or to serve the interests of the American people?
Ethanol is but one case in point. The policy is, as noted, economically illiterate. It violates every tenet of the Austrian and Chicago SchooIs. It's a subsidy, pure and simple, to a special and sectional interest, in this case corn farmers. But that subsidy is both an economic and a political act, and more fundamentally the latter than the former. It's a way of transferring wealth to, and thus conserving a people (middle American farmers) and an endeavor (farming) that we, the American people in toto, find important. To Davos Man and the economy-fetishizing "conservative" intellectual, farming is considered irrelevant to a developed market and we can always import food more cheaply from somewhere else. Comparative advantage! By all means, let's attack and alienate American corn farmers in order to save a buck or two and prove our conservative bona fides! To those with a better grounding in political fundamentals, farming is understood to be the backbone of any political community and helping one's fellow citizens takes precedence over trimming the price of an ear corn by ten cents. If and when the whole rotten system that conservatism helped the Davos class to build (and still helps prop up) finally collapses, we are going to need those corn farmers and their corn and perhaps then the intellectuals will see that the subsidy served some purpose after all. In his contribution to the National Review symposium, William Kristol quotes Leo Strauss's letter to Willmoore Kendall on Israel (which, I note in passing, the late Lawrence Auster once cited approvingly as evidence that Strauss was far from the utopian "naïvecon" his enemies on the right made him out to be), to accuse Trump of vulgarity. But elsewhere in that same letter, Strauss defends Israel against conservative complaints that "Israel is run by labor unions": "a conservative, I take it, is a man who knows that the same arrangement may have very different meanings in different circumstances."
Even if this argument is wrong—that is, the argument about some higher purpose for the ethanol subsidy; the point about paying slightly more for vegetables in order to help one's fellow countrymen stands either way—even if the higher argument is wrong, it is still absolutely true that inequality has been rising since the beginning of the Wall Street boom in 1982; that real wages have stagnated or even fallen for everyone below the blue city financial, technological and managerial classes; that finance—once a vital service to the real economy that makes things and enriches human lives—has morphed into "the economy's" summum bonum; and that the Republican-conservative response has been and remains to invoke Hayek and call for tax cuts, deregulation, freer trade and "enterprise zones." This is not merely an electoral death-wish; it's also morally obtuse.
Tariffs, Trade—Why Not Both?
It's ironic that it took a dissident billionaire to wake us up to the fact that America has decayed into an oligarchy. It's probably also not incidental that Trump's wealth is tied to the soil—American soil—rather than derived from the eminently exploitable vagaries of international finance. Yet Trump's actual program is, to put it mildly, scattershot. He simultaneously calls for massive tax cuts and massive tariffs (and then denies both in the next breath). Personally, I concede up front that I don't know the answer. But I know that the debate will have to change, fundamentally, and that old taboos will need to be transgressed.
What, for instance, is so sacred about free trade? And what so evil about tariffs? Tariffs were the central pillar of Lincoln's economic policy, and of the Republican dynasty that industrialized the nation in the generation after the Civil War. Maybe they are the wrong answer for our times. But can we at least talk about it? Not under the terms of the debate today. Even raising the question will get you sneeringly mocked as an ignoramus.
But how about replacing rigid ideology with Aristotelian prudence? Trade policy, like all economic policy, should serve American interests, not "the economy." When and where free trade serves American interests, let's trade freely. When it doesn't, let's try something else. Maybe even sometimes a combination of the two. Ronald Reagan required Japanese auto makers to build plants on American soil, and thus hire American workers and pay American taxes, as a price of admission to our market. For this heresy against free trade, will National Review expel him from the conservative pantheon?
The argument that consumer prices will rise, and this alone is reason enough to keep trade as open as possible, falls flat in and of itself. Time and again, people have proven themselves willing to pay more for certain goods. How many reading this live in the cheapest home in the cheapest neighborhood they could, so long as their minimal rent pays for a door, four walls, a Pullman kitchen, Murphy bed and a bathroom? Are the same people willing to pay higher prices for their homes eager to despoil their fellow citizens and sacrifice their country in exchange for lower prices on their iPhones? Maybe. But can't we ask them?
To repeat: I don't know that protectionism is the answer. I don't know what the answer is. I'm pretty sure it isn't economic and tax policy that treats hedge fund managers as the republic's only indispensable men. And I know that not only are we currently asking the wrong questions, we're not asking any questions at all. Conservative economic doctrine is every bit as rigid as campus P.C. dogma, and apostasy punished every bit as swiftly and mercilessly. It's well past time to overthrow the enforcers.
Neither "Naïvecon" nor Paelo-Isolationist
On foreign policy, Trump is superior to the naïvecons in that he understands the difficulty—one might even say impossibility—of American power (hard and soft) to transform backward, alien, non-Western, non-democratic societies into paragons of Americanism, and also grasps the America people's complete disgust and exhaustion with such futile efforts. In keeping with our national creed, let us have no wish to rule the peoples of other nations without their consent—and also feel no obligation to drag, pressure, cajole, force or "help" such nations achieve what we insist is the only just form of government. Ours may well be the only just form of government, or the only one that gets the foundation right. But the ancients also teach us that all actual governments fall short of perfect justice in some way, that rectifying this is one iota shy of impossible, and that attempts to do so tend to backfire spectacularly. The flaws and injustices of other nations are not ours to redress, even if we could—which recent experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere conclusively shows that we can't.
Trump is also superior to the paleos, defeatists and isolationists in that he recognizes that America still faces dangerous enemies and is willing to use American power to defend American interests. Moreover, as a commercial republic, America's interests do not end at our borders. The nature and purpose of our alliance structure and global responsibilities are widely misunderstood by paleos and neo-isolationists, whose hearts may be in the right place—waste no more American blood and treasure in futile, grandiose adventures—but who equate every movement of the American military beyond American soil as such an adventure.
It is true that America was able to become a great economic power in the three-quarters of a century between the Civil War and World War II without fielding a large military. But that's because the Royal Navy did the necessary work of keeping the sea lanes open, maintaining a balance of power favorable to Western interests, and deterring—and when necessary policing—the most menacing challengers to this pro-Western order. The United States took up this mantle because in 1945 our statesmen judged we had to, not because they wanted to. Perhaps our overseas posture is more fit for that time that our own and is now too extensive for current needs. Perhaps if the American economy were to retrench away from a near total reliance on foreign trade and finance and toward more domestic production, savings and investment, that posture could be scaled back while still protecting our commercial interests. By all means, let's have that debate. But the only way it will be productive is if the "scale back" side does not insist that the conversation begin from the knee-jerk stridency of the Pauls, pere et fis.
Chapter 11 for Conservatism, Inc.?
This is hardly an exhaustive platform, much less a fully-formed political philosophy, to fulfill and supersede a Trumpism that remains inchoate and incomplete. These remarks will have served their purpose if they provide an initial foundation for a detailed exploration of what Trumpism could and should be.
That work won't be easy and there will be resistance. The leading lights of what Paul Gottfried has termed "Conservatism, Inc." know that Trump and Trumpism represent existential threats to their relevance and livelihoods. That's why they're working to crush both with a fervor they've not been able to muster against any enemy, foreign or domestic, since the demise of the Soviet Union.
When one turns from conservative intellectuals to Republican politicians, one observes a situation disastrously worse. The digits of one hand suffice to count all of the truly committed defenders of American sovereignty, liberty, and nationhood in Congress or running for president. The rest are bystanders or cowards or Quislings. "Conservative" hero ("nobody's better on entitlements!") Paul Ryan—when not caving to every line item on the Obama wish list and lecturing the right wing of his party that their resistance is disloyal and paranoid—spends his time conspiring once again to sneak through "comprehensive immigration reform" in the teeth of stern opposition from his party's voters.
To the Republicans I can say only this: your dogged adherence to the Davos agenda is suicidal lunacy. I understand how necessary it appears to you in the short term, as you vacuum up cash to ensure reelection. But one does not need a PhD in math to understand that importing millions upon millions who vote for you at best 60-40 against—and in nearly every case at far lower levels than that—while sticking it to your actual voters over and over in obeisance to your donors, amounts to a guarantee of eventual demographic and electoral irrelevance. Thus, to the charge that Trump will destroy the Republican Party, one can only laugh and note that he hardly need bother, as the Republicans are doing a fine job of that themselves. David Frum distilled Trump's message into one tart phrase: "We are governed by idiots." That's only half right: the Democrats know what they're doing and know that it serves their interests.
Still, the pol-egghead axis may yet stop Trump in his tracks. Conservatism, Inc. certainly looks forward to refreezing the hands of the ideological clock to November 1980 and refighting that election for the tenth time (and losing it for the sixth, and third in a row).
But Trumpism will go forward with or without Trump. If conservatism and the Republican Party can't be convinced to come along for the ride, then they must be forced to accept for themselves the "creative destruction" they claim to favor for the economy. Poetic justice for those who consider Trump beyond the pale because of his business bankruptcies.
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President Donald Trump is not fighting a war on the establishment: he's fighting a war to protect the establishment from itself, and the rest of us.
At first glance, this isn't obvious. Among his first actions upon taking office, Trump vetoed the Trans Pacific Partnership, the controversial free trade agreement which critics rightly said would lead to US job losses while giving transnational corporations massive power over national state policies on health, education and other issues.
Trump further plans to ditch the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and US, which would have diluted key state regulations on the activities of transnational corporates on issues like food safety, the environment and banking; and to renegotiate NAFTA, potentially heightening tensions with Canada.
Trump appears to be in conflict with the bulk of the US intelligence community, and is actively seeking to restructure the government to minimize checks and balances, and thus consolidate his executive power.
His White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has restructured the National Security Council, granting himself and Trump's Chief of Staff Richard 'Reince' Priebus permanent seats on the NSC's Principals' Committee – opening the door to the White House politicization of the government's highest national security body.
Trump's White House has purged almost the entire senior staff of the State Department, and tested the loyalty of the Department of Homeland Security with its new 'Muslim ban' order.
So what is going on? One approach to framing the Trump movement comes from Jordan Greenhall, who sees it as a conservative ("Red Religion") Insurgency against the liberal ("Blue Church") Globalist establishment (the "Deep State"). Greenhall suggests, essentially, that Trump is leading a nationalist coup against corporate neoliberal globalization using new tactics of "collective intelligence" by which to outsmart and outspeed his liberal establishment opponents.
But at best this is an extremely partial picture.
In reality, Trump has ushered in something far more dangerous:
The Trump regime is not operating outside the Deep State, but mobilizing elements within it to dominate and strengthen it for a new mission.
The Trump regime is not acting to overturn the establishment, but to consolidate it against a perceived crisis of a wider transnational Deep System.
The Trump regime is not a conservative insurgency against the liberal establishment, but an act of ideologically constructing the current crisis as a conservative-liberal battleground, led by a particularly radicalized white nationalist faction of a global elite.
The act is a direct product of a global systemic crisis, but is a short-sighted and ill-conceived reaction, pre-occupied with surface symptoms of that crisis. Unfortunately, those hoping to resist the Trump reaction also fail to understand the system dynamics of the crisis.
All this can only be understood when we look at the big picture. That means the following: we must look a little more closely at the individuals inside Trump's administration, the wider social and institutional networks they represent, and what emerges from their being interlocked in government; we must contextualize this against two factors, the escalation of global systemic crisis, and the Trump regime's ideological framing(s) of that crisis (both for themselves, and for public consumption); we must connect this with the impact on the transnational Deep System, and how that links up with the US Deep State; and we must then explore what this all means in terms of the scope of actions likely to be deployed by the Trump regime to pursue its discernable goals.
This investigation will help to establish a ground state for anyone on which to build a meaningful strategy of response that accounts for the full systemic complexity of our Trumpian moment.
So the first step to diagnosing our Trumpian moment is to see who is leading it. We'll begin by looking at a cross-section of some of Trump's most prominent nominations and appointments.
1.The Trump regime
If all Trump's appointees are confirmed, his administration will be among the most business-heavy, corporate-friendly governments in American history.
Five of the 15 people nominated by Trump as Cabinet secretaries have no public sector experience, and have spent their entire careers in the corporate sector. "That would be more business people with no public-sector experience than have ever served in the Cabinet at any one time,", concludes Pew Research Center.
Betsy DeVos has been nominated for Education Secretary. She's a billionaire married to the Amway conglomerate.
Andrew Puzder has been nominated as Labor Secretary. He's a billionaire CEO of fastfood chain owner CKE Restaurants.
Trump's nominee for Commerce Secretary is Wall Street veteran Wilbur Ross. He's a billionaire financier who invests in buying and selling companies in distressed industries, and who made his early fortune as a fund manager at the Rothschild Group.
Steven Mnuchin, Trump's Treasury Secretary, is a former partner at the global investment bank Goldman Sachs, a hedge fund manager and, until his nomination, a board member of the Fortune 500 financial holding company, CIT Group. He's also a member of the Yale University secret society, Skull and Bones.
Vincent Viola is Trump's nominee for Army Secretary. He's a billionaire, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), and current chairman of Virtu Financial, a high-frequency trading firm.
Linda McMahon is Trump's Small Business Administrator. She's a co-founder and former CEO of WWE, which is now valued at around $1.5 billion, and married to billionaire WWE promoter Vincent McMahon.
Gary Cohn is Trump's chief economic advisor and Director of the White House National Economic Council. He just left his previous post as president and chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs for the job.
Anthony Scaramucci has served as a senior advisor to Trump on the executive committee of the Presidential Transition Team. Previously he was founding co-managing partner of global investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Like Steve Bannon, he also began his career at Goldman Sachs.
Walter 'Jay' Clayton is Trump's nominee for the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the financial industry's top regulatory watchdog. Yet Clayton himself is a Wall Street lawyer who has worked on deals for major banks, such as Barclays Capital's acquisition of Lehman Brothers' assets, the sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan Chase, and the US Treasury's capital investment in Goldman Sachs. In the same capacity, he has campaigned to reduce restrictions on foreign public companies, and sought lax enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. His wife, Gretchen Butler, works for Goldman Sachs as a private wealth advisor.
Trump's crack team of money monsters is clearly not planning on acting in the interests of American workers — they will instead do what they know best: use the considerable power of the American state to break down as many regulatory constraints on global banking finance as possible, with a special view to privilege US banks and corporations.
Fossil Fuel Freaks
Trump's administration has not just been bought by Wall Street. It's been bought by the oil, gas and coal industries.
Rex Tillerson is Trump's Secretary of State, and former chairman and CEO of giant oil and gas conglomerate ExxonMobil. As the world's largest oil major of all, ExxonMobil is the de facto king of fossil fuel interests. Tillerson has close business ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and has previously headed up the joint US-Russian oil company Exxon Neftegas.
Tillerson is a friend of Igor Sechin, who heads up the military security services faction of the Kremlin known as 'Siloviki'. ExxonMobil also had intimate ties with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates under Tillerson. In any case, Trump has richly rewarded Tillerson for services rendered — 91% of the $1.8 million donated to federal candidates by ExxonMobil's PAC under Tillerson for this election cycle, went to Republicans.
It's well-known that ExxonMobil has funded climate denialism to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. What's less well-known is that in the 1970s, ExxonMobil's own scientific research fully validated the scientific reality of climate change. Yet company executives made a self-serving business-decision to suppress these findings, and fund efforts to discredit climate science.
Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, is Trump's Secretary of Energy. Perry holds board directorships at Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, which jointly developed the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, Kelcy Warren, donated $5 million to a super-PAC supportive of Perry. More generally, his two presidential campaigns received over $2.6 million from the oil and gas industry.
Scott Pruitt, former Attorney General in Oklahoma, is the new head of the Environment Protection Agency. Pruitt has a track record of launching federal lawsuits to weaken and overturn EPA regulations not just on carbon emissions, but on all sorts of basic environmental rules on air and water pollution. The New York Timesreports that he and other Republican attorneys general have forged an "unprecedented, secretive alliance" with the oil industry.
Congressman Ryan Zinke is Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Interior. During Senate confirmation hearings, he refused to admit the accuracy of the scientific consensus on human activity being the dominant cause of climate change. Zinke has supported clean energy measures in the past, but in May 2016, he sponsored a bill for a time limit on Obama's moratorium on federal coal leasing. He routinely voted against environmental protection measures, supporting fossil fuel use, seeking to minimize public and state involvement in managing public lands, while opposing protections for endangered species.
Zinke's philosophy is basically 'drill, baby, drill'. That's why he's taken over $300,000 in campaign donations from oil and gas companies that want to accelerate drilling across public lands.
Mike Catanzaro is Trump's nominee for Special Assistant for Energy and the Environment. He is also a climate-denying lobbyist for the oil and gas industry, working for Koch Industries, America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Halliburton, Noble Energy, Hess Corporation, and many others. Early on in his career, he was Deputy Policy Director of the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.
The fossil fuel freaks want to burn all the oil, gas and coal they can, at any cost — and they are willing to dismantle whatever environmental protections stand in their way.
Black Ops Brigade
It would be mistaken to assume that Trump's conflicts with the US intelligence community mean he is necessarily at odds with the military-industrial complex. On the contrary, his defense appointees and advisors are embedded across the military-industrial complex. Trump's education secretary, DeVos, is the sister of Erik Prince, the notorious founder of disgraced private security firm Blackwater, now known as Academi, which was outed for slaughtering 17 Iraqi civilians.
A source in Trump's transition team confirms that Erik Prince has advised Trump's team on intelligence and security issues. Prince now runs another security firm, Frontier Services Group. He supports Trump's proposal for the US military to grab Iraq's oil and recommends the escalated deployment of private defense contractors across the Middle East and North Africa, such as in Libya, to crackdown on refugees.
General 'Mad Dog' James Mattis is Trump's Secretary of Defense. He was also, until his resignation due to his political appointment, on the board of directors of General Dynamics, the fifth largest private defense contractor in the world. Mattis is also on the board of Theranos, a biotechnology company known for its questionable automated fingerstick blood test technology.
Lieutenant-General Mike Flynn was Trump's National Security Advisor until his resignation on February 13 over his ties to Russia. He is a former head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under Obama, and a longstanding military intelligence and special operations insider. Previously, he was director of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command; director of intelligence for the US Central Command; commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; chair of the Military Intelligence Board; and Assistant Director of National Intelligence. Flynn also runs Flynn Intel Group, a private intelligence consulting firm.
Flynn has just co-authored a book with Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies. Ledeen is a leading neoconservative defense consultant and former Reagan administration appointee who was involved in the Iran–Contra affair as a consultant of then US National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane. Currently a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), he was a staunch advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (he was directly involved with the Yellowcake forgeries attempting to fabricate a weapons of mass destruction threat to justify the war) and has campaigned for military interventions in Syria, Iran and beyond. Ledeen's aggressive foreign policy vision was deeply influential in the formation of the Bush administration's foreign policy strategy.
It's worth noting how low Ledeen stoops with his political philosophy. In his 2000 book, Tocqueville on American Character, Ledeen argues that in some situations, "[i]n order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to 'enter into evil.'" (p. 90) He even argues that this is sanctioned by the Christian God: "Since it is the highest good, the defense of the country is one of those extreme situations in which a leader is justified in committing evil." (p. 117)
That sort of thinking has led him to endorse the 'cauldronization' of the Middle East. In 2002, he wrote in support of invading Iraq that: "One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today."
General John F. Kelly is Trump's Secretary of Homeland Security. He is a retired United States Marine Corps general who previously served under Obama as commander of the US Southern Command, responsible for American military operations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Before that Kelly was the commanding general of the Multi-National Force-West in Iraq, and the commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North. Kelly is also a vice chairman at the Spectrum Group, a defense contractor lobbying firm; and on the board of directors of two other private Pentagon contractors, Michael Baker International and Sallyport Global.
James Woolsey, the former CIA director and neoconservative stalwart — a former Vice President at NSA-contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and among Michael Ledeen's bosses at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies — was an early Trump supporter, and a senior advisor to Trump on his transition team. He dropped out over reservations with Trump's plans to restructure the intelligence community.
Lieutenant General Joseph Keith Kellogg is Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of Trump's White House National Security Council – but has replaced Flynn as acting National Security Advisor. Kellogg was the US military's top information technology official during the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He went on to become chief operating officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, the mechanism for the US occupation of Iraq, from November 2003 to March 2004 — the period widely recognized as being particularly corrupt and inept.
In between, Kellogg had joined the board of directors of US government IT contractor, GTSI Corp, where he returned as an independent director after his Iraq stint from 2004 until 2013 — when the firm changed its name to 'UNICOM Government Inc.' in an attempt to distance itself from earlier revelations of misconduct.
Kellogg later joined the Advisory Board of US defense contractor Raytheon's Trusted Computer Solutions Inc., and the Strategic Advisory Board of RedXDefence, a US military contractor part-owned by Regina Dugan, former director of the Pentagon's Defense and Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
In 2012, Wired magazine outed RedXDefense for creating completely rubbish bomb detection technology under a multi-million dollar DARPA contract during Dugan's tenure. Despite its flaws, the tech was purchased widely by the US military, and numerous allied militaries around the world.
Mike Pompeo is the icing on the cake. As Trump's CIA director, this Republican Congressman has no obvious experience relevant to running a national intelligence agency, except perhaps for one thing: as Jane Mayer writes in her book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (Doubleday 2015), Pompeo is "so closely entwined with the climate-change denying Koch brothers that he was known as the 'congressman from Koch.'"
The Koch brothers, who made their fortune investing in fossil fuels, now have a direct line to America's premiere national intelligence agency. Now that's what you call a coup.
Ku Klux Klan
Virulent white nationalism is another fundamental defining feature of the Trump regime.
Steve Bannon was founding executive chair of Breitbart News, "the platform of the alt-right" according to Bannon himself. Breitbart is widely known for its publication of "racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material." Bannon himself is also a prolific film producer, and has made or contributed to a range of xenophobic films.
Before his rise to media mogul status, though, Bannon spent a brief time as acting director of the Biosphere 2 experiment, an effort to create a self-sufficient 'closed system' environment survivable by a small group of people from 1993 to 1995. At the time, Bannon appeared to share and strongly support the concerns of the Biosphere 2 scientists about the danger of climate change driven by, in his own words, "the effect of greenhouse gases on humans, plants and animals." He later underwent an Exxon-like about-turn, illustrated by Breitbart's rampant opposition to the idea that the burning of fossil fuels by human civilization is intensifying climate change.
In 2007, Bannon produced a proposal for a new documentary, 'Destroying the Great Satan: The Rise of Islamic Facism [sic] in America', which accused various media outlets, "Universities and the Left", the "American Jewish Community", the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, and the White House as being "enablers" of a covert mission to establish an "Islamic Republic in the United States."
Bannon consulted on the proposal with Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. In 2015, Emerson was described as a "complete idiot" by then Prime Minister David Cameron for claiming falsely on Fox News that Britain is full of Muslim "no go zones" (like the entire city of Birmingham), and that London is run amok by Muslim religious police who beat and wound people who refuse to dress according to a Muslim dress code.
Bannon's list of interviewees for the proposed film is like a Who's Who of far-right bigotry. Two of the most well known names included Walid Phares, who advised Trump on his national security team during the presidential campaign, and Robert Spencer. Both are connected to the Washington DC-based Center for Security Policy (CSP), a far-right think tank run by former Reagan defense official Frank Gaffney, where they appear regularly as guests on CSP's 'Secure Freedom' radio podcast run by Gaffney. Phares is also a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy.
Frank Gaffney's CSP commissioned the original flawed opinion poll that was cited by Trump to justify his 'Muslim ban' when he first announced it in late 2015. So it's clearly no coincidence that Kellyanne Conway, the pollster who carried out the flawed poll, is now Counselor to the President.
Gaffney thus has a significant degree of ideological influence on the Trump regime. He has appeared at least 34 times on Bannon's Breitbart radio program. His work has also been cited in speeches by Michael Flynn, Trump's national security advisor.
Alarmingly, Gaffney has disturbing connections to full-blown neo-Nazi groups across Europe, such as the Danish People's Party (DPP) and the Vlaams Belang (VB) in Belgium.
But he simultaneously has close ties to the US military-industrial complex. In 2013, CSP tax records showed that the CSP had received funding from six of America's biggest aerospace and defense contractors, namely Boeing ($25,000); General Dynamics ($15,000); Lockheed Martin ($15,000); Northrup Grumman ($5,000); Raytheon ($20,000); and General Electric ($5,000). The CSP has a particularly close relationship with Boeing, the second largest defense contractor in the world, which still provides Gaffney's group with "general support."
Michael Reilly, who has been Director of Federal Budget and Program Analysis at Boeing since 2010, was previously Gaffney's Vice President for Operations at the CSP.
These incestuous ties with the US private defense sector comprise one prime reason that fully 22 officers or advisors of Gaffney's CSP ended up having appointments in the George W. Bush administration.
Senator Jeff Sessions is Trump's Attorney General. Gaffney's CSP awarded Sessions the annual 'Keeper of the Flame' award in 2015. Sessions has previously expressed sympathies for the Ku Klux Klan. He has closely associated with far-right anti-immigrant organizations founded by John Tanton, a driving force in America's white nationalist movements. In 1993, Tanton declared: "… for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." Yet Trump's new Attorney General is known for frequently quoting from Tanton's groups, showing up at their press conferences, and has even received recognition and campaign contributions from them.
The John Tanton connection opens up a can of worms. Kellyanne Conway, Trump's Counsellor, is also connected to Tanton. Her polling firm was previously contracted by Tanton's anti-immigration platform Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Numerous other officials involved in the Trump team — Lou Barletta, Kris Kobach and Julie Kirchner — have direct organizational ties to Tanton's FAIR.
But this connects senior Trump officials to a grim history of neo-Nazi agitation in the US. Tanton received large sums of early money for FAIR from the Pioneer Fund, a pro-Nazi grant-giving organization which funded eugenics — the discredited 'science' of 'racial hygiene'. Tanton's various anti-immigrant platforms received money from the Pioneer Fund as late as 2002. According to a study in the Albany Law Review, the Pioneer Fund had direct ties to Nazi scientists, and its founding directors were Nazi sympathizers. One of them had even travelled to Germany in 1935 to attend a Nazi population conference.
Stephen Miller is a senior policy advisor to Trump. He previously worked as communications director for Jeff Sessions in his senator's office, and crafted the strategy to defeat a bipartisan immigration reform bill in 2013. During his university days, he worked closely with the neo-Nazi leader Richard Spencer, who coined the term "alternative Right" as a new way of capturing a movement about white racial identity.
Miller denies having worked closely with Spencer when they were at university together as members of the Duke Conservative Union. According to Spencer, Miller helped him with fundraising and promotion for an on-campus debate on immigration policy in 2007. The event featured Peter Brimelow, who runs the white nationalist website Vdare.com, which regularly publishes articles by neo-Nazis. Miller's relationship with Spencer at this time has been confirmed by email correspondence between Spencer and Brimelow.
It's perhaps worth noting that the inspiration for Tanton's neo-Nazi sympathies were, ostensibly, environmental concerns. In a recent article he admits, "my initial interest in curtailing immigration was motivated by a longstanding concern for the environment."
From 1971 to 1975, Tanton was chair of the National Population Committee of one of America's oldest environmental organizations, the Sierra Club. His theory was that immigration drives unsustainable population growth, which then drains resources and harms the environment. The environmental crisis, from Tanton's point of view, is a population problem — specifically, a problem of too many people. Part of dealing with that means cracking down on immigration — this, ironically, in a nation founded on immigration.
This insidious proto-Nazi ideology now appears to have an operating influence on the White House through Tanton's ideological surrogates, many of whom are connected to Gaffney and his acolytes in the Trump regime.
The unifying ideology that lends coherence to these intersecting networks of influence comes from a variety of people, but the following stand out in particular.
Michael Anton is a little-known but powerful figure in the Trump administration, now a senior director of strategic communications in the White House National Security Council. He launched his career as a speechwriter and press secretary for New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, before joining Bush's White House in 2001 as a communications aide for the National Security Council. He went on to become a speechwriter for media mogul Rupert Murdoch at News Corp, then moved into the financial sector, firstly as director of communications for Citigroup, then as a managing director at the BlackRock investment firm.
Anton has played a major role in attempting to cajole and convince conservatives, through various anonymous writings in conservative publications and behind-the-scenes networking, of the necessity of voting Trump to head off the crisis of conservative decline amidst the apocalyptic failures of liberalism.
Rupert Murdoch has a direct line to the Trump White House through Michael Anton, but it's one the News Corp owner has gone to pains to build personally. Murdoch and his wife Jerry Hall were hosted for dinner by Trump at his golf course in Scotland in June 2016. Later Murdoch was seen visiting Trump Tower in November 2016. Murdoch is set to have significant influence on Trump, who reportedly asked the Fox News owner to recommend his top preferred candidates to chair the Federal Communications Commission.
The Murdoch connection has other alarming ramifications. Since 2010, Murdoch has been an equity-holding board member of the American energy firm, Genie Oil & Gas. He had teamed up with Lord Jacob Rothschild, chairman of Rothschild Investment Trust (RIT) Capital Partners, to buy a 5.5% stake in the corporation then worth $11 million.
Murdoch and Rothschild also serve on Genie's strategic advisory board. Joining them on the board are Larry Summers, former Director of President Obama's National Economic Council; former Trump senior advisor James Woolsey; Dick Cheney, former Vice-President under George W. Bush; and Bill Richardson, former Secretary of Energy under Clinton and Governor of New Mexico.
Genie Oil & Gas has two main subsidiaries. One of them, Afek Oil & Gas, operates in Israel and is currently drilling in the Golan Heights, which under international law is recognized as Syrian territory. The Golan was captured by Israel from Syria in 1967, and unilaterally annexed in 1981 with the introduction of Israeli law to the territory. The other Genie subsidiary, American Shale Oil, is a joint project with the French major Total SA, and operates in Colorado's Green River Formation.
On its website, the company offers an extraordinary declaration regarding its rationale for focusing on unconventional oil and gas resources:
"The peaking of world oil production presents the US and the world with an enormous challenge. Aggressive action must be taken to avoid unprecedented economic, social and political costs."
This may well reveal much about the crisis-perceptions of those who influence the Trump regime.
Trump's administration has been further augmented by a man with especially extensive ties to the US Deep State: Henry Kissinger.
Since December 2016, Kissinger, the notorious former Secretary of State convincingly accused of complicity in war crimes by the late Christopher Hitchens — who has played direct advisory roles in both the preceding Bush and Obama administrations — has become Trump's unofficial foreign policy guru. Kissinger was a secret national security consultant to President Bush, and under Obama was directly involved in the US National Security Council's chain-of-command.
He now appears to be intimately involved in the evolution of Trump's foreign policies toward China and Russia. His firm, Kissinger Associates, has for some years played a central role in easing the passage of numerous US corporations into lucrative Chinese investments.
Trump's peculiar brand of haphazard, unscripted and chaotic political announcements may well have endeared him to Kissinger, who has argued that "unpredictability" is a hallmark of the greatest statesmen. Such leaders act beyond the sort of "pre-vision of catastrophes" offered by established experts recommending caution, instead indulging in "perpetual creation, on a constant redefinition of goals." The greatest statesmen are able to both "maintain the perfection of order" and "to have the strength to contemplate chaos", where they can "find material for fresh creation."
Kissinger's critical role in developing Trump's eastward facing strategy was revealed by the German tabloid, Bild, which obtained a document from the Trump transition team. The document confirmed Kissinger's role as the key mastermind brought in to craft a way to rebuild relationships with Russia. Kissinger's plan would include lifting US economic sanctions — paving the way for a potentially lucrative partnership between American and Russian oil and gas companies — and recognizing Russia's ownership of the Crimea.
Kissinger's advice on China policy, however, is not yet fully known. Writing in the South China Morning Post, Pepe Escobar argues that Kissinger's record suggests Trump will deploy "a mix of 'balance of power' and 'divide and rule'. It will consist of seducing Russia away from its strategic partner China; keeping China constantly on a sort of red alert; and targeting Islamic State while continuing to harass Iran."
Kissinger's 'unofficial' advisory role in the Trump regime is solidified through the direct influence of one of his longtime acolytes.
K.T. McFarland, who is to work under Michael Flynn as Trump's Deputy National Security Adviser, was an aide to Henry Kissinger during the Nixon administration on the National Security Council from 1970 to 1976. In that capacity, she played a lead role in working on Kissinger's notorious and originally classified 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM200). The document advocated that population growth in poorer countries was the principal threat to US overseas security and other interests, especially by endangering US access to "mineral supplies".
Making America hate again
It appears that there are common themes among the different groupings that comprise the Trump regime. Among them are experiences and recognition of crisis: Rex Tillerson and Steve Bannon, for instance, come from backgrounds acknowledging the reality of the planetary ecological crisis.
Energy interests linked to Murdoch believe in an imminent social, economic and political crisis due to peak oil.
Most Trump teamsters see their task as saving the fossil fuel industries from crises external to them, and now all ostensibly tend to deny the gravity of the industry's environmental impacts.
All are worried about the profits of their friends in Wall Street.
A large number of Trump team associates have ties to John Tanton, whose proto-Nazi views are rooted in an eugenics-inspired belief that the environmental crisis is due to too many non-white people.
And now Trump's national security team draws on the parallel views of the old Nixon era Kissinger team concerning the threat of overpopulated poor countries undermining US access to the world's food, energy and raw materials resources — for which the solution could be to 'cauldronize' countries of strategic interest.
These crisis-perceptions, however, are not grounded in systemic insight: but are refracted through the narrow lenses of self-serving power. The crises are relevant only insofar that they represent a threat to their interests. But most importantly, their ensuing beliefs about how to respond to these crises end up being refracted through the ideological framework of the conservative-liberal polarity.
2. The Deep System
Perhaps the most powerful takeaway from this examination of who the Trump administration actually is, is that the Trump regime is not external to the Deep State. On the contrary, the people who hold senior posts in his administration, both formal and otherwise, are key nodes that represent whole layers of social and institutional networks within and across the wider US Deep State.
If this is not immediately obvious, it's because there is much misunderstanding of what the Deep State actually is. The Deep State is not simply 'the intelligence community'. When a more accurate understanding of the American Deep State and its symbiotic embeddedness in a transnational Deep System is adopted, the role of the Trump faction can be properly discerned.
Secret state, opaque system
In his book, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (University of California Press, 1996), Professor Peter Dale Scott coined the term deep politics to designate the study of criminal and extra-legal practices linked to the state. He defined a deep political system or process as one in which institutional and non-institutional bodies, criminal syndicates, politicians, judges, media, corporations and leading government employees, resort to "decision-making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those sanctioned by law and society. What makes these supplementary procedures 'deep' is the fact that they are covert or suppressed, outside public awareness as well as outside sanctioned political processes."
Deep political analysis is therefore concerned with revealing the tendency of the state to enter into activity outside of the state's own rule of law. From the viewpoint of conventional political science, law enforcement and the criminal underworld are opposed to each other, the former struggling to gain control of the latter. But as Scott observes:
"A deep political analysis notes that in practice these efforts at control lead to the use of criminal informants; and this practice, continued over a long period of time, turns informants into double agents with status within the police as well as the mob. The protection of informants and their crimes encourages favours, payoffs, and eventually systemic corruption. The phenomenon of 'organized crime' arises: entire criminal structures that come to be tolerated by the police because of their usefulness in informing on lesser criminals."
This can lead to a form of state-crime symbiosis, blurring the defining parameters of which side controls the other. From the outside, this appears as the emergence of an invisible "deep" dimension to state activities tying it to organized crime, when in reality what is happening is that the state is inherently porous: its "deep" invisible side connects it to all manner of private, extra-legal actors who often seek to operate outside or in breach of the law — or to influence or bend the law to serve their interests.
In his more recent opus, The American Deep State, (p. 14) Scott also acknowledges in this vein that the deep state "is not a structure but a system, as difficult to define, but also as real and powerful, as a weather system."
As I've shown in my paper published in the anthology, The Dual State (Routledge, 2016), one of the least understood features of deep politics, then, is that the "deep state" must inherently be inter-networked with a vast array of non-state and often transnational influencers across corporations, financial institutions, banks, and criminal enterprises.
The postwar global deep system
America's historic role as the principal shaper of global capitalism means that the globalization of capitalism enabled the emergence and expansion of a US-dominated transnational Deep System — within this global Deep System, a US-dominated transnational financial elite has become inherently entangled with criminal networks.
The expansion of global capitalism since 1945 was not an automated process. On the contrary, it was a deeply violent process led principally by the United States, Britain and Western Europe. Throughout, the CIA and Wall Street acted largely hand-in-hand. Globalization was tied directly to military interventions in over 70 developing nations designed to create the political conditions conducive to markets that would be 'open' to western capital penetration, and thus domination of local resources and labour. The logic of 'deep politics' required that much of this criminal political violence in foreign theatres be suppressed from public consciousness, or otherwise justified in different ways.
This was privately acknowledged by US State Department planners working in partnership at the time with the Council on Foreign Relations:
"If war aims are stated, which seem to be concerned solely with Anglo-American imperialism, they will offer little to people in the rest of the world… Such aims would also strengthen the most reactionary elements in the United States and the British Empire. The interests of other peoples should be stressed, not only those of Europe, but also of Asia, Africa and Latin America. This would have a better propaganda effect."
The number of people that died in the course of this forcible integration of former colonies across Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East into the orbit of an emerging US-UK dominated global economy, is astonishing.
In his book, Unpeople (2004), British historian Mark Curtis offers a detailed breakdown of the death toll at approximately 10 million — a conservative under-estimate, he qualifies. American economist Dr JW Smith, in his Economic Democracy (2005), argues that globalization was:
"… responsible for violently killing 12 to 15 million people since WW II and causing the death of hundreds of millions more as their economies were destroyed or those countries were denied the right to restructure to care for their people… that is the record of the Western imperial centers of capital from 1945 to 1990."
On the back of this deep, transnational political violence — which remains obscured in mainstream media and history education — the US and UK erected a global financial architecture to serve the interests of their most powerful corporate and banking institutions, which hold overwhelming sway over the political class.
State power was deployed to integrate the resources, raw materials, fossil fuel energy reserves, and cheap labour from these vast areas of the world into a global economy dominated by transnational elite interests based largely in the US, UK and Western Europe.
This, too, opened the way for new forms of criminalization of state power. This can be illustrated with a powerful example from terrorism finance expert Loretta Napoleoni, who chaired the Club de Madrid's terrorism financing group.
She reports that financial deregulation pursued by successive US governments paved the way for different armed and terror groups to link up with each other and with organized crime, generating an overall criminal economy valued at about $1.5 trillion. This criminal economy consists of "illegal capital flights, profits from criminal enterprises, drug trading, smuggling, legal businesses, and so on", most of which is recycled into Western economies through money laundering via mainstream financial institutions: "It is a vital element of the cash flow of these economies."
But the problem goes further. As the primary medium of exchange for this criminal economy is the US dollar, the latter's role as the world reserve currency has cemented a structural situation in which the economic power of the US Treasury has become conditional on the economic immunity of transnational criminal networks, who systematically use US dollars for criminal transactions: The greater the stock of dollars held abroad, the greater the source of revenue for the US Treasury.
These examples illustrate how the US Deep State operates as the chief regulator of a global Deep System, in which seemingly legitimate international financial flows have become increasingly enmeshed with transnational organized crime, powerful corporate interests who control the world's fossil fuel and raw materials resources, and the privatization of the military-industrial complex.
The Deep State faction behind Trump
Trump fits into this system snugly. Among his draft executive orders is one that would open the door for US corporations to engage in secretive corrupt and criminal practices to buy conflict minerals from the Congo — which are widely used in electronic products like smartphones and laptops.
From this broader perspective, it's clear that far from representing a force opposed to the Deep State, the Trump regime represents an interlocking network of powerful players across sectors which heavily intersect with the Deep State: finance, energy, military intelligence, private defense, white nationalist 'alt-right' media, and Deep State policy intellectuals.
According to Scott, this reflects a deepening "old division within Big Money — roughly speaking, between those Trilateral Commission progressives, many flourishing from the new technologies of the global Internet, who wish the state to do more than at present about problems like wealth disparity, racial injustice and global warming, and those Heritage Foundation conservatives, many from finance and oil, who want it to do even less."
So rather than being a nationalist 'insurgency' against the corporate globalist 'Deep State', the Trump regime represents a white nationalist coup by a disgruntled cross-section within the Deep State itself. Rather than coming into conflict with the Deep State, we are seeing a powerful military-corporate nexus within the American Deep State come to the fore. Trump, in this context, is a tool to re-organize and restructure the Deep State in reaction to what this faction believe to be an escalating crisis in the global Deep System.
In short, the Deep State faction backing Trump is embarking on what it believes is a unique and special mission: to save the Deep State from a decline caused by the failures of successive American administrations.
However, what they are actually doing is accelerating the decline of the American Deep State and the disruption of the global Deep System.
3. Systemic Crisis
The Trump faction is correct that there is a crisis in US power, but they fail to grasp the true nature of the crisis in its global systemic context.
Each grouping within the Trump faction, and the elite social and institutional networks they represent, has its own narrow understanding of the crisis, framed from within the ideological parameters of its own special interests and class position.
Each grouping suffers serious epistemological limitations which mean they are not only incapable of grasping the systemic nature of the crisis and its impacts, but they hold self-serving views about the crisis which tend to project their insecurities onto all sorts of Others.
The growth problem
For instance, the ongoing failure to lift the US economy into a meaningful recovery is framed by the Trump faction as due to not putting 'America first' in trade relations. Trump's plan is to boost infrastructure investment to create jobs at home, and to adopt more protectionist trade policies to protect American industries and manufacturing.
The immediate reality here is that Trump's money monsters are keenly aware that conventional neoliberal American economic and financial policies are no longer working: Under Obama, for instance, the median household income saw its first significant increase since the 2007–8 recession in 2015, rising by 5.2%. In real terms, though, little has changed. Median household income is at $56,516 a year, which when adjusted for inflation, is 2.4% less than what it was at the turn of the millennium.
So while Obama managed to create over a million new jobs, purchasing power for the working and middle classes hasn't increased — it's actually decreased. Meanwhile, although the poverty rate dropped by 1.2% in 2015, the overall trend since the 2007 crash has seen the number of poor Americans increase from 38 million to 43.1 million people.
But this problem goes beyond Obama — it's systemic.
Over the last century, the net value of the energy we are able to extract from our fossil fuel resource base has inexorably declined. The scientific concept used to measure this value is Energy Return on Investment (EROI), a calculation that compares the quantity of energy one extracts from a resource, to the quantity of energy used to enable the extraction.
There was a time in the US, around the 1930s, when the EROI of oil was a monumental 100. This has steadily decreased, with some fluctuation. By 1970, oil's EROI had dropped to 30. Over the last three decades alone, the EROI of US oil has continued to plummet by more than half, reaching around 10 or 11.
According to environmental scientist professor Charles Hall of the State University of New York, who created the EROI measure, global net energy decline is the most fundamental cause of global economic malaise. Because we need energy to produce and consume, we need more energy to increase production and consumption, driving economic growth. But if we're getting less energy over time, then we simply cannot increase economic growth.
And this is why there has been an unmistakeable correlation between long-term global net energy decline, and a long-term decline in the rate of global economic growth. There is also an unmistakeable correlation between that long-term decline, the rise in global inequality, and the increase in global poverty.
The self-styled liberal faction of the Deep State has convinced itself that capitalist growth helped halve global poverty since the 1990s, but there's reason to question that. That success rate is calculated from the World Bank poverty measure of $1.25 a day, a level of very extreme poverty. But this poverty measure is too low.
While the numbers of people living in extreme poverty has indeed halved, many of those people are still poor, deprived of their basic needs. A more accurate measure of poverty shows that the number of poor worldwide has overall increased.
As the London-based development charity ActionAid showed in a 2013 report, a more realistic poverty measure lies between $5 and $10 a day. World Bank data shows that since 1990, the number of people living under $10 a day has increased by 25 percent, and the number of people living under $5 a day has increased by 10 percent. Today, 4.3 billion people — nearly two-thirds of the global population — live on less than $5 a day.
So really, poverty has worsened in the Age of Progress. And now the unsustainability of this equation is coming home to roost even in the centres of global growth, where wealth is most concentrated.
As of mid-2016, the GDP of Europe has been stagnant for over a decade, and the US has reached a GDP growth rate of 1.1 percent, nearly the same as its population. This means that the US has actually experienced no average increase in "per capita wealth", according to SUNY's Charles Hall.
To maintain this semblance of economic growth, we are using ingenious debt mechanisms to finance new economic activity. The expansion of global debt is now higher than 2007 pre-crash levels. We are escalating the risk of another financial crisis in coming years, because the tepid growth we've managed to squeeze out of the economy so far is based on borrowing from an energetically and environmentally unsustainable future.
And that growth-by-debt mechanism is also occurring within the oil industry, which has amassed two trillion dollars worth of debt that, in the context of the chronic oil price slump, means the industry is not profitable enough to generate the funds to ever repay its debt.
Both pro- and anti-Trump factions of the Deep State are in denial of the fact that this escalating crisis is due, fundamentally, to the global net energy decline of the world's fossil fuel resource base.
In a time of fundamental systemic crisis, the existing bedrock of norms and values a group normally holds onto maybe shaken to the core. This can lead a group to attempt to reconstruct a new set of norms and values — but if the group doesn't understand the systemic crisis, the new construct, if it diagnoses the crisis incorrectly, can end up blaming the wrong issues, leading to Otherization.
The Trump faction ends up falling-back on the narrow pathways with which they are familiar, and believe that rather than requiring a different path, the problem is that we are not fully committed to pursuing the old path. They insist that the problem is not inherent to the structure of the fossil fuel industry itself, or the debt-infested nature of the parasitical global financial system. The problem is seen simply as insufficient exploitation of America's fossil fuels; too much regulation of the financial system; constant economic pandering to unAmericans — Muslims, immigrants, Latinos, black people — who are either draining the financial system through crime, drugs and terror, or simply overburdening it with their huge numbers.
While they believe that business-as-usual growth must now be monopolized by 'America first' (and particularly by a white nationalist definition of 'America'), their liberal detractors cling to the belief that business-as-usual will in itself usher in continued growth, with a tad of technocratic tinkering and billionaire philanthropy spreading the gains throughout the world.
Both worldviews suffer from serious ideological fallacies — but it's the failure of the latter that has helped radicalize the former.
Looking at the writing of Trump's senior advisor Michael Anton throws significant light on how the crisis has radicalized the Trump faction into a delusional, binary worldview. For Anton, the key culprit is the moral and ideological bankruptcy of the liberal paradigm, which has destroyed the economy and is eroding American values; as well as the failure of the conservative establishment to do anything meaningful about it. Anton pined for a great disruptor to revitalize conservativism on a new footing: in the process tearing down liberals and old conservatives in one fell swoop. And so began his ideological love affair with Donald Trump.
The result is Trump's vision of himself as a sort of American messiah — but this is, of course, a grand construction. The Trump faction, following Anton's line of argument, have simply framed all of America's challenges through the narrow lens in which they see everything: the problem of liberals; and thus all America's problems can be conveniently Otherized, pinned on the fatal combination of liberal decadence, and conservative bankruptcy.
Thus, Trump's proposed programme is seen by its proponents as a war on both the liberal and conservative establishments responsible for the crisis. The vision seems simple enough.
Domestically and economically: kickstarting economic growth by ramping up massive investments in America's remaining fossil fuel resources; using this to generate the revenues to fund the trillion dollar infrastructure plan; while refocusing efforts on revitalising American manufacturing; all of which will create millions of new American jobs.
The foreign affairs extension is to partner with Russia to facilitate US-Russian cooperation on new oil and gas projects in the region; weakening the Russia-China partnership to facilitate American pressure on China to capitulate to US encroachment on untapped oil and gas resources in the South China Sea.
The 'war on terror' corollary of the Trump vision is to rollback Iran's expanding influence in the Middle East, which has greatly increased thanks to the 2003 Iraq War and the destabilization of Syria; thereby reconsolidating the regional geopolitical power of the Gulf states, where the bulk of the world's remaining oil and gas resources are to be found.
The domestic dimension of that 'war on terror' corollary involves cracking down on the increasing numbers of 'useless eaters', the hordes of non-white Others, who are seen ultimately as parasites gnawing at America's financial, cultural and national security. Thus, the walling off of Mexico, the 'Muslim ban', the crackdown on immigrants, and the veiled threats to the Black Lives Matter movement that its 'anti police' attitude will not be tolerated, all become explicable as the result of what happens when a systemic crisis is not understood for what it is, but simply projected onto those who are affected the most by that very crisis.
In all these areas, the common theme discernible across the Trump regime's key appointments is to react to crisis-perceptions by attributing the crisis to various populations, both inside and outside the United States — invariably painted as out of control, rapidly growing in numbers, and thereby comprising an inherent threat to the 'greatness' of an 'American' identity that is increasingly defined in parochial, ethno-nationalist terms.
But that's obviously not going to work. Instead it will escalate the crisis.
Global net energy decline is not going to go away by drilling harder and faster. The very act of drilling harder and faster will ultimately accelerate net energy decline. The geophysical brake on economic growth will harden, not weaken.
And this means that Trump will be forced to rely on public private partnerships to bring in huge investment loans from the private sector to deliver his infrastructure plan. So whatever domestic low paid, sweatshop-style, factory jobs Trump manages to engineer in the near-term, American taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill for the trillions of dollars in repayment of those private loans. Trump's plan will thus compound the already crisis-prone debt-levels in the American and global financial system.
Meanwhile, climate change will accelerate, even as international order becomes more unstable while Trump spearheads a more aggressive military posture in the Middle East and South Asia, particularly toward Iraq, Iran and China; and cracks down harder on minorities at home.
For every degree to which Trump upscales aggression, America's real national security will be downgraded. And like any good despot, Trump's failures will become food for his own propaganda, to be conveniently blamed on the myriad of Others who, in the small minds of the Trump faction, are preventing America from becoming 'great again.'
4. The future
As global systemic crisis intensifies, the myriad of networks, forces and factions that comprise the American Deep State are turning on each other: Trump is not the cause, but the symptomatic outcome of this structural rupture within the US establishment. What this means is that defeating Trump in itself is not going to weaken or rollback the forces which his regime has unleashed.
On the other hand, although this trajectory will produce immense upheaval and chaos while it lasts, the social support base for our Trumpian moment is dwindling.
We are witnessing the reactionary death throes of the social forces behind the Trump faction. Exit polls show that only 37% of young people aged 18–29 years old voted Trump.
However, while over 55% voted for Clinton, a large number of young people — approximately one million — who might have usually voted Democrat, simply didn't come out to vote. That's because while they may have disliked Trump, they didn't particularly like Clinton either. One in ten millennial voters went for a third party candidate — though still a modest number, it's three times higher than the number of third-party votes than in the previous election. At this rate of growth, the millennial shift to third party candidates could become fatal for Democrats.
According to Republican strategist Evan Siegfried, if millennials had turned out to vote in 2016, they could have swung the election away from Trump decisively. This is because the party's traditional support base consists largely of middle class white people, rural voters and baby boomers.
"They are literally dying out," said Siegried. "Every four years the white population decreases by two per cent, and the white non-college educated population decreases by four per cent."
Siegfried thus argues that Trump's victory was won by trying to ensure that millennials and minorities who were unlikely to vote for him didn't even come out to vote at all.
But here's the rub. While Siegfried concedes that the demographics continue to shift in favour of the Democrats in the long-run, Clinton was clearly a deeply uninspiring candidate, compromised utterly by her ties to Wall Street and the Deep State.
Democrats looking at these demographic dynamics in the run up to 2016 fooled themselves into believing that a Clinton victory was inevitable. They were wrong, obviously. And while the demographics prove that the Trump support base in America will shrink, this proves that the millennial future won't just be sceptical of Republicans, but Democrats too.
Today, the composition of the Trump regime proves that Clinton's loss was not a loss for the Deep State. On the contrary, the real problem is that the American electoral system reflects a form of regime-rotation within the Deep State itself. The rise of the Trump faction signals that the escalation of global systemic crisis has pushed the usual round of regime-rotation into a tipping point, where one branch of the Deep State is now at war with the other branch.
Both sides of the US Deep State blame each other for the system's failures, neither wishing to admit their own complicity in driving the systems responsible for those failures.
One side wants to respond to the systemic crisis by accelerating market share of the old paradigm — extending the life of the fossil fuel system and deregulating predatory capital. While most are climate deniers, some even appear to recognize the dangers of environmental crisis and resource scarcity but wish to shore up the US Deep State against the crisis as a nationalist response: Fortress America.
The other side hold a deep faith that technological progress will save the day and permit business-as-usual and endless extraction-premised growth to continue — they believe that digitally-driven technological innovations will allow Wall Street to have its cake and eat it: we can grow the economy, and enrich a tiny number of financiers in the West exponentially, and the dividends will trickle down to the Rest with a bit of technocratic tinkering, selective regulation and generous philanthropy.
Neither side truly understands that they both remain locked into the old, dying industrial neoliberal paradigm. That both the conventional Republican and Democrat strategies have failed. And that if they continue to ignore and overlook the reality of the global systemic crisis and its escalating symptoms, they will both become increasingly disrupted and irrelevant to large sectors of the American population.
In that scenario, politics will become increasingly polarized, not less so. Republicans will seek to shore up their white nationalist support base while Democrats will continue to lose credibility as a genuine critical voice due to their establishment myopia.
In an alternative scenario, agents at different levels in both parties, third parties, and across civil society begin to see our Trumpian moment for what it really is.
They realize that both the conservative and liberal polarities are being disrupted by the global systemic crisis. That the Deep State is being disrupted by the global systemic crisis. And that Trump is merely an effort by a branch of the Deep State to stave off the disruption. And that the failures of the other branch of the Deep State are precisely what enabled and emboldened this eventuality.
In that scenario, the current political tendencies of the millennial generation open the possibility for new paths forward for politics, whether conservative or liberal: to re-build their parties, organizations and paradigms in accordance with the emerging dynamics of a global system in transition to a new phase state: beyond carbon, beyond endless growth, beyond mass consumerism, beyond the banal polarities of left and right, white and black, native and foreign, and in service to people and planet.
This INSURGE intelligence special report was enabled by crowdfunding: Please support independent journalism for the global commons for as little as a $1/month via www.patreon.com/nafeez.
Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an award-winning 15-year investigative journalist and creator of INSURGE intelligence, a crowdfunded public interest investigative journalism project.
His work has been published in The Guardian, VICE, Independent on Sunday, The Independent, The Scotsman, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, The New Statesman, Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, Raw Story, New Internationalist, Huffington Post UK, Al-Arabiya English, AlterNet, The Ecologist, and Asia Times, among other places.
Nafeez's work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner's Inquest.
In 2015, Nafeez won the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian story on the energy politics of the Ukraine crisis. The previous year he won a Project Censored Award for his Guardian article on climate-induced food crises and civil unrest. In 2010, Nafeez won the Routledge-GCPS Essay Prize for his academic paper on the 'Crisis of Civilisation' published in the journal Global Change, Peace and Security. He also won the Premio Napoli (Naples Prize) in 2003, Italy's most prestigious literary award created by decree of the President of the Republic. Nafeez has twice been featured in the Evening Standard's 'Top 1,000' list of most influential people in London, in 2014 and 2015.