In decadence and decline, the U,S. has produced two strong strains of fascism that now vie for supremacy. The First Black President, now outgoing, represents the “cosmopolitan, global obsessed” variety of fascist. Donald Trump hails from an older fascist strain, “crude and petty, too ugly for global prime time.” At this stage in history, the two corporate parties seem incapable of producing anything other than fascists of one kind or the other.
Locating Fascism on the Home Map
“The merciless downsizing of the American worker is a central element of Obama’s legacy.”
Barack Obama was a savior – of a drowning ruling class. Under his administration, Wall Street rose from near-death to new heights of speculative frenzy, awash in capital brutally extracted from the vanishing assets and past and future earnings of the vast majority of the population, or gifted in the form of trillions in free money at corporate-only Federal Reserve windows. The Big Casino, reduced to a rubble of its own contradictions in 2008, ushered in the New Year just shy of the once-fantastical 20,000 mark. Analysts credited Donald Trump’s victory for the bankers’ bacchanal, but it was Obama who made the party possible by overseeing the restructuring of the U.S. economy to accommodate and encourage the hyper-consolidation of capital -- another way to describe the deliberate deepening of economic (and political) inequality. Having accomplished the mission assigned him by Wall Street in return for record-breaking contributions to his first campaign, Obama is said to be angling for a hot-money squat in Silicon Valley, the super-rich sector that was most supportive of his presidency.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is melting quicker than the Wicked Witch of the West, principally due to the failure of traditionally Democratic working (and out of work) people of all races to turn out on November 8 -- a perfectly understandable response to a party and a system that offers them absolutely nothing but grief, in ever quickening increments. The merciless downsizing of the American worker is a central element of Obama’s legacy. Real wages had been frozen or declining for decades. However, economic restructuring in the Age of Obama demanded that millions of workers be crushed all the way through the floor to a lower level of hell: temporary, contract, not-really-a-job, part-time “gig” employment. If the 1930s squatter shanty-towns called “Hoovervilles” were testaments to President Herbert Hoover’s economic policies, then the maddeningly precarious, no guaranteed hours, no benefits, zero job security, fraction of a shift, arbitrarily scheduled employment of today should be called “ObamaJobs”. A new study by economists at Princeton and Harvard universities shows that an astounding 94 percent of the 10 million jobs created during the First Black President’s two terms in office were “ObamaJobs”. This sub-sector of employment increased by almost half under Obama, from 10.7% of the working population to 15.8%.
“The structural lowering of the employment floor to a precariat sub-basement makes all workers more insecure and less able to bargain with the bosses.”
According to the study, one million fewer people are working under any kind of formal employment than before the Great Recession. The researchers also calculate that Obama’s claim of creating 15 million new jobs is off by 5 million.
Low income workers, especially females, were hurt worst under the “ObamaJobs” regime. But, the structural lowering of the employment floor to a precariat sub-basement makes all workers more insecure and less able to bargain with the bosses -- which is precisely what the new employment order is designed to do, and what Barack Obama intended. The President’s apologists claim Republican obstructionists prevented Obama from acting on his alleged progressive instincts. However, as frequent BAR contributor Pascal Robert points out, Obama “expended no political capital to push a jobs agenda at any time in his presidency.”
Republicans did not force Obama off his stride, causing him to stumble and lose his bearings on the way to a progressive agenda. From the very beginning, this consummate corporate politician had a grand social/economic strategy, beyond the overarching mission of resurrecting the Gilded Age of finance capital.
First, he would insulate the pharmaceutical and insurance industries from the threat of single payer, the world standard of health care that has been favored by 60-plus percent of Americans for at least the past three decades. Once those corporate interests were made safe -- possibly for a generation -- Obama immediately began attempting to forge a Grand Bargain with the Republicans to establish a bipartisan austerity regime. Core labor issues, including the “card check” bill that would have allowed unions to reverse their membership death spiral, were nowhere on his agenda.
“Obama’s assault on FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s War on Poverty seemed to come from out of the blue.”
Obama declared war on social spending before even taking the oath of office. In early January, 2009, he informed the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post that all “entitlements” would be “on the table” for cutting under his presidency, including Medicare and Social Security. Obama’s assault on FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s War on Poverty seemed to come from out of the blue; the battered Republicans were in no position to pressure anybody, and remembered how badly George Bush had been burned when he attempted to privatize Social Security, in his first term.
Obama seemed positively relieved when the GOP took control of the House, in 2010; he needed a stronger Republican Party on Capitol Hill to make his planned Grand Bargain look like a compromise, so that he would appear like a statesman practicing the politics of bipartisan give and take. But the GOP, the “White Man’s Party” whose organizing principle is race, could not bring itself to seal the deal, even after Obama offered a package of spending cuts approximating the Republicans’ own demands: about $4 trillion. Instead, Democrat-GOP relations calcified into gridlock. Thus, the nation was saved from Obama’s Grand Bargain, which Kansas City Black Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, then chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called a “Satan Sandwich.”
Obama has not offered a comprehensive economic plan of any kind since the collapse of his courtship with the GOP, which was too mean, narrow and racist to accept his eagerly offered surrender.
“Barack Obama dared to push through Congress a bill authorizing the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military, without trial or charge.”
One does not embark on a campaign to lower wages and savage the social safety net without simultaneously buttressing the national security state. In addition to the exponential expansion of the U.S. domestic and global surveillance regime inherited from George Bush, Barack Obama dared to push through Congress a bill authorizing the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military, without trial or charge. The 2011 New Years Eve insert to the National Defense Authorization Act (NNDA) effectively demolished the principle of due process of law in the United States. Although George Bush claimed the same authority, as inherent in the powers of the commander-in-chief, he never attempted to pass legislation to that effect, knowing that Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill would fight him, tooth and nail. But, Obama’s bill sailed through both chambers of Congress.
When Donald Trump moves into the White House on January 20, he will be empowered to imprison whomever he chooses, without recourse to law as we know it, thanks to Barack Obama. Who, then, is the “fascist”?
President Obama’s greatest foreign policy challenge was to put the United States back on the global military offensive, following George Bush’s humiliation in Iraq. This required a new doctrine, to replace Bush’s discredited crusade to “spread democracy.” On March 17, 2011, Obama loosed his “humanitarian” military intervention doctrine on Libya, effectively negating centuries of international law and custom. As interpreted by Obama, national sovereignty and the inviolability of borders means nothing if the superpower, standing in for the planet, deems a government to be a threat to its own people -- even if crimes against humanity have not yet occurred. Absent the principle of sovereignty, international law ceases to exist.
Obama’s methodical nullification of international law is, itself, the gravest aggression and crime against peace. The U.S. and its NATO and Gulf Arab allies deployed massive air power and foreign and Libyan jihadists to destroy the Libyan state and its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, butchered thousands of his supporters, and ethnically cleansed Black Africans from much of the country.
“Obama’s methodical nullification of international law is, itself, the gravest aggression and crime against peace.”
On a roll, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved thousands of jihadists to Syria, whose largest city, Aleppo, was captured by sectarian terrorists in 2012. From the moment Obama became the protector-in-chief of jihadists in Libya and Syria, virtually all the “news” about the wars in the region has been fake, false, lies. The now indisputable fact that the U.S. has, variously, armed, financed, shielded, transported, trained, directed and otherwise nurtured Islamic jihadists, including al-Qaida, is the truth that cannot be spoken on corporate media. If widely understood and internalized by the public, such a truth would shatter U.S. ruling structures. Therefore, it must be suppressed at all costs.
The sick superpower fends off the smell of death with a daily diet of lies: mainly about Russia and China and other states that refuse to buckle under to U.S. imperialism. The U.S. rulers’ biggest secret -- the one that requires many layers of lies to conceal -- is that the Lords of Capital see their demise as imminent and inevitable unless they somehow alter the general scope and direction of global economic development. The U.S. share of the world economy is inexorably shrinking -- which means, the only way the U.S. can sustain its superpower status is through lawless force of arms abroad, and a crackdown on dissent (truth-telling, or just being Black) at home.
If you are searching for the real meaning of fascism in the superpower under late stage capitalism, you will find it in the nexus between the presidencies of Obama and Trump. Donald Trump’s fascism is the vintage kind that held sway for 70 or 80 years in Dixie under Jim Crow. Still stuck in apartheid, it seems inflexible, crude and petty, too ugly for global prime time. In some ways, this kind of fascist’s ambitions have shrunk to U.S. territorial size, or less.
Obama’s fascism -- of the same brand as the Clintons’ -- is global-obsessed, because it needs to feed on the whole planet to survive. It’s a cosmopolitan, world-stealing Dracula, that cannot imagine life on Earth without itself in charge. It no longer indulges heavily in ideological justifications for its predations; whatever detracts from its hegemony is the enemy. Increasingly, it is engaged in a War Against All. Most recently, it simultaneously attacked both Russia and Donald Trump’s apartheid branch of fascists.
One fascist is fond of race war. The other isn’t so picky.
When looking over the newsworthy events that took place in the United States throughout 2016, a common thread ties many of them together. So many major events illustrate a real failure of the powers that be to solve problems.
And these problems are not new. The epidemic of opiate addiction has been brewing since the 1990s when American doctors, incentivized by medical drug manufacturers, began over-prescribing pain killers. The crisis intensified when the US invasion of Afghanistan unleashed the country's poppy growers, flooding the market, and driving the price down. Now, cheap heroin is everywhere and people are dying. In 2015, more Americans died from drug overdose than from gun violence, another problem plaguing America. As 2016 comes to a close, the numbers of drug-related deaths are still rising.
The Pulse nightclub shooting broke records in 2016 for America's ongoing problem of gun violence. Mass shootings, in which deranged individuals with guns begin slaughtering people, have become a regular occurrence in recent years. Many times President Barack Obama has appeared on television to comfort a grieving nation and call for tighter gun control. The present order is unable to adequately address the issue, and the shootings continue.
Guns, Racism & Discontent
One could say that problems related to race are almost a built-in problem for the United States, which defined African enslaved persons as 3/5 of a human being in its Constitution. Since the end of slavery, after a bloody civil war, there have been endless protests, tensions, and controversies, both violent and peaceful, related to racial questions. The death of Muhammad Ali, the world heavyweight boxing champion who had aligned himself with Black nationalism and converted to Islam during the 1960s, gave the country a moment to reflect on the long history of racial strife.
2016 is the final year of the presidency of Barack Obama. His presidency began with so much optimism about a "post racial society" and the belief that this age-old source of disagreement on the American continent could be finally resolved with a dark skinned man as commander in chief. This final year of Obama's presidency is notable for illustrating how one blatantly unfulfilled these expectations.
Protests swept Charlotte, North Carolina in response to the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by police. The country nervously watched as unrest swept yet another city, with fresh memories of the violence that swept Baltimore and Ferguson in the previous year.
In addition to the thousands of peaceful protests, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas, Texas, police officers were shot and killed by individuals who were angry about the documented wave of unpunished police brutality. After these shootings, many mostly white Americans, who had been almost silent during the continuous wave of "Black Lives Matter" protests, expressed sympathy for police. A huge gap in public opinion became very apparent.
The isolated, violent individuals who were outraged by police brutality were certainly not the only Americans to express their political views with firearms. The year of 2016 began with the seizure of federal property from January 2nd to February 11th by "sovereign citizens" and right-wing militia organizations in Oregon. A shootout with the FBI and state police eventually ensued. One of the armed militants was killed, and 27 were arrested. Gun-toting, right-wing organizations that talk of "constitutional liberties" and opposing the federal government are notably present across the US.
A Twist in American Politics
The 2016 presidential election, much like the increase of protests and political gun battles, revealed how divided, and desperate the country is. Bernie Sanders, a US senator from Vermont who describes himself as a "socialist," long a forbidden term in Americana, was welcomed onto the national political stage.
Millions of Americans voted for Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary. Leaked emails showed that the Democratic National Committee was working behind the scenes to ensure his defeat, and secure the nomination for longtime party power broker Hillary Clinton. The revelations showed a kind of cynical and dishonest internal atmosphere at the top of the Democratic Party, and therefore disillusioned many activists.
Sanders' challenge within the Democratic Party seemed mild compared to Trump's complete shake-up of the Republican Party. Donald Trump, a New York City real estate tycoon and billionaire, who declared his candidacy was at first treated almost as a joke, but ultimately won the election.
Trump's campaign used crass language, demonized Muslims and immigrant workers, opposed international trade deals, and criticized the failures of US military interventions. With slogans like, "America First" and "Make America Great Again," Trump won the electoral college vote, despite proof of a solid majority of voters favoring Clinton.
Neither Trump nor Sanders were, in reality, a very big departure from the American political status quo. Sanders talk of socialism was not a call for a centrally-planned economy, but just for some European-style welfare state reforms. Trump's nationalism and derogatory words for certain demographics is a far cry from fascism or Nazism. The sudden, unpredicted success of both political mavericks was based on an extreme dissatisfaction and a longing for "an outsider."
"You're on Your Own"
American political discourse has long been defined by liberalism. The ideals of the European enlightenment, expressed by John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and others, and applied by Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton put the individual above all else. In a repudiation of feudalism, the revolutionaries of 1776 embraced "freedom" as the true value of America.
In economic terms, this has meant unrestricted capitalism. Unlike most western countries, the US government does not provide public healthcare to its citizens. American college students, even those who attend public universities, must pay for their education, and millions remain in debt for decades. Employment is not guaranteed, and social services for low-income families are limited.
The American economic mantra is "personal responsibility," i.e. "you're on your own." While the US has the richest of the rich, measurements of basic societal health show that many get left behind. The rates of infant mortality, life expectancy, and poverty are statistically much worse than other western industrialized countries.
In social terms, American liberalism has meant an ever increasing break down of traditional structures. Religion is considered to be a personal matter, and government institutions are forbidden from expressing faith or invoking divine authority. The US Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Now debates about whether or not bathrooms in elementary schools should be gender segregated have erupted across America.
The ideology of liberalism, which has escalated over the course of American history, prescribes for the citizen to be like Thomas Jefferson's ideal "yoeman'; alone, unmolested and unattached to others, free to "pursue happiness" on his own, with no obligation to society, to his family, to God, or to anyone else.
However, as the crisis of racial tension illustrates, "No man is an island." Americans can watch the exact same video recordings, yet a majority of whites will defend the police, while African Americans will see brutality. Despite the obsessive individualism, Americans still identify themselves with groups they consider to be similar to themselves, and thus view the world accordingly.
Group identification is natural, and people have always had a collective nature. The entire history of humanity consists of humans cooperating, working together, agreeing on rules and expectations, and in the process, advancing civilization toward greater heights.
Liberalism & The American Dream
A severe lack of collective identity is very apparent in present day America. Items considered to be "public property" are in severe decay. The system of public transportation in Washington DC made national headlines when it shut down for a single day because of continued accidents, which had resulted in injuries and a single fatality. Throughout 2016, accidents plagued the Amtrak public train system, which like DC transit system, also faces a lack of funding. During the 2016 academic year, millions of children have been left without schools to attend, as their for-profit charter schools, run by corporations, which have replaced public schools in many cities, have closed down mid-semester.
In the states that ultimately secured Trump's victory (Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) one can find numerous neighborhoods that were once prosperous, now filled with empty, foreclosed homes. The factories that once employed millions of American industrial workers have closed their doors. The jobs that have replaced them offer much lower pay, to a generation which is unlikely to see the once lauded "American dream" of middle class prosperity.
Suicide rates across the United States are rising, as are cases of mental illness. Polls show that Americans increasingly find a lack of meaning and purpose in their lives, as their TVs and iPhones push them to purchase more and more, and live in pursuit of short-term pleasures. Economic security is also in question, as employment is far more short term for young workers, while the cost of housing and other living expenses are rising.
The changing political stage and rising instability shows a desperation on the part millions who are dissatisfied. The widely acknowledged problems facing the country are simply not being addressed.
As Trump is sworn in at the beginning of 2017, the attempts to resolve the escalating crisis will continue. The search for answers outside of standard political discourse is likely to continue as well.