Jumping into the job market again has kept me biting my tongue after the election of Donald Trump president a month ago. All the while, familiar rhythms have re-emerged into an America suddenly ready to disobey again, en masse.
Today those rhythms reached crescendo as the Standing Rock Sioux prevailed in their fight to keep the Dakota Access Pipeline off their land. Whatever happens next, this victory is the first to arrive in an America free of the Clinton machine which over decades laid that pipe as surely as butterfly wings create hurricanes.
By the time they left office in 2001, (or Barack Obama in 2017) the Clintons could have left an economy designed to keep that filth in the ground and away from our air, our water, and our futures. Instead, second only to the GOP itself, the Clinton machine has been the single most powerful tool of neoliberal free market capital in my lifetime, creating an economy in which a deregulated media ignores the problem, deregulated Wall Street profits off it, desperate small towns are forced to barely survive on it, and holy places of tribes with whom we have signed treaties are trampled by it.
Whatever Donald Trump stood for in #2016, voters judged an idea. Voters don’t know the idea of “neoliberalism”, they just know Clinton ideas are a total failure. Voters, including the half that didn’t vote, are quite aware that the American Dream was sacrificed on the altar of Clinton policy deregulating every inch of the American economy over decades. America after the Clintons is incapable of taxing its richest, incapable of funding public goods, incapable of even governing at all. Evidence piles up at our feet. Post election analysis to date is tactical this, strategic that – no. An idea has been proven a failure, it has Clinton’s name on it, and that’s all voters really needed to know. In pundit speak, this was a “change election”.
A particularly ugly change. We like to think, as Americans, we’re immune to ethnic nationalism arising out of economic stagnation. Trump America for the next 4 years will prove that ahistorical assumption folly. A powerful wave of ethnic nationalism took advantage of atrophied voter turnout, itself a result of Clinton neoliberalism, as was its ancestor Brexit. Voters predictably disengage from rigged systems that don’t deliver public goods, and instead reward only capital. Turnout declines. Small and loud nationalistic minorities increase their size relative to overall turnout – 2016 was precisely such a “base” election. Half of America didn’t bother, which ample scholarship now proves is a neoliberal feature not a bug; lower turnout helps ethnic identity division prevail, further shackling the state against capital. One base, Trump’s ethnic nationalism, clearly overpowered the other, whatever was left of it.
America’s Brezhnev era, as I described a Clinton presidency would be, was brief. As one would expect of a Brezhnevian sleepwalk into oblivion, Hillary’s general election campaign was a neoliberal masterpiece; said nothing, promised nothing, spent hundreds of millions to do so, all while ginning up division, slicing and dicing the electorate into discrete little micro markets, “targets” swarmed by cottage industries sniffing the cash. The entire Clinton ad campaign was Trump’s own voice, getting out his vote, not hers. (This also explains the popular vote “win”; Trump voters in non-swing states weren’t ginned up by the tens of millions by Hillary’s own ads.) In a base election, however, Clinton ideologically ignored her base (as neoliberalism requires) going right to pick up phantom “moderate” Republicans (who do not exist) instead of left toward a massive new base (Bernie Sanders’) suddenly awake to neoliberalism’s failure and ready to march…
…to North Dakota if necessary.
Perhaps the Clinton machine going poof a month ago had some effect at Standing Rock beyond the thousands of protestors who joined the Seven Council Tribes in nonviolent civil disobedience for months. It is beyond dispute, however, that without those protestors, the DAPL would have proceeded. Whether or not the words “Standing Rock” pass our lips as often as “the 1%”, both victories were achieved with basic Gandhian nonviolent civil disobedience deployed for months. The new rules of organizing on the left are being written with the feet, blood, and breath of thousands who inherit the lineage of Gandhi and Dr. King. Placing oneself in nonviolent legal jeopardy in order to make change is becoming an expected norm on the left, as well as the left’s primary source of energy. In the coming Trump era, if Democrats are not willing to display that level of commitment to change, America will remain in the predictable decay of dying Clinton ideas, except now accelerated on Trump’s Goldman Sachs con-job chronic.