Trump, the Manchurian President: Culture Jam from Far Away

Remember the 1962 movie, The Manchurian Candidate based on Richard Condon’s 1959 novel? There was a remake in 2004, with Denzel Washington playing the man who knows something is wrong about the presidency. A slick candidate for the U.S. presidency has been “brainwashed” to do the bidding of a foreign power. The inevitable struggle between good and evil ensues and the crisis approaches apocalypse.

Atomic TrumpI think we have an apt metaphor here for the Trumpery we all now experience. After all, his election rested on more than one form of electoral fraud, from Russian trolls and bots to widespread Republican voter suppression by tampering with voter rolls and extreme gerrymandering.

These days the US president appears to be helping the Russians in several ways. One has to wonder what Putin and his henchmen have on the Empty Clown Suit pretending to be president. Could it be the laundering of oligarch money or the Deutsche Bank loans of suspicious origin when no other bank in the world would loan him a nickel? He is also jamming core American values and interests in national security in service to the Billionaire Class and especially his own (largely secret) financial interests. I am not the first to suggest the Manchurian Candidate as an appropriate metaphor for this situation.

The whole thing, morally as well as socially and economically, is far, far away from the everyday lives of ordinary Americans. It is, in a word, foreign, although many Americans have been infected by the “new normal” of demagoguery covering political corruption and possibly treason. The financial and corporate elites control the Senate. They support the endless executive orders and appointments undercutting the public interest in established law and administrative regulations by the Manchurian President.

The reality TV show that now guides the nation brands the President as the only real winner among the rest of us “losers.” Every vulnerable ethnic group is cast as some form of evil. The amoral Trump brand touts greed, meanness, and blatant racism as its central principles of governance. Yet, the man himself has no idea how to govern a nation. He has gained the power that allows him to take what he wants, whenever he wants, from whomever he wants by ignoring the law and democratic principles. He exposes thereby the fragile nature of democracy when so many of its citizens remain uninformed by their lack of critical thinking.

I still cannot get over how easily he dupes so many Americans. I was in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the day before his arrival for one of his rallies. Along some major streets, I saw hawkers selling MAGA tee-shirts, hats, and other paraphernalia of the New American Fascism (Shall we call it NAF? No, let’s not. That would just reify the insanity.)

When will we realize the destructiveness of this evil vindictive brand of irrational self-dealing hate and gross political corruption, masked as patriotism, which projects itself across the world in our name? Our nation’s security suffers severely for it. When American power is projected around the world based on the whims of narcissistic sociopathy, it only instills confusion and mistrust among our allies, as well as everyone else.

The Democrats’ Dilemma

The Democrats have a serious problem. They have abandoned efforts to put into practice their traditional principles of supporting social and economic justice. In practical terms their election depends heavily on the largess of the rich and powerful. They are just as beholden to Wall Street and the corporate elite as are the Republicans. But as less reliable surrogates for corporate power than their Republican colleagues, they are also less well funded by the power elites. What’s a Democrat to do?

It seems clear that the Democrats will never be able to compete effectively for campaign funding in comparison with the Republicans. Generally, it is mostly the more liberal rich who will support them, and there are not enough wealthy liberals or liberal CEOs to level the electoral playing field.

Death of the Public Interest
Of course, the Republicans are in trouble too, but in different ways. They can’t seem to produce any legislation – and they consistently refuse to pass bills even based on their own ides if Obama favors them. But they have been very effective at voter suppression, gerrymandering, and pandering to their extreme right “base” from their vacuous ideological position of opposition to anything that does not further enrich their corporate and financial benefactors. The Public Interest is simply not part of the political equation.

The media narrative feigns attention to the public interest, but it plays off the hopes and fears of the general population to keep the narrative consistent with the interests of the corporate state. The media also parrots the ways the two parties frame the definitions of “issues,” as if those definitions emerged from the people rather than the financial and corporate powers that control the parties. Thus, it is not surprising to observe major misconceptions of public policy among the people.

When scientific surveys are conducted by independent researchers, not paid for by a political party, so called “public opinion” turns out to be quite different than when the corporate controlled networks or political consultants conduct them. The Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as “Obama Care,” is hated or liked depending on how the question is asked. When asked about specific provisions of the act, such as the elimination of “pre-existing conditions” as a means to exclude patients from insurance coverage, almost everyone reported favoring that provision. Yet many of the same people also reported that they oppose “Obama Care”. Similarly, I was amazed to watch “on the street” television interviews where people were asked if they liked Obama Care, to which most said no. Then the interviewer asked if they favored “The Affordable Care Act.” Most said, “oh, yes.”

Why this apparent contradiction? Well, it is clear that many people are not accurately informed about the Affordable Care Act or its politically charged shorthand designation. But it is obvious that many of them have been influenced by the racist anti-Obama propaganda that pervades talk radio and the corporate media. “Issues” are shaped by a news narrative that fits the political interests of the corporate and financial elites, not the concerns of citizens.

So, here is the Democrats’ dilemma. Democratic politicians are trapped in an ideological-financial bind. They cannot truly represent the interests of the public because that would cause the funding of their careers to be cut off. They have given up the fight for human and economic justice while retaining a hollow rhetoric of support for “jobs” and “economic growth,” “equal pay,” and sometimes even “civil rights.” They are locked into the political system of the corporatocracy. Sadly, they remain full participants in what I believe Russell Brand called “the entertainment division of the military industrial complex.” That certainly is how the corporate media portray the American political system. But it is just not that entertaining to the growing numbers who see through the thin rhetorical veil.

Reinventing Democracy for Survival
It is not working. More and more people recognize the false hope of “change we can believe in.” Whatever the accomplishments of the two Obama terms, the project for a (small-d) democratic America is in shambles. The Democratic Party façade is part of the problem and offers no solution. Despite rhetorical dance with ‘climate deniers,’ the so-called “national leadership” is going along to get along in a dying political economy that feeds them. The corporate economy continues accelerating not only planetary climate chaos, but very possibly human extinction. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and ignored.
None of this is about to change on its own. As people experiencing the growing crises of climate disruption, failing industrial food production, economic and financial disruption, and international conflicts over diminishing resources, they will begin to organize their lives in their local communities in more sustainable ways. In fact, many are already doing so.  The Occupy Wall Street movement and recent Climate marches have already demonstrated the rapidly growing awareness that the changes we need are going to come from those who need them most: regular people in the communities where we live.