“Will Donald Trump be assassinated, ousted in a coup, or just impeached?” – The Spectator
“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president? It’s been a while, and I think it’s time” – Johnny Depp
“I’ve thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” – Madonna
“I hope Trump is assassinated” – Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal
While its many covert actions aimed at altering or replacing foreign governments have been amply documented, names like Abe Lincoln and JFK serve to remind us that the US also has a long tradition of regime change at home. The last Republican president to substantially challenge the doctrine of global ‘free trade’ was William McKinley, and things didn’t work out so well for him either. Are we about to see history repeat?
From Kathy Griffin holding up a decapitated effigy of the presidential coconut in a controversial tweet, to the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar featuring a Trump-like rendering of the tragic Roman Emperor, the very public calls for the removal of the 45th POTUS by violent means are really quite astonishing. Of course in the land of the free such gestures are readily dismissed as expressions of ‘art’ and ‘free speech’, and not as incitement to murder. Are the American glitterati completely off their meds? At least we can rest easy knowing that – with the exception of one Democratic lawmaker – these calls have not come directly from the halls of power. Or have they? Perhaps before drawing any premature conclusions we should reflect on how power operates in a liberal society, particularly one such as the United States.
Liberalism is a totalitarian ideology which permeates not just western politics, but culture, music, art, and film. It is an ideology which since the fall of communism has ruled the public arena unopposed. This lack of pluralism is not just unhealthy from an intellectual standpoint, but a danger to democracy itself.
In Western countries, particularly Europe and the United States, the cold war period was characterised by ideological differences, and by a breed of capitalism which, despite its usual nasty habits, tended to have a positive impact on the lives of ordinary people. This was largely due to socialist and communist aligned labour movements contributing to a dynamic and robust political discourse. Since the symbolic end of the Cold War however, these socialist characteristics have been systematically stripped away, gradually replaced by environmentalism and identity politics. The social safety net has been dismantled; protections for ordinary citizens have fallen by the way. In place of a generally compassionate society with an upwardly mobile middle class, we now find record levels of mass incarceration and police brutality, and all manner of war being waged against the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, the disabled, the indigenous, refugees and the elderly. Not to mention the neo-colonial War on Terror, the very quintessence of class war.
“Who does not know that the question of the liberation of the colonies is essentially a question of the liberation of the laboring masses of the non-proletarian classes from the oppression and exploitation of finance capital?” – Joseph Stalin, 1924
Absent any countervailing narrative, we have entered what some scholars have termed a ‘post-ideological’ era, the End of History if you will, in which all the levers and mechanisms which propel society now work for and on behalf of capital. Thus Western media has become a propaganda tool for the rich, along with cinema and pop music, education and philosophy.
It seems no matter how many times we see the words oligarchy and plutocracy, we still have it set in our minds that ‘government’ is the ultimate seat of power. It’s tedious to have to repeat over and over that our politicians are just the brazen hussies of the global ruling elite; the one percent which includes not just the familiar big banks, weapons manufacturers, big oil, big pharma, agribusiness, and corporate giants like Amazon and Google, but also a massive nouveau bureaucracy of Hollywood royalty, sporting celebrities, and pop stars. The idea is best articulated by Frankie Boyle:
“Not only will America go into your country and kill all your people, but what’s worse I think is they’ll come back twenty years later and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad.”
The point here is that when Johnny Depp and Madonna call for Trump’s assassination, they promulgate a meme which you better believe originates from the highest ranks of the social order.
So what has the super-callous-fragile-racist-sexist-nazi-potus done to justify such extreme rhetoric? Has he not acquiesced to the political establishment by approving sanctions against North Korea, Russia and Iran? Was deploying the THAAD missile system into South Korea over China’s objections not enough to stand him in good stead with the Washington war hawks? Did lobbing 59 tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat air base not earn him the respect of the generals? Has his ‘tough talk’ on Venezuela been insufficient to appease the boards of Exxon Mobil and Chevron, Goldman Sachs and JPMC?
While the corporate press paints a picture of an ineffective and chaotic presidency, Trump has in fact achieved quite a lot in a short period when compared to previous administrations, fulfilling much of his ambitious policy agenda in his first six months of office. He’s had a record breaking 43 face to face meetings and 102 phone calls with foreign heads of state. He’s cancelled the TPP and forced the G-20 to reconsider its opposition to protectionism and temper its support for free trade. He’s literally ordered the Saudis to cease their support for takfiri terrorists in Syria, and terminated the CIA program which armed and coordinated so-called moderate rebels.
Looking at the larger picture, these decisions seem to reflect a strategic retreat from the much more aggressive economic and foreign policies of his predecessors. Leave it to a six-times-bankrupt billionaire businessman to know how to assess risk. With the neocons and the AIPAC lobby leading a frantic war whoop which can only push the world closer toward a disastrous confrontation between nuclear superpowers, and an internal economy collapsing under the weight of financial globalisation and de-industrialisation, strategic withdrawal makes good sense.
Alas the career politicians and associated elements of finance and industry which effectively govern the United States have not been quiet in their displeasure. Last week saw a mass walk-out of CEOs from Trump’s manufacturing council including Brian Krzanich (Intel), Elon Musk (Tesla), Kenneth C. Frazier (Merck), Kevin Plank (Under Armour) and Bob Iger (Disney), and Travis Kalanick (former Uber). Clearly these captains of industry have little interest in making America great again. Having worked so hard to export jobs, what is the point of bringing them back home, only to drive labour costs up and share prices down?
Trump’s inner circle have also come under heavy artillery fire, with key advisor Steve tax-the-rich Bannon the latest in a long line of recently departed senior staff. With Bannon, Priebus and Flynn now out of the picture, and Trump himself only six votes away from impeachment, many are speculating that he could be forced to resign, or simply call it quits. Failing this, there is still the ‘magic bullet’ option. Will the president who promised no more regime change now find himself on the receiving end of US interventionism? Are the events of Charlottesville a prelude to a Maidan style coup?
“I have an impression they practiced in Kiev and are ready to organize a Maidan in Washington, just to not let Trump take office”– Vladimir Putin, January 2017
For all his bloviating narcissism, Trump clearly has designs which put him very much at odds with the political establishment. Make no mistake, the man is demonstrably a racist, a bigot, a sexist and arguably a fascist, but as Luciana Bohne correctly points out, “they need an INTERNATIONAL fascist, not a stupid, parochial, provincial national one.” And so he will be neutered, or removed, and US imperium will continue its ceaseless march toward its own inevitable collapse.
As far as modern tragedies go, I would have probably chosen Death of a Salesman over Julius Caesar, and where historical parallels are concerned, perhaps a more accurate comparison could be made to the lesser known Romulus Augustus, who ruled Rome from 31 October AD 475 until 4 September AD 476. A diminutive figure who would earn the nickname ‘Augustulus’, meaning ‘little Augustus”, he was widely ridiculed and seen by many as a usurper due to his father’s half-German, half-Roman extraction. Throughout his brief 10 month rule many patricians questioned his legitimacy and authority, choosing to remain loyal to the exiled Emperor Julius Nepos. His short career is generally considered to mark the fall of the ancient Roman Empire.