Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trump Supporter Or Capitalism's New Slave?

"Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else."
David Brooks

The writing is on the wall: working class Whites are feed up! America has become more like Rosanne, Married With Children, and Jerry Springer than Happy Days or Friends. It took global capitalism 40 years to do to White working class Americans what hundreds of years slavery, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws to did to millions of African Americans: make them question their worth, doubt their ability to improve their station in life, and challenge the validity of the American Dream. Global capitalism has done more to shatter the myth of White supremacy than all of the late twentieth century Civil Rights activists and academicians combined. It's hard to feel superior to another group of people when you can't pay your bills. For the first time in American History African American and Hispanic parents are more optimistic about their children's future than Whites are. This is odd when you consider that at the height of the financial meltdown Black and Hispanic unemployment numbers were disproportionately higher than the numbers for their White contemporaries, yet survey after survey reveal more optimism inside these communities- why? I would suggest that historically oppressed people endure the psychological pain that accompanies market collapses and economic downturns better than people born into "advantageous societal predispositions". When you are the last hired and the first fired you never develop a sense of job security. When your college diploma is valued the same as a White person's high school diploma meritocracy and the American Dream are just empty signifiers.

American poverty is changing; as long as Mississippi, West Virginia, and Kentucky were thought to be the face of white poverty their suffering was seen, by many, as a deficiency in moral convictions. The lesson I take from America's global economic shift from producer to consumer is that we can't afford to look at systemic poverty through the lens of Max Weber's Protestant ethics. Market shifts have undermined or dismantled what were once considered decent middle class jobs. There are millions of people who have suffered this fate through no fault of their own. The Irony is that Trump supporters have turned to a symbol of corporate America's worship at the alter of capitalism to fix the problems caused by global capitalism. The Rust Belt wasn't created by women entering the workforce, Pittsburgh and Ohio didn't shutter steel mills because Blacks moved into upper management, and textile plants didn't send their units of production to China and India because Mexicans crossed the border. The economic pain many of Donald Trump's supporters are feeling is a direct result of people like Donald Trump and their thirst for more. If Bill Clinton had never signed NAFTA into law we still would have seen a mass exodus of manufacturing jobs. Capitalism, by default, demands the cheapest labor possible. The need for cheap labor is exacerbated when a company moves from private ownership to public ownership. The mistake many on the left make is believing a radical shift in our politics can cause a radical shift in the greed that fuels markets. The mistake many religious people make is believing that a shift in our morals can constrain global capitalism. The mistake that many on the right make is believing that instituting their policies (again) will make a difference in the lives of their constituents. The mistake we all make is believing we can change this system, in any significant way, without causing pain to those already hurting.

Capitalism is an amazing economic system until wages go up. Manufacturing leads to income, income creates new wants and needs, and new wants and needs lead to new job creation, but eventually wages go up and the system has to do a hard factory reset- usually in another land where wages are lower. The Free Market is a religion. It exists everywhere without existing anywhere. The market isn't Wall Street or brokerage houses where commodities and financial instruments are traded; they're just the temples for the worship of markets and monetization. Donald Trump will talk tough about trade, but he knows that with or without free trade agreements the powers that be are going to find a way to feed their greed. Trump knows it's easier to get some to support bad economic policies pitched by someone who looks like them than it is to get some people to embrace good economic policies pitched by someone who doesn't. Donald Trump cleared the field of his 16 Republican opponents using a Malcolm X like "By any means necessary" approach. I've watched this unfold with a sense of horror and amazement. I grossly underestimated the level of fear inside many of our fellow Americans. In the words of Goethe, "There's nothing more frightening than ignorance in action." I don't mean all of his supporters, but let's be real: the average American's ignorance of foreign and domestic policy is a pillar of political platform.

Global capitalism is the ultimate game of winners and losers; it has no racial preferences. Cheap labor is tied to deep suffering. This is a fact many try to avoid addressing. How bad would your life have to be to make you take a job making $1.00 a day? During the course of my life I've been fortunate to meet some very wealthy Black and Hispanic people, but I've never met a person of color who shipped jobs overseas. America, for the most part, was sold out by those who profess to love her the most. Donald Trump and his ilk may love America, but their actions prove they love money more. Donald Trump can't "Make America Great Again" Our country has never been great for all of us, but he has made America a little more interesting. His campaign opened my eyes to how desperate some in our country are. I'm saddened that so many people believe a man who profited from shipping jobs overseas is interested in bringing them back. Many of the jobs we've shipped away are never coming back. At a subconscious level, I believe more of our fellow citizens know this but refuse to admit it. Many of the people hurting now will continue to hurt long after the 2016 election, many of them will continue embracing polarizing figures who lie to them about the causes of their pain. Some will do it out of ignorance, but some will do it because it's easier than accepting the fact that people who look like you sold your family out for a mess of pottage.

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