Trump’s candidacy allows us to see the domestic contradictions that have always existed globally.
There is a sinister umbilical cord between the inside of American politics and institutionalism and its unrestricted and savage outside. The American president resembles the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Domestically, the institution is ‘seemingly’ politically controlled by a representative congress and legally by an autonomous judicial system. But beyond its borders and with increasing voracity, the President is basically the executive power of an unrestricted global complex that orchestrates a monumental force of alliances between hegemonic Western powers (Germany, Japan, UK) international multilateral institutions (IMF, World Bank) and transnational corporation that have one unique quest: to maintain the power of the international capital market system intact and whose condition is the permanent dispossession of the Global South.
When the American electorate deposits her vote for president this November she will just be legitimating a global depredatory force that will remain unbroken regardless of the name, gender, moral inclination or rumbustiousness of the President. There is then a primordial ripple effect between the presidential election with the preservation of privileges for a minute social world class that depend on the direct disposability of the huge majority of the peoples and things of the world. In this landscape, the president guarantees, through force and the monopoly of every normative language that borders remain open for money (fiscal paradises) but shuttered for poor immigrants. The President is above all the manager of the American exceptionalism that destroys ecosystems while safeguarding intellectual rights for the giants of pharmaceuticals and food companies abroad.
But the Global South is everywhere, it is not only in the sweatshops and scorched fields in the remote third world but the prisons in New York, the ghettos of LA and the gentrification of Seattle. Think of how in the richest country in the world one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime, and how those prisons function as a pseudo slave appendix of corporations, as neo-industrial concentration camps. At the end of the day we are all under the same crushing embrace of this strand of violence, everything else is a pure illusion. Alea iacta est! The die is cast long before the first American enters her voting booth on November.
Donald Trump’s basket case of a project triggers rushes of ice cold blood through the veins of the establishment where even GOP insiders are either biting the bullet or running in circles with the house on fire. Nonetheless, if he ever becomes President, his hands will be neatly tied to wreak havoc ‘domestically’ in the same sense that Obama’s hands were tied to do any good abroad. Whomever comes to the Presidency is simply the manager of this Protean corporate-military complex with checks and balances exercised not only in the marble temples of DC but the glassy ones in Wall Street, Houston, Silicon Valley and the Cayman Islands. Trump, the megalomaniac, is just coming to terms with the fact that this truth, carved in the very stone of the constitution, is infinitely bigger than his own persona. Hence, while some progressives feel it is Berlin 1933, the Global South is realizing that the fear Trump injects into the system is the perfect scapegoat to galvanize even more so the corrosive power of this ‘Protean complex’ and its monumental grip over the world.
The ‘Pax Americana’, as the hinge of peace among the great powers is just an appalling screen that hides the depredation that goes on below the radar of conventional ethics and history. That which allows mainstream ideologists such as Steven Pinker1 to assure that we are living in times of peace, yes a peace among those who have plenty but an all-out war against the poor and disposed of the world. The President of the United States is entrusted with one unique task, to ensure that the Global South remains under the iron fist of the ‘complex’. The president as the overseer of local neo-colonial elites2 warrants that they are in line with the ‘complex’ imposing its formula at large in the forms of liberalization of commerce with stringent controls on civil rights, major cuts on social spending and massive privatizations of both internal (genomes) and external (crops) nature, accelerating the Neoliberal agenda to its critical climax.3 What the American electorate must understand is that American interests are solely ‘corporate’ interests hence any other political manifestations, such as gender rights for example, are a simple collateral effect.
As I demonstrate in my latest book, Decolonizing Democracy: Power in a Solid State, what holds all this logic together is the simulacrum of democracy, especially the one that exemplifies them all, the election of the President of the United States. The simulacrum, in a strict sense is built under false totalities such as ‘we the people’ that depend on harvesting an outside in permanent disposition to violent annihilation: The ‘hidden people’ of the Global South.4 The simulacrum means that the American electorate are not making a true democratic choice but rather well fraudulently legalizing the power their country exerts globally. Hence, there is a primordial ripple effect from center to periphery, whatever is passed through the simulacrum of democracy possesses a green flag of legitimacy to operate unleashed on a global scale. Democracy is simulated internally so tyranny may be exercised globally. Nevertheless, as is also proven in my book, simulation is not enough to garner the impermeability of the ‘Protean complex’, what is required is that power becomes encrypted.
The ontological condition of politics is that there are absolutely no conditions or qualifications beyond difference to decide what politics means, this is the sole meaning of democracy.5 What encryption inhibits is the bare possibility of communication of meanings that are not programmed from a transcendent model (e.g. the constitution) where the political lexicon is fully hierarchized and its uses predetermined utterly. The Protean complex imposes a model, of humanity, of development, of reason and of aesthetics, and from it defines who is included and who may be submitted to a permanent state of exception. Nevertheless, the American electorate are falsely included in the model especially through the bipartisan and electoral system. Hence, although their decision has a global ripple effect it is based on a false choice, a choice whose consequence has been determined beforehand hence it is simply the legitimation of a global apparatus of dispossession. Encryption separates politics as it privatizes it to the sole dominium of experts, and although it is older than Socrates in the Platonic dialogues, the US has lifted it to new dimensions of perfectibility through a simulated form of ‘public debate’. When Wall Street crashed, the fable was that it was a problem of such complexity that it could only be understood by a few that could read into the nuances of the esoteric mathematical model so that the majority could be held at bay of the decision. What encryption guarantees is an absolute hierarchical social and political control over the areas of conflict that are debatable and the empirical and legal bases that can arise in any normative discourse.
Like it or not the US holds the reins of power in the world. The US electorate is connected to the poor farmer in Sudan, to the informal worker in Mexico and to the sweatshop slave everywhere in ways they cannot see completely because of the tunnel vision caused by the simulacrum and encryption of democracy. Power is encrypted when politics and democracy are detached from each other and democracy is simulated through the construction of false choices, the perfect example is the system of election of the US president anchored in a two party system.
This ensemble turns a vibrant and dissimilar society into a homogeneous and at best polarized gray mirror of it. It secures political unanimity while preserving the integrity of social hierarchies, exerting an ideological control of language while achieving a strong standardization of its truth values. Once we decrypt this solid ensemble, we realize that the two electoral options are in fact one and the same: the global hegemony of the American military-corporate complex.
Both parties are parties of Wall Street. Republicans shoot first and ask questions later, while Democrats ask questions first and shoot afterwards. Hence, in this election we are before two languages that express the same rule of America hegemony. The difference is that one is so curt, so brusque that it allows us to see the nasty beast stripped down to the bone. Donald Trump is simply the skin sloughed off the snake, he is not an irate aberration that political nature heaved into the world but the natural result of an ill-begotten game.
In this line of argumentation Trump is an anachronism to the system while Clinton is the insider that knows its operation by heart. While Trumps revives a romanticized form of industrial capitalism, where ‘actual things are being made’ and casts it against an ethereal form financial capitalism, Hillary understands and is adapted to this new kind of depredatory life. Trump will not win precisely because he is obnoxious to corporate American interests, he does not understand the slick shift of phases of capitalism from an industrial form to a financial one6, and as such he shows to much of the ‘prestige’ behind mass depredation. If he wins the establishment knows the symbolic fabric of inclusion and American democracy will be seen for what it is: a pure simulacrum.
Trump’s candidacy allows us to see the domestic contradictions that have always existed globally. Surely an authentic whitening of the American society would lead not only to its economic shutdown but its utter cultural collapse, but is it not what the US has relied upon globally?
A true democratic option would not have ‘liberals’ looking down the loaded barrel of a forced choice. Embracing someone that advocated for children’s rights at the same time she advocated for Walmart, a person that spoke for women’s rights while ordering drone attacks that killed civilians, that voted for Wall Street’s bailout and led the intensification of war known as the ‘Afghanistan surge’. The simulacrum is so asphyxiating that even Michael Moore, the archetypical outsider, a true inspiration for change, becomes a scaremonger and runs to hide in the neo-liberal camp. This is why choosing Hillary is the ‘lesser of two evils’ but it is a choice that at the end guarantees that the political option remains shuttered and that the ‘complex’ operates at full steam abroad as well as domestically.
Nevertheless, the acutest point is this, the most retrograde of Trump’s followers and the most progressive activist are stranded in the same deserted island of corrupted politics and of false dichotomies. Although the advancements of civil rights in the US are huge and must be celebrated and intensified, the progressive most acknowledge that said advancements do not disturb the destruction of those trapped in a global web of abuse. The American progressive is missing the intimate and immediate relation of its domestic position with its global outcome. The simulacrum forces them to think only domestically of a Leviathan that acts globally. The vital fact to grasp is that maybe through the lens of the simulacrum, the American progressive will understand the gridlock she is in and that the only way to be relevant to the system is to embrace her absolute irrelevance within it.
The American electorate does not perceive that their choice is a readymade, a moral no-choice of fear and trembling which is the utter negation of democracy. What will happen in four years? who will they run from to hide under the wing of the protective Moloch of bipartisanship? It is urgent that all the progressive democratic energies of the US create a truly innovative alternative to bipartisanship, this may be the most unique and crucial democratic project for the next presidential election. In the meantime, the electorate will remain trapped in a vicious cycle, every four years in the same false ethical conundrum, condemned to the same warp of time and history, where democracy will remain a fancy soundbite that enables colossal powers to destroy difference, beginning with their own.
Ricardo Sanín-Restrepo is a member of the Caribbean Philosophical Association and a professor of legal and political theory at several institutions across Latin America. He is the author of ‘Decolonizing Democracy: Power in a Solid State’ published by Rowman and Littlefield International (London, 2016).
- Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of our Nature. New York, NY: Viking. ↩
- Quijano, Anibal. 2001. Colonialidad del Poder, Globalización y Democracia. Caracas: Instituto de Estudios Internacionales Pedro Gual. ↩
- Harvey, David. 2011. The enigma of capital and the crisis of capitalism. London: Profile Books. ↩
- Sanín-Restrepo, Ricardo. 2016. Decolonizing Democracy: Power in a Solid State. London: Rowman and Littlefield International. ↩
- Sanín-Restrepo, Ibid ↩
- Mason, Paul. 2015. Postcapitalism a Guide to our future. London: Penguin Books ↩