Trump comes as the deranged savior, channeling all the frustration and spite towards the ruling class, a sort of dark Angel of political retribution. But if anything, he will intensify the Washington Consensus, he will govern for the Davos people, with the Davos people in a world tailor-made by the Davos people. He incarnates savage capitalism without mediating institutions, without the disguise of a correct discourse which mutates as soon as it crosses the threshold of law and civility. In this sense he is a glitch in the machine that allows us to see the objects and discourses of domination literally.
With Trump´s outlandish election, the more progressive Liberals in the US are nauseated because they are coming to terms with one ineffable truth, they are also part of the Global South. Realizing that qualitatively they have no better chance to survive than the ‘rednecks’ and ‘religious fanatics’ they are so suspicious of, and such is the sorcery of Neoliberalism. While old style liberalism idealized some portions of the populations and afforded them protection under the guise of a politics of identity (the nation state, the sanctity of private property, the salt of the earth communities) neoliberalism has swept all these frontiers away like a mighty flood for which there is no legal levy too tall and no racial community too far. Neoliberalism destroys the nationalist narrative that protected poor and middle class whites from despoliation, hence, as a world phenomenon these new portions of abandoned societies are the fertile soil for the ultra-right to revive sectarianism and brutal nationalism fostering what I denominate ‘aberrant communities’. What is an aberrant community? I will resolve this question further down the line as a form of conclusion.
Nevertheless, the Global South weeping over the US election is yet another pathetic show of subjugation. As if it ever mattered weather the bombs, the dispossession or the forced migrations came from a woman or a tycoon. Trump is simply a glitch in the machine of power, its vulnerability to decryption. The racism and fanatism with which the US have ruled the world is simply kicking back to their own mouth, as a gastric reflux, that is all.
‘But you predicted he wouldn’t win!’…no, I predicted that if he didn’t win it would be the same tragedy as usual, and if he did win we could see the tragedy as the farce it has always been. If there is a direct effect in Trump´s election it is that it lets us see with transparency the dirty mechanism of global power, its rusty gears of greed that pull the levers of ‘global democracy’, the little pale ghosts that switch on and off the world market inside the hungry stomach of this great beast of power.
THE PROGRESSIVE LIBERALS AND MR TRUMP
The progressive liberals are shell-shocked at the perspective of this buffoon governing but don’t get sick to the stomach at an electoral system that is condemned by bipartisanship which in turn means that any choice is already a no-choice, a trap set out to pervert alterity and guide any difference into the bottomless pit of unanimity.
They are revolted at the perspective that Trump will nominate a conservative fanatic to the Supreme Court, but there seems to be no problem at all with letting nine unaccountable people determine any and every aspect of both their legal subjectivity and political agency while holding on to the power to the establish the final word of truth on the meaning of democracy and rights.
They panic because a lunatic will hold the red button of Armageddon, but the very idea of having ‘any’ person with this destructive power under her thumb is what is, in itself, lunatic.
They are scandalized at Trump´s proximity to Russia going as far as announcing a Third World War, but don´t realize that for most of the planet the recoil of Second World War, in high and low intensity, is far from over. Russia brings fear, as if today’s allies, Japan, Germany, not to speak of Great Britain, had a spotless record regarding imperialism and coloniality. So, it seems they just wanted a more benevolent master, dressed in the thick velveted robe of the ‘rule of law’, a sexier creature who speaks eloquently about human rights and development while allowing the beast to clasp its putrid fangs anywhere it pleases, Syria, Afghanistan or Ohio. With this election, the progressive is coming to realize that she had always been groping in the dark to reach the light switch only to find that it had always been broken.
Is Trump sectarian and racist? Yes. Dangerous? Definitely. But this is just the way the US has always behaved abroad; it is just that now it is slamming at their door with a distinctive screech of destruction. After decades of seeing the greed of Wall street being saved by Main street, always under the lingo of encrypted white collared impenetrable formulas, Trump comes as the deranged savior, channeling all the frustration and spite towards the ruling class, a sort of dark Angel of political retribution. Therefore, the backlash of bigotry, racial assaults, and all these horrid things that are happening are only bound to get worse as Trump will systematically fail the poor white voter that empowered him. What will happen when all these people realize that they will be letdown once again? that Trump is just another insider, a master conman and a stooge for conventional power that promised a revolution against a corrupt government of elites, a revolt which he will off course is unable to deliver and whose antidote will be to duplicate the venomous formula. Even if he tries, the circle of the pack of wolves is closing in on him as you read these notes. Can you see him? surrounded by the high priests of K Street and Wall Street, gobbling down instructions to be followed rigorously, under one sole principle: if fear and bigotry work to keep the corporate system healthy then so be it! But as it has been proven in a more liberalized America, more domestic tolerance is better for the business of war abroad, it keeps the masses content on the consumption of rights, apps and spectacles creating a simulated democratic legitimacy for the concentration of wealth abroad. The premise seems to be: as long as you don’t question the horror that the Global South is subjected to you can have your poisoned cake and eat it too, but with Trump an amazing thing has happened, now you can see how the cake is baked. On the other ear the ‘institutionalist’ must be whispering to him how ‘checks and balances’, and the rule of law and the power of the courts are basically instruments to control the President under the unwritten but effective constitution of American global economic interests. If anything, Trump will intensify the Washington Consensus, he will govern for the Davos people, with the Davos people in a world tailor made by the Davos people. Trump incarnates savage capitalism without mediating institutions, without the disguise of a correct discourse which mutates as soon as it crosses the threshold of law and civility, in this sense it is a glitch in the machine that allows us to see the objects and discourses of domination literally.
I just found this little gem that highlights what I mean “While the GOP platform called for reinstating Glass-Steagall and Trump’s campaign manager at the time promoted it, (Chris) Christie told the financial services lobbyists gathered that Trump is often open to changing his mind when he gets input from people with expertise”.
As I wrote in this same forum not so long ago “if he (Trump) ever he 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”.
The acutest phenomenon of our short millennium is the swift and effective way in which the meaning of democracy has been emptied and toxically refilled by a dangerous resurrection of the far right. When it comes to neoliberalism as a predatory animal that attacks and engulfs at the speed of light the global right seems to be better organized against neo-liberalism, at least as a primal reflex. Although in a bizarre and twisted way, the right has been able to mobilize certain metaphors and symbolic fields that cut through the spinal cord of established politics. The left either asks people to withdraw completely from politics or to engage the institutions with blind faith. I believe the battleground for generations to come is going to be over the meaning of democracy, and it is here where the meaning of the ‘people’ acquires a distinctive power of signification and action.
The complex between modernity-colonialism and liberalism made ‘the people’ the simulated nucleus of legitimacy of global governance. Nevertheless, the people are always separated between a false ‘totality’ (the “we the people”) and an excrement that is always in direct disposition to be annihilated by sovereign power (the hidden people). The concept of the people is not just a component of this power complex, but its coagulating element, the core of its meaning. However, and this is the basic simulacrum of democracy; coloniality/modernity/liberalism as an idea, as an organization of meanings only works under one ineradicable condition: the neutralization of the people through the false universal recognition of liberalism. This is the anatomy of modern politics. The vital point is this, the totality of the first meaning requires maintaining itself as a failed and unfinished form that never reaches perfection and that affirms its shuttered identity only through the recognition that there is an exterior zone to it which defines it without ever being present (the black, the Muslim, women, the enemy). The hidden people are thus the excess, the all but one, the all minus one, as the exact theorem of power in the complex coloniality/modernity/liberalism, it is the totality minus what it needs to exclude to keep the transcendental and impossible model intact.
The hidden people is then the vital absence of democracy, its concrete universal, where incompleteness becomes the intimate structure of the order and the necessary negativity of politics.
The hidden people, as the dividing threshold of the line of inclusion/exclusion, is the grand paradox of power and sovereignty, it is what is constitutively absent in the definition of politics and democracy. Only when the hidden people become the universal may we speak of politics as the creation of democracy and democracy as the immanent order of difference.
On the other side, totality is the cusp of the pyramid where the particular and the individual are embalmed into ‘aberrant’ communities as communities of destiny, the state, the nation, the all minus one.
Nevertheless, the absolute victory of potestas (power as domination) only arrives when the hidden people is elevated to the simulacrum of universal recognition through the law in the formation of the people as a totality. Liberal law can achieve two major plots of potestas in the same gesture, it negates difference and drives it back to identity and denies conflict as the matrix of politics by including the hidden people within the recognition of the law while suspending its existence to an absolute dependence to a permanent state of exception. ‘We the people’ is compressed and atomized into different shapes of organic hierarchies. Finally, the legal and constitutional basis of representation (both in its political and philosophical meanings) is to achieve a disempowered social base and a political body fragmented in legal networks and cultural and racial ghettos.
It is at this point that Neoliberalism rarifies as it intensifies this logic. Neoliberalism, partially blind as it is to national states and similar fantasies, begins to feed on the flesh of those included in the false totality. Hence the sanitary wall of race and nationalism vanishes as anyone in the inside (totality) is ejected to the outside (hidden people). Neoliberalism crushes its own pretense of legitimacy, the nation state, and throws people with no distinction at all, into the recycling pile of ‘the rest of the world’ as they become thus a queer form of ‘hidden people’. The complex arch between neo and classic liberalism is complete when the hidden people are turned into absolute disposition to death while occupying at the same time the full recognition of law as the primordial devise to name normality. A perfect correspondence is created between total inclusion and selective exclusion. The simulated absorption of the hidden people into the totality creates a duplicity of subjects, on one side of the line a perverted inside where some people can be submitted to the horrors of law while at the same time they are recognized as the basis of legitimacy of the law that expels them to death.
The degree of success of these nationalist, ultra-right projects (Trump, Hofer, Duterte, Le Pen etc.) is to tap into this mass of disaffected, which in fact have become (or feel as) hidden people. It is clear that they are but a small portion of the wretched (if any part at all) but these discourses converts them into an imagined totality, into the messianic people, the supreme people of destiny, another false totality that stands as the only absolute of democracy, reviving what drove British puritans to ethnically cleanse great part of North America in the first place. The trick is then to turn pain into delusions of grandeur and inflate the idea of the people with one of its more volatile fragments. This is what turns populism (Laclau´s strand) into demagoguery, and shattered communities into aberrant (totalizing) communities with the ontological falsity but ideological effective power to absorb the whole meaning of democracy and claim it as their own.
A FINAL THOUGHT:
What would happen if just for one day in the USA all non-whites didn’t show up for collective life? a day without nonwhite apartment cleaners and apartment designers, air traffic controllers and pilots, neurosurgeons and anesthesiologists, ball players and managers, gardeners and landscape designers, burger flippers and Michelin star chefs, Ivy league professors and school teachers, poets and accountants, train engineers and conductors, hairdressers and bouncers, paramedics and parapsychologists, bank tellers and economists, waitresses and dancers, lawyers (maybe they are better off without them for good!) prostitutes, journalists, market analysts, zoo managers, nurses, firemen, and on and on and on….let’s see if the day after they want to make ‘America white “again”’, as if it ever was.
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).