I hear that this “The Flight 93 Election” piece is pretty popular. I can see why. It’s written well. For the people who read the Claremont Review of Books, it probably makes sense, too. From my position, of course, it’s mostly conservative intellectuals (oxy . . .) moaning about the detrimental effects their much-touted and promoted neoliberalism has had on their share of the vote. Rather than learning from that experience, however, they still want to break people into tribes – nationalities, colors, classes, Trumpistas, the establishment, etc. – in order to maintain some sort of hierarchal power.
My favorite part is this:
[Building a wall and stemming the influx of immigrants] will have the added benefit of aligning the economic interests of, and (we may hope) fostering solidarity among, the working, lower middle, and middle classes of all races and ethnicities. The same can be said for Trumpian trade policies and anti-globalization[i] instincts. Who cares if productivity numbers tick down, or if our already somnambulant GDP sinks a bit further into its pillow? Nearly all the gains of the last 20 years have accrued to the junta anyway. It would, at this point, be better for the nation to divide up more equitably a slightly smaller pie than to add one extra slice—only to ensure that it and eight of the other nine go first to the government and its rentiers, and the rest to the same four industries and 200 families.
He damn near sounds like a good old French revolutionary from 1789 – “solidarity,” “equity,” even the French “rentiers.” Is the Claremont Institute, a training ground for conservative intellectuals, infiltrated with commies?[ii]
Note also his reference to the “last 20 years.” It’s been pointed out over and over that the roots of neoliberalism were deeply planted and watered starting in the 1970s with Thatcher and Reagan, and then began aggressively cracking the foundation of the U.S. (and the world[iii]) in the ‘80s and ‘90s (see Bill Clinton’s presidency). We’re living in the fallout.
Indeed, there seems to be a renewal of interest in class and the history of capitalism across society. It’s hard not to believe something is in the offing – or will be. I’m not saying there’s a cabal in a dark room planning the next step. I’m saying that the way we’ve been living may not be the way we can continue to live and survive. Thinking that if we close our borders and hide in the closet with guns sticking out will fix things ignores how deeply (and possibly inextricably) we’re connected economically, politically, humanly to the rest of the world.
If anything, we need to be building that solidarity in support of equality, justice and liberty across geographical and political boundaries. Whatever comes next will be international. There’s no going back to just being an isolated state minding its own business.
As John Quiggin writes elsewhere, “In political terms, the breakdown of neoliberalism implies the need for a political realignment. This is now taking place on the right, as tribalists assert their dominance over hard neoliberals. The most promising strategy for the left is to achieve a similar shift in power within the centre-left coalition of leftists and soft neoliberals.”
As noted above, the Trumpistas replace neoliberalism with tribalism. Thus, it becomes a fight over that or another alternative. As Quiggin finishes,
The era of unchallenged neoliberal dominance is clearly over. Hopefully, it will prove to have been a relatively brief interruption in a long term trend towards a more humane and egalitarian society. Whether that is true depends on the success of the left in putting forward a positive alternative.
‘Till next time.
[i] He’s not really talking about globalization. Some may call opposing neoliberalism being anti-globalization, but, in reality, globalization is just an effect of neoliberal’s constant search for new investment vehicles from which his or her capital can profit.) Closing our borders and keeping people out won’t change the fundamental neoliberal structure of the Western (and much of the rest of the) world.
[ii] The author uses that ever-cunning rhetorical trick of denigrating and snickering at the exact thing he or she is: a conservative intellectual. One doesn’t publish in the Claremont Review of Books if one wants to remain outside (clearly) conservative intellectual circles.
[iii] The world is at stake. The amount of American influence directly and indirectly through international institutions (the UN, IMF, World Bank, etc.) has allowed us to demand that other countries’ societies organize themselves along the same – or harsher – neoliberal recipe.