The Personal Weblog of Edward W. Farrell   
Trumpism and Oligarchy written by Ed Farrell, November 5, 2016
To say 2016 has been an unorthodox election season is putting it mildly. Most of the daily press and social media chatter centers, as usual, around personalities and characters. i.e. "crooked, lying Hillary" and "racist, xenophobic Trump." But the "Trump" phenomenon has given vent to political undercurrents that have not surfaced since 1992. These undercurrents center around whether the major US political parties adequately represent the interests of US voters or not. The evidence of this election season says 'no.'

Republicans have traditionally aligned with conservative and business interests and Democrats with liberal and working class interests. But in the last 40 years these alignments have become quite tenuous. Traditional American industries have become huge multi-national corporations, and the old American working class, which for many years was a large portion of the middle class, continues to vanish as its jobs move to cheaper foreign soil.  This has helped the Democratic Party ethos move from labor and the working class to disadvantaged social minorities and social justice. Also, the scope of "conservative" and "liberal" have largely narrowed to issues of social morality: 'conservative' favoring traditional family values centered around heterosexual marriage, and 'liberal' favoring social minorities who are disadvantaged by the traditional  morality. And since traditional morality has at least some of its roots in Christianity, there is also a more pronounced religious divide between the parties, with Democrats becoming less motivated by religion.

Since the Democrat ethos has moved away from the working class, the big corporations have had virtually no political opposition of the sort they used to get from labor unions, and there is somewhat of a consensus that a financial oligarchy has arisen among the western nations and is the primary force that determines the scope and direction of political action--no matter what party happens to win an election. This would shed light on my biggest complaint of recent presidential elections: though candidates may advertise different platforms before an election, once in office they end up following in the footsteps of their predecessor anyway. But is it really true that the US has become an oligarchy that imposes its will on the majority of citizens, whether they like it or not? A recent study says no, and observes that the interests of the middle class and wealthy elites have historically been very closely aligned. But this election suggests that the alignment has slipped, and that there is in fact an political orthodoxy that would enforce its status quo upon a significant challenger. The evidence of course is Trump, who has gained a sizable popular following in spite of the vehement opposition of both major political parties, including his own!

Another interesting thing is that traditional morality has became separated from the old conservative business ethic, and this points to a shift in the Republican party's ethos. Last year the state of Indiana was boycotted by several major corporations when it passed a freedom of religion law that would have favored traditional family values. This seemed incredible me; since when have businesses taken strong political stands, especially over controversial issues like marriage? Isn't this bad for business? But clearly some major corporations thought it was good for business. Traditional values of any sort are a threat to globalizing businesses because they are local in character and place family and local economic interests first. The globalized, multi-national world favors socially homogenized populations that think and act the same both as consumers (who should purchase based on personal satisfaction and not parochial loyalties) and as employees (who should be recruitable from anywhere in the world to work anywhere in the world). This, I think, is the main reason multi-national corporations have embraced progressive politics, especially sexual politics: they serve to break down traditional family and local allegiances that can be a formidable barrier to globalized corporate and state interests. There's an irony in this of course: the freedom from the traditional, restrictive sexual mores offered by the sexual revolution has come at the cost of increased dependence on the state for the ever growing numbers of single mothers and their children who depend on the help of the state to survive. But so long as the state can ensure these dependents have sufficient resources to remain consumers, they will better serve globalization than obstinate, religious, and financially independent families.

So clearly the old party alignments have shifted over the past 40 years as they favored policies that support globalization, and this has resulted in the strange bedfellows now supporting Trump: 1) unemployed or chronically under-employed American workers, never supported by Republicans and recently abandoned by Democrats, and 2) Socially conservative Republicans, never supported by Democrats and recently abandoned by Republicans in favor of a more progressive social stance that supports globalization.

And of course there is a third bedfellow whose exact size and shape is yet to be seen, save for one characteristic: a distrust of the current political establishment so profound that it prefers a wild card to a stacked deck.

Related Links
Is America An Oligarchy?
No, the US Is Not An Oligarchy

All site contents copyright 2017 Edward W. Farrell This page last updated on 2017-06-03