One thing I noticed over the holiday, because I found myself in front of a television with cable, is that the latest CNN poll shows Donald Trump with a stable and commanding lead -- more than double -- over his nearest challenger. Yet why is it that most mainstream commentators persistently deny that Trump will win? Yesterday conservative columnist Ross Douthat, in an otherwise interesting op-ed, "Cracks in the Liberal Order," flat out says "Trump will not be the Republican nominee (yes, really)."
Do these commentators see something that we are missing or are they just singing for their supper? The easy answer is the latter. Clearly a circling of the wagons is going on. Trump is perceived as a threat by the elites who sit atop a crumbling order. No analyst or commentator wants to catch the baleful eye of his boss for trumpeting the Donald.
But maybe conservatives like Douthat and liberals like Nate Silver have the sagacity to look past the obvious. If the neoliberal order survived not only intact but with an even greater distribution of pie for the 1% after the Lehman Brothers meltdown and Obama's two progressive landslides, what real threat does a populist challenge from the right pose or really any of the myriad threats from whatever quarter? To pick up Douthat where he left off with Trump:
Bernie Sanders won’t beat Hillary. Far-left antics at Amherst and Oberlin and Claremont McKenna and Yale are not as significant as elite college graduates like to think.
In Europe, Jeremy Corbyn probably won’t be Britain’s next prime minister, Marine Le Pen probably won’t be France’s next president, Sweden probably isn’t about to turn fascist, the E.U. probably isn’t about to break apart. Houellebecq’s vision of an Islamified Europe, like ISIS’s vision of a new Islamic empire or Putin’s Stalinist nostalgia, is more a resonant fantasy than a plausible atlas of the future.
It’s still wise to bet on the current order, in other words, and against its enemies and rivals and would-be saboteurs.
But after liberalism’s year of living dangerously, for the first time in a long time it might make sense to hedge that bet.Conservative Douthat is making much the same argument as Marxist Tariq Ali made in his book The Extreme Centre: A Warning (2015) -- neoliberalism still has a lot of juice left. At least Douthat allows that it might be wise to start looking for a hedge.
Next year should be very interesting. Depending on how the GOP primary unfolds, Republican power brokers will likely try to block Trump at the convention. Barring that, there will be moves made in the background to make sure a wounded Hillary wins the general election.
Either way, Trump unbowed or Trump beaten into the dust, the political system after Obama is stressed, its legitimacy in doubt.
Given that the Joint Chiefs worked against the Commander in Chief in order to prevent the Middle East from descending into even greater chaos, and recognizing the fact that the armed forces are the recipient of an enormous, ongoing public relations campaign, one can imagine a situation like that which unfolded in Egypt or Thailand happening here in the not-too-distant future.