Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why Didn't Obama Try This?

I wasn't going to watch Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress, but people kept asking me if I was going to. So when I got home right at 6:00 PM PST I decided to turn it on.

I chose NBC because that's the network I watched on election night in November, the evening when Tom Brokaw acknowledged that the media monopoly has absolutely no clue what a majority of the country thinks. Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, the ghoulish Andrea Mitchell, who has been reporting for NBC since I was in high school, and of course Tom Brokaw. All seemed perfectly comfortable with a Trump presidency despite all of his attacks on the media as "the enemy of the people."

From the outset I knew that Trump was going to hew to the conventional. His condemnation of attacks on the Jewish community at the very top of his address signaled that the shibboleths of the political status quo would be honored (this in spite of the fact that a few days earlier Trump had hinted that Jews might be staging anti-Semitic hate crimes to tarnish his presidency).

And so on it went from there. The one area where Trump clearly has the "resistance" on the run is jobs. When he ticks off all the corporate giants he has jawboned into keeping jobs onshore it is impressive. It might be bullshit. The companies might have been already planning to open up new factories stateside. But it creates the impression that corporations are not all-powerful and that the people have a tribune. You can almost feel the collective national consciousness ask, "Why didn't Obama try to do this?"

When Trump rattled off his actions and accomplishments since the inauguration, and he got to scrapping the TPP, there was almost total silence in the chamber. This is going to be the hurdle for Trump -- getting Congress to go along with bringing jobs back to the homeland. It is going to take an enormous reworking of the dominant neoliberal paradigm, which is built on tax cuts, privatization, deregulation and multilateral corporate-managed free trade. Trump has promised all of the above, with the exception that "multilateral" is replaced with "bilateral" and economic nationalism gets emphasized (at least rhetorically) over corporate management.

Will it work? No. U.S. society is so unequal it has reached a tipping point. I'm afraid the days when the have-nots can make up distance with the haves, given Republican dominance in the states and the emaciated zombie that is the Democratic Party, are gone. It is going to take more de-centering events to topple neoliberal hegemony.

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