What good might come from a Trump presidency?
Donald Trump says that when men get together in locker-rooms (or on buses), they ‘talk like that’ with each other. But they don’t – I have male friends, and if one of them talked to me ‘like that’, it would be the end of our friendship. His behaviour doesn’t deserve much respect. Plus, I’m not saying that Trump’s policies will be anti-corporate – far from it, if the team that he’s building around him is anything to go by.
But the left have been fighting trade deals like TTIP, TPP, TiSA and CETA for years. They are corporate trade deals – the only reason they exist is to transfer wealth and power from ordinary people to a corporate elite. There’s no other reason for their existence. In the same way, GM food only exists to transfer control of our food supply to the corporate sector. To claim that it is to combat hunger is absurd, and to claim that TPP and other trade deals exist to benefit ordinary people is equally absurd. And Trump has killed TPP. He at least deserves some recognition for that.
Donald Trump’s view of the world is not mine, but I can see him being a thorn in the side of the corporate elite (so much so that I wouldn’t be shocked if he were assassinated – which is maybe why he says he’ll be spending more time in Trump Tower than the White House.). Trump hasn’t taken office yet, but his election has meant the death of a carefully-crafted corporate trade deal that has the support of all the right-wing think tanks, and that they’ve been working on for years. TPP has gone, because of Trump, and that is a good thing. I’m not saying that Trump is a good thing, but this is. He said he was going to get rid of it, he got elected, and it’s gone. He kept his word. Bizarre, in contemporary politics, but it happened.
And, he said that he would stop government executives becoming corporate lobbyists (he did – at least for 5 years – just because you haven’t been able to bring yourself to watch him delivering his messages, here it is – from 2.05).
I agree 100% – with that part at least – don’t you? And I agree with his professed inclination to stay out of foreign wars. Defence is defence – but US troops on the ground in countries other than the US is not defence. He’s less likely to get embroiled in foreign adventures than Clinton would have been. Again, here it is from the horse’s mouth.
Anything there you disagree with? Again, it’s no guarantee that he’ll do what he says, but he already has on TPP, and at least he’s saying the right things.
I agree with his attitude to trade, too. Let China make its own computers, for its own people, and let America and the UK do the same. Let’s stop employing slaves and children to make our clothes and electrical products, and grow our food. We can do better than that, and we can work with the right to achieve it. Any concerns that economists might have about a slowdown in global growth because of a rejection of trade deals just reinforces the fact that they know nothing about what’s happening to ecology, which in an ideal world would invalidate their discipline.
The rest of Trump’s speech is gumph about putting America first – well, that’s what every elected official tries to do – to put their electorate first. That’s how it’s supposed to work, in the absence of a more co-operative system, and with the ridiculousness of the idea that a politician might stand up and say that they’re going to act on behalf of the whole of humanity rather than the people who voted for them. He knows it’s a capitalist system, and he wants to win. He’s not evil (or at least, if he is, it’s not for that particular reason).
So far, so good – but the largest of elephants in the smallest of rooms is his attitude to the environment – that has to be challenged or we’re in big trouble. It’s a matter of overruling him with rationality. What’s happening to ecology is a question of peer-reviewed science, and peer-reviewed ecologists are telling us that ecology is slipping away from us. You’d have to point to better peer-reviewed science to counter it, but it doesn’t exist. So to the best of our knowledge, we are damaging ecology, and it’s accelerating. If we don’t stop, we could render the world uninhabitable by humans. It’s the first time in history that we’ve had such a capability – in fact it’s looking more and more like a probability than a capability. We have to turn this around, and the first step is to accept that it’s happening. He brags that he has a high IQ, and if so, then understanding peer-reviewed science is the test.
In fact, the recent slowing of growth in Western economies is due to the earth’s inability to provide it, without undercutting our life-support system and without the existence of a magic wand to materialise easily-available resources and waste absorption capabilities that just aren’t there any more. If we push nature, she will push back. So instead, capitalism has squeezed what it always squeezes – labour; and labour has provided a populist backlash that has resulted in a Britain out of the EU and a Trump in the White House – to the astonishment of a metropolitan left that has lost touch with labour on both sides of the Atlantic.
Can Trump bring the right into an anti-corporate alliance? I’ll hold my nose if you will. In the same way, George Galloway shared a platform with Nigel Farage. The very first thing he said was that he agrees with Farage on nothing at all (except the EU) – at 1.30 in the video below; and at 4 minutes, he invokes the memory of the late, great Tony Benn, another anti-EU campaigner from the left.
Now, I’ve had this conversation with around 100 friends, and only managed to convince three-and-a-half of them, so I’m not expecting many conversions on this, but the EU is an unreformable, corporate institution, designed to transfer wealth and power to the corporate sector. Galloway and Farage were right to oppose it, albeit for very different reasons. Mine are nearer to Mr. Galloway’s and Mr Benn’s than Mr. Farage’s.
But never mind – we can agree to disagree on that. I want a world without borders, just not under corporate institutions like the EU (or the World Bank, IMF, World Trade Organisation etc.), but if you think that the EU isn’t an unreformable, corporate institution, I’m not so offended as to not want to work with you. Can we build an anti-corporate alliance of left and right? (I’m neither by the way – I’m unsympathetic to aspects of both – to the left for increasingly believing that capitalism can somehow be reformed and that it is not inherently unsustainable and undemocratic; and to the right for their wilful ignorance of the ecological crash that’s coming.) Is there an opportunity here? If we can build an anti-corporate alliance of all flavours, it will have a much better chance of success.
Let’s take the new right at their word, that they’re anti-elite. Trump is not elite. He’s rich, but he’s not Goldman Sachs. He’s just a bloke in the pub, but with money and a gold elevator. There’s no reason that the right wouldn’t want ordinary people to take control of housing, land, banks and the means of production from the corporate elite. They can join us in developing the worlds of open source, blockchain, co-operatives, planning for self-build, community energy and food, self-employment, small farms, craft skills – there’s no contradiction there.
Racism we can’t put up with, obviously – but the majority are far from racist. If you have thousands of people entering your country to do your job for less money, so your wages are being pushed relentlessly down when you’re already struggling and in debt – whether you’re in Michigan or Nuneaton, a desire to prevent that is not racism. And we can’t have anti-semitism either – yes, Mr Goldman and Mr Sachs were Jews, but that’s coincidental. For many centuries, in Christian and Muslim lands, Jews were the only ones allowed to lend money, because of religious proscription; and lending money is the source of power in capitalism (and therefore in the world). But there are non-Jews at the top of the corporate elite too, and there’s nothing inherent in Judaism that pushes you up the corporate ladder – only past cultural idiosyncracies.
If you want to go into full hyperbole mode, you might say that a Trump presidency is more likely to be damaging to corporate capitalism than a Clinton presidency, so hey, silver linings and all that. Of course, I’m not assuming that Trump is going to act on his stated positions, but at least they’ve been stated, which is refreshing. I think that now’s the time to build a non-elite economy from grassroots, because there might now be a bigger audience for it than there’s ever been. A bit of nose-holding all round, but never mind, we’ll get over it. George Galloway did.
To summarise, Trump’s attitude to the environment is a disaster, but environmental protection measures are ultimately powerless against the corporate juggernaut that the global economy has become. This might be clutching at straws, but it seems to me that a Trump presidency could increase the possibility of a left-right alliance to attempt to halt this juggernaut. Let’s hope so, because without such an alliance, no amount of campaigning, protesting, boycotts or community action is going to do it – it’s too powerful.
Ultimately, perhaps the biggest benefit of a Trump presidency (and Brexit) is that it wipes out the complacency that might have accompanied a Clinton presidency / Remain scenario, and the belief that if only that were the case, we’d be slowly moving in the right direction and everything will be OK. Everything is not going to be OK. Ecological damage is accelerating, which means that we’re on the path to extinction; and wealth concentration is accelerating too, which takes away our ability to do anything about it. Clinton / Remain would not have changed that one iota. Maybe this is the kick in the pants we need to realise that we’re looking at a very serious problem that business as usual, including the Democratic Party, the EU and other corporate-controlled institutions, is never going to solve.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1nae.bother December 4th, 2016
I have to agree with you, Trump is better than clinton, but I’m not exactly jumping for joy.
2John Harrison December 4th, 2016
You know the BNP have some great environmental policies (Google them) and say what you like, Adolph Hitler made the trains run on time, was a vegetarian and anti-smoking. My biggest concerns about Trump are the environmental policies and his defence statements re not supporting NATO allies who don’t pay their dues. The first is obvious and the second concern is anything that destabilises increases the risk of war. Hopefully Putin realises that any conflict that escalates past the nuclear threshold can have no winners.
It’s becoming obvious Trump would and did say anything to get elected – what he will actually do is going to be interesting. Incidentally, for all the venom directed at Farage he set out one aim – to remove the UK from the EU. He achieved that aim. Everything else in UKIP was secondary and subservient to that aim.
One last thought on the pussy grabber – JFK had a bit of a reputation with the ladies and he’s gone down well in history. It’s a funny old world!
3Peter Green December 4th, 2016
If there is one thing I’m sick of in the rubbish that so many americans including drumpf spout (yes drumpf – look it up) it’s the claim of it being ‘their’ homeland, which in a way it is I guess. But they seem to completely disregard the peoples that were there before the whites went in and slaughtered the natives… it makes me sick. The blindness and arrogance is repulsive.
Oh and then there’s the ‘make it great again’ rubbish. It never was great. The u.s.a. is built on violence and theft… what’s great about that?
4Dave Darby December 4th, 2016
What I’m trying to say is summarised in the last two paragraphs. I’m not here to praise Trump, just to wonder whether his supporters could join the left in an anti-corporate movement. Rejecting TPP is a good start (which is what he ‘actually did’). Plus I want to poke people, to say that business as usual isn’t going to work – environmental regulations are band-aids now that manufacturing has been transferred to Asia, and the corporate juggernaut trundles on.
5Dave Darby December 4th, 2016
Nothing’s great about that. The article puts forward the hope that left and right might come closer in their attitude to the corporate sector; and that the left might wake up to the fact that we need to change the system – Clinton in the White House wouldn’t have made a jot of difference to the imminence of an ecological crash, and wouldn’t have stopped the accelerating concentration of wealth that is destroying any semblance of democracy.
6Dave Darby December 4th, 2016
I’m not saying that Trump is better than Clinton, I’m trying to stress that Clinton is a neoliberal who would have strenghtened the corporate sector and therefore helped to continue the destruction of ecology and democracy. That’s a certainty, and therefore wouldn’t have been cause for celebration. I think that the left are very complacent to believe that the Democratic party has anything to do with a push towards a democratic, sustainable society.
7Peter Green December 4th, 2016
Sorry, more of a rant/vent than a useful comment… the video just got my back up. :-/
8Dave Darby December 4th, 2016
Ha! Not talking about present company here, but I don’t think this article is going to get many ‘likes’, as past experience tells me that people won’t read it closely enough to engage with my main points.
9James Bate December 5th, 2016
Well you get a like from me , have been saying similar and getting a similar response, people can’t countenance anything positive about Trump and with fingers in their ears say eugh.
Am no fan , a hold your nose vote.
Re your suggestions for the future, make more sense than Paul Mason’s, nearly finished his book , interesting read up to this point , he seems to be looking at his and his types future and projecting on everybody else.
10Dave Darby December 5th, 2016
I like a lot of what Mason has to say – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/condensed-paul-masons-post-capitalism-a-guide-to-our-future/. I used to be annoyed when Paxman bullied him on Newsnight – Paxman really doesn’t have a clue. The problem, as always, is not the ideas, it’s the implementation.
11Joshua Msika (@Joshua_Msika) December 5th, 2016
This is a great article that prompted quite a few thoughts:
– For a slightly contrasting view (yet still complementary), you could read “Breaking the System” published on resilience.org in June, which draws on Fleming and Chamberlin’s “Surviving the Future” to caution against wilfully destroying the corporate world system. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2016-06-28/breaking-the-system-a-review-of-surviving-the-future
– On the promise of a left-right anti-corporate coalition, I think this is a case of one “No”, many “Yeses”. While we may agree that the international free movement of capital and goods (people don’t actually move freely at all, this is important to note) is detrimental, I think there are many visions as to what the alternative should be. So, while Trump may be a useful ally in combating corporate power (and I’m personally still doubtful on that), I think it’s highly unlikely that he will be a useful ally in ceding power over land and resources to bioregional communities in the way envisioned by the low-impact and permaculture community. So we need to get to work building the alternatives.
– And then we have David Holmgren’s argument that building up these alternative economies may be the most effective way of bringing the corporate juggernaut to a halt. In “Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future” (2014) (https://holmgren.com.au/crash-demand/?v=3a1ed7090bfa), he argues that the world system is definitely following the “Brown Tech” scenario that he described in 2004 (http://futurescenarios.org/content/view/28/48/index.html). In this world, he argues that traditional political action is unlikely to make a difference but that a shift to a permaculture lifestyle by the minority of the global middle class that consider themselves “green” (say 10%) could just be enough to “crash” the economy in a positive way. This perspective is informing his new book “Retrosuburbia” (https://retrosuburbia.com/)
Personally, I don’t know. I grew up as a child of the Pax America that bound the first world countries together (French father, German mother, brought up in various countries on both sides of the Atlantic). I can still remember as a 12-year-old moving to Canada, being puzzled as to why it shouldn’t join the EU. I regret the passing of the 90s, when the most serious environmental problem seemed to be tropical deforestation and we could solve it by eating less bananas. So while I recognise the inevitability of energy descent and the accompanying dislocation of the global system (Trump, Brexit, Financial crises), and to some extent welcome it, I find it hard to greet it with unalloyed enthusiasm. The Transition message (as promoted by Hopkins in his reply to Holmgren’s essay http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-01-13/holmgren-s-crash-on-demand-be-careful-what-you-wish-for) of future economies that are both more local and more eco-logical while simultaneously bringing more international peace, tolerance and co-operation seems to me unlikely.
12Dave Darby December 5th, 2016
I’m not thinking so much that Trump will be an ally, just that by voicing anti-corporate sentiments, he might bring the right along to that way of thinking. I think it’s often missing on the right, but when I’ve debated them, they don’t usually tend to be pro-corporate – in fact nobody really does, which makes me wonder about a united alliance against them. Instead, the battles are about identity, aborbtion, immigration – not unimportant, but not systemic. If we can build a united front on sytemic change, it could be useful long after Trump has gone. We’re going to be launching something soon to help build the alternative, non-corporate economy – there will be blog articles here about it.
Very interesting stuff from Holmgren, thank you. I do think that the roots of system change are now in the middle-class rather than the working-class (I know, it disgusts my more communist-leaning friends, but I’m from the working-class, and the desire isn’t there). However, I agree with you that Transition-style incremental change is never going to reach tipping point, because ecological destruction and wealth concentration are accelerating – and to reach a tipping point, we first have to be moving in the right direction. There’s something missing, and that’s a plan for wholesale system change – something that can’t be bought or crushed. We’re only going to get there if we start talking about it, and it’s something that the Transition network doesn’t want to do, because it might scare people into thinking that they’re ‘too radical’. But radical means looking at the root of the problem, which is exactly what we need. Transition is great for bringing like-minded people together in their communities, but it isn’t ‘it’, and ‘it’ is what we need, sharpish.
13Dave Darby December 5th, 2016
[I wonder what JFK said about women in ‘the locker room’. Being attractive to women isn’t the same as talking in disparaging terms about them]
14John Harrison December 5th, 2016
I take your points – which could perhaps be that it’s an ill wind that blows no good – I wonder how different Trump will be. Clinton was a tool of the corporates in my opinion but Trump is one of them. Of course, we’ll see in time.
Got to say you’re very brave penning this piece. It’s a great article, a really great article. Yuuge in fact. ?
15Dave Darby December 6th, 2016
Thank you. I went to visit my brother at the weekend. He’s on minimum wage, zero hours contract, and they try to get him to do 22 hour shifts. And there are millions of people in the same situtation. They don’t think it’s going to get better, either. In London, I hear people calling people like my brother stupid / racist because they don’t want an influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern Europeans who will do their jobs for less than minimum wage. My brother’s wife is half Jamaican, he and his friends hate racism, and they’re not stupid. It really galls me that some Londoners call them stupid and racist. I just wish I could get them to swap lives for a week.
The left seem to have lost a lot of their traditional support, because they don’t understand them any more. And, they’re happy to support corporate, exploitative institutions like the EU and the traditional parties. You get people who I think genuinely want to change things, like Sanders and Corbyn, but I don’t know if they’re electable – although Sanders came close; Corbyn is behind in the polls, who believes polls any more? But if they get elected, as I mentioned in the article, we’re looking at a Syriza situation as long as we have a capitalist system. In capitalism, if you’re nice, you lose. I know it’s a long shot to hope for left-right collaboration against corporate power, but I don’t think the left can do it alone.
It would be brave if I were supporting Trump on an environmental website – but I’m definitely not.