US Presidential Elections of 2020 as the second referendum on neoliberal globalization

The 2020 elections signify the next stage of the crisis of legitimacy of neoliberal elite. The crises of neoliberalism in the USA won’t be solved by "more neoliberalism" like Trump is trying to do; we need some kind of return to the New Deal Capitalism, along with abandoning of the "Full Spectrum Dominance" mantra

Who Rules America > Two Party System as polyarchy

News Do the US intelligence agencies attempt to influence the US Presidential elections ? Recommended Links Ballot harvesting Voting Machines Fraud Benford's law and 2020 elections Aftermath of US Presidential Elections of 2020 NeoMcCartyism Israel lobby
 Creepy neocon Joe Biden Nasty and pushy Kamala Harris  CIA Democrats Donald Trump2020 Trump as rabid militarist Trump as America’s First Zionist President Trump's impulsivity and incompetence Trump inauguration speech Trump tax cut for the rich
Post-Russiagate remorse -- the second Iraq WDM fiasco Final report of Special prosecutor Mueller is a failed hatchet job: disingenuous and dishonest Adam Schiff Witch Hunt MadCow disease of neoliberal MSM Myth about intelligent voter Crisis of legitimacy of neoliberal elite Neocon foreign policy is a disaster for the USA Do the foreign states influence the US Presidential elections ? Steele dossier
FBI Mayberry Machiavellians: CIA globalists dirty games against Sanders and Trump Sustained anti-Trump Hysteria in major neoliberal MSM Brennan elections machinations British attempts to rig the US elections Israel attempts to rig the US elections Saudi Arabia attempts to rig the US elections Wiretaps of Trump and his associates during Presidential elections 2016 Anti-Russian hysteria in connection emailgate and DNC leak Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite
Bait and Switch Strzok-gate Rigging the elections and money in US politics Elite Theory And the Revolt of the Elite Militarism and reckless jingoism of the US neoliberal elite US and British media are servants of security apparatus Hypocrisy and Pseudo-democracy Superdelegates fraud at Democratic National Convention  Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners"
Media-Military-Industrial Complex Corporate Media: Journalism In the Service of the Powerful Few US Presidential Elections of 2016 as a referendum on neoliberal globalization The Real War on Reality The Deep State Lesser evil trick of legitimizing disastrous, corrupt neoliberal politicians in US elections First after the post elections enforce two party system Politically Incorrect Humor Etc
The neoliberal experiment – lower taxes on the rich, deregulation of labour and product markets, financialisation, and globalisation – has been a spectacular failure. Growth is lower than it was in the quarter-century after the second world war, and most of it has accrued to the very top of the income scale. After decades of stagnant or even falling incomes for those below them, neoliberalism must be pronounced dead and buried.

Vying to succeed it are at least three major political alternatives: far-right nationalism, centre-left reformism and the progressive left (with the centre-right representing the neoliberal failure). And yet, with the exception of the progressive left, these alternatives remain beholden to some form of the ideology that has (or should have) expired.

The centre-left, for example, represents neoliberalism with a human face. Its goal is to bring the policies of former US president Bill Clinton and former British prime minister Tony Blair into the 21st century, making only slight revisions to the prevailing modes of financialisation and globalisation. Meanwhile, the nationalist right disowns globalisation, blaming migrants and foreigners for all of today’s problems. Yet as Donald Trump’s presidency has shown, it is no less committed – at least in its American variant – to tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and shrinking or eliminating social programmes.

Neoliberalism must be pronounced dead and buried. Where next?

Joseph Stiglitz The Guardian may 30, 2019

Note: for the analysis of previous Presidential election see November 2016 as a referendum on neoliberal globalization



A house divided against itself cannot stand ~Abraham Lincoln

To a large extent 2020 election will be second (after 2016, which neoliberals lost) referendum on neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization.  We now live in the period of collapse of neoliberalism and increase diverseness of the society. The market fundamentalism needs to go. It prevented the realization of democracy. It put economic growth above the value of having a healthy middle class, leading to century-high levels of inequality. It emphasized individuals over communities and divided us by race, class, and culture. And because it preferred markets to democracy, it looked away as the wealthiest people and corporations rigged the government to serve their own interests, even at the expense of everyone else:

This is not an ordinary political moment. Everywhere around us, the old order is collapsing. The golden age of postwar economic growth is over, replaced by a new Gilded Age of inequality and stagnation... People once united by common culture and information are now fractured into social media echo chambers.

The [neo]liberal international order is cracking as nationalism grows in strength and global institutions decay. The United States’ role as a global superpower is challenged by the rising strength of China and a new era of Russian assertiveness.

Optimists hope that generational and demographic change will restore inexorable progress. Pessimists interpret the current moment as the decline and fall of democracy.

..  we are currently in the midst of one of these epochal transitions. We live on the edge of a new era in politics — the third since the Great Depression and World War II. The first era is probably best described as liberal.... from the 1940s through the 1970s, a version of political liberalism provided the paradigm for politics. Charting a path between the state control of communists and fascists and the laissez-faire market that dominated before the Great Depression, liberals adopted a form of regulated capitalism. Government set the rules of the road for the economy, regulated finance, invested to create jobs and spark consumer demand, policed the bad behavior of businesses, and provided a social safety net for Americans. Big institutions—big government, big corporations, big labor—cooperated to balance the needs of stakeholders in society. In the United States, it was called New Deal Liberalism. In Europe, social democracy. There were differences across countries, of course, but the general approach was similar. ...even the conservatives of the time were liberal. Republican president Dwight Eisenhower championed the national highway system and warned of the military-industrial complex. President Richard Nixon said, “I am now a Keynesian in economics.” His administration created the EPA and expanded Social Security by indexing benefits to inflation.

...since the 1980s, we have lived in a second era — that of neoliberalism. In economic and social policy, neoliberalism’s tenets are simple: deregulation, privatization, liberalization, and austerity. Under neoliberalism, individuals are on their own and should be responsible for themselves. Instead of governments, corporations, and unions balancing the interests of all stakeholders, the primary regulator of social interests should be the marketplace. Neoliberals opposed unions and unionization, they wanted to pursue vouchers instead of public provision of services, and they sought to shrink the size and functioning of government, even if it meant a less effective government. Markets worked like magic, and market logic would be applied to all aspects of life. Around the world, the neoliberal era came with an aggressive emphasis on expanding democracy and human rights, even by military force. Expanding trade and commerce came with little regard for who the winners and losers were—or what the political fallout might be. ...It was President Bill Clinton who said that the "era of big government is over" and  who celebrated the legislation deregulating Wall Street.

...With the election of Donald Trump, the neoliberal era has reached its end. While in control of the House, Senate, and presidency, Republicans neither repealed the Affordable Care Act nor privatized Social Security and Medicare. Their party is increasingly fractured between Trumpist conservatives, who are far more nationalist, and the never-Trump old-line conservatives like Bill Kristol or Jeb Bush. An increasing number of people recognize that neoliberalism’s solutions are unsuited to the challenges of our time.

The Great Democracy: How to Fix Our Politics,… (Hardcover) by Ganesh Sitaraman

The central battle of our time is now between financial oligarchy and economic nationalists.  Unfortunately a significant number of voters feel that no candidate speaks to them.  In other words both parties do not represent the majority of the USA population, They mainly represent two faction of the US oligarchy:

Ukrainian Maydan style riots mark another step in dismantling neoliberalism in the USA, and increases the polarization of the US electorate. But if Biden and his camarilla comes to power in Novemebr the most probable scenario and another neoimperial fake in best Obama "change we can believe in" style. 

At the same time history tells us:

So it looks like the USA entered Catch 22 situation: the country needs to get rid of neoliberal empire and neocons infestation in major departments such the State Department, CIA and Pentagon  (neocons are essentially lobbyists of MIC, so the question is larger then that), but can't do it because their grip of power did not diminished one bit under Trump administration. Neoliberal empire suffered some setbacks, but internally neocons (who are essentially MIC lobbyists) are still in the driver seat in the USA.

This situation suggest that the current neoliberal elite is pretty capable to ride the USA off the cliff, repeating the USSR-style scenario,  but of course history never repeats, it only rhyme.

Like in previous elections the real issues are skillfully buried under avalanche of smoke screen. Currently this is impeachment Kabuki theater, in which each party is afraid to death to tell the true facts and all play some complex fame of chickens.

In reality there are half-dozen major questions for 2020 elections which are carefully avoided by neoliberal MSM:

  1. How to return to the USA meaningful, well paid jobs  that were decimated since 2020. In other words 2020 election is "Job, Jobs, Jobs" election.  although neoliberal Dems try to tell that this is all about "racism" and "white supremacy".  It is not.
  2. How to downsize the USA neoliberal empire as its maintenance and costly imperial war (some mainly benefitting foreign states, not the USA proper),  led to enormous debt, while at the same time to preserve dollar as the major reserve currency.  The broader shift from China decoupling, which is at play is it will result in de-globalization (both  economic and financial -- the latter is the death sentence to global neoliberalism) as well localization of overly complex transnational supply chains.
  3. How to take down the most obnoxious part financial oligarchy, and prosecute the most extreme part of it --  private equity and vulture funds 
  4. How to diminish or at least  downgrade the tremedous political influence of intelligence  agencies, which in alliance with  Clinton wing of the Democratic Party attempt to stage a color revolution against Trump. A new factor in 2016 election was the intelligence agencies actually became a new "shadow" Political Party with tremendous influence on electorate via controlled/influenced by then MSM (Russiagate). This is another step in the direction of creation of the National Security State the cornerstone of which was created by Patriot act.
  5. What to do with the outsize influence of Israel lobby
  6. Does current Russophobia hysteria reflects real danger to the USA emanating from Russia, or this is just a fake threat promoted by neocon, as political prostitutes/lobbyists  of MIC.
  7. What policy should be adopted toward China in view of decimation of manufacturing capacities within continental USA. The latest phase one deal between both countries --  a temporary trade truce of 2019 was broken as a strategic rivalry encompasses trade, technology, investment, currency, and geopolitical concerns will continue to strain relations. The decoupling has already started as Washington races to safeguard the country's cutting-edge technologies, including 5G, automation, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicle, hypersonics, and robotics, from getting into the hands of Chinese firms.

The lineup of candidates in 2020 elections

In any case the fight between two faction of the US elite that started in 2016 will continue. Even within neoliberal camp there will be a fight between four groups of neoliberal elite:


2020 elections and the two party system

Two part system is very convenient for corporate oligarchy, as in this case the selection of candidate can be fully controlled and risk of undesirable candidates winning the general election almost completely eliminated.  It is one party system in disguise, and I think Bolsheviks were stupid by not adopting it in the USSR. It provides "bread and circuses" effect and an illusion of democracy while in reality being  as close to one party system as one can get. The latter is due to "first after the post" effect.

In a two party system, there are always corporate stooges in waiting, eager to serve, in case the incumbent stooges go too far off the rails. Trump proved to be one of such stooges and that increase his chances for re-election. I believe  that in the USA the incumbent party almost always wins a second term if the economy is OK. Only the  recession creates opportunities for the second  party in traditional for the USA party duopoly -- Pepsi/Cola political arrangement.  

Please note that Democratic Party in starting from Clinton (but most prominently under Obama) became the second war party and as such it does not need election victory to capture important power positions: MIC rules the country anyway. They can control the levers of power via stooges in intelligences agencies like Brennan and Comey in the past. So serving as a spoiler for real democratic forces is No.1 task on Clinton Democrats -- the dominant neoliberal wing of the party closely allied with Wall Street and MIC.

Serving as a spoiler for real democratic forces is No.1 task on Clinton Democrats -- the dominant neoliberal wing of the party closely allied with Wall Street and MIC. Russiagate actually was invented exactly for this purposes (along with serving  as a smoke screen hiding Hillary and Corporate Dems fiasco in 2016). Now anybody with progressive, hostile to neoliberalism agenda can labeled as Putin stooge. Look at attacks on Tulsi Gabbard -- the only anti-war democrat in the current cycle --  as a telling example

Russiagate actually was invented exactly for this purposes (along with serving  as a smoke screen hiding Hillary and Corporate Dems fiasco in 2016).  In a bipartisan deal on Pentagon budget demonstrates how thoroughly  Washington is captured by the Wall Street and MIC (in this particular order).  219 House Democrats and 65 Republicans voted to approve a budget agreement that includes $1.48 trillion in military spending over the next two years. Those are money stolen from the lower middle class and working people.  As President Dwight Eisenhower aptly observed:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final  sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

Neo-McCarthyism will be a factor in 2020 election and became conscious and long term policy of the US neoliberal elite:

mike k , says: October 4, 2019 at 11:53 am GMT

Russia hating is the lynchpin of oligarchic deepstate MIC MSM propaganda. Take that away and the fat cats are revealed as the naked face of evil that they are. Hating Russia (and China) supposedly justifies all their crimes.

Is reelection of Trump desirable

Trump proved to be inept politician, who quickly folded and allowed neocons  to rule in foreign policy. This is huge drawback. His open subservience to Israel is another.  At the same time he  weakened the US-centered global neoliberal empire and this is a plus. Maintenance cost including cost of foreign wars are bankrupting the USA and significantly lowering the standard of living of ordinary Americans.  So from the point of view of continuation of dismantling of the USA-centered global neoliberal empire, the answer is probably yes (Trump inaptness and impulsivity almost guarantee positive result here); in all other area that answer is solid no.

In 2016 the election of Trump proved that although in some rare circumnutates the candidate not favored by the USA neoliberal elite can win, the elite is able to immaculate him in approximately three month from the moment of inauguration.  As soon as April 2017 Trump already ordered air raid on Syria, folding to neocons. And in May he got Special Prosecutor as a reward for his betrayal ;-) 

In this sense old saying "Moor did his duty, More can go" is fully applicable to Trump and 2020 election. He completely betrayed his electorate and he has nothing to offer US population in a new election cycle. In other words he is an "old hat" that the elite wants to keep to continue to deceive the common people.    As history had show in similar circumstances another king of "bait and switch" Barack Obama won his re-election. Bush II also won his re-election. So I would not predict Trump's defeat.

If neoliberals/neocons  like Biden  wins the nomination and then the election that the political development in the USA would be similar a neoliberal counterrevolution in Brazil and Argentina. Actually only face-wise different from the re-election of Trump, as Trump betrayed everybody who voted for him in 2016, including anti-war right.

So if he wins that's essentially also the approval of his variant of  policies directed on the preservation of the US-centered neoliberal empire at the huge cost for common people. Trump internal policies were clearly neoliberal (tax cut for the rich is a classic example what "real Donald Trump" wants, replacing Obamacare with  Trumpcare is another) although with more noise and damage to the classic neoliberal globalization that classic neoliberals want.  Faction of elite supporting Trump wants to discard classic mode of globalization based on treaties and converting countries into debt slaves using IMF and World Bank in favor of more muscular, unilateral "might make right" policy of containing China, which managed to rise to the level of the USA competitors under classic neoliberal globalization regime. 

Trump proves to be a stanch neoliberal  in domestic policy and Israel stooge in foreign policy. He  populated his administration with neocons including some war criminals responsible for launching Iraq war (Bolton and Elliot Abrams). While pursuing mostly neocon foreign policy he proved to be the master of dangerous, abrupt moves which can be attributed just to his impulsivity, desire to appear "strong" via bulling opponents and rampant jingoism. 

Mueller witch hunt and Trump Impeachment circus as links of the same chain

It is impossible to predict the  results on 2020 election without objective analysis on 2018 election cycle.  Russiagate was a defensive tactic by Democratic Party leadership to absolve it from Hillary fiasco, to preserver power and attack the anti-neoliberal left and anti-neoliberal right painting them as Russian stooges.  Neoliberal Dems are beside themselves with Russian election meddling, but could care less about meddling by Google, Facebook, Israel, and the billionaire class.

They were mostly successful in that: Pelosi was not sent to long overdue retirement. Chuck Schumer continued his leadership role in the Senate.  Moreover Pelosi and Schumer recently managed to launch another attack on Trump, replacing now de-funct Russiagate pressure point with a new one. This was done  under the flag of Ukrainegate. Whether CIA leaker is real of is a composite puppet created by Schiff and CIA does not matter. The fact that Ukraine is a colony of the USA and can't be considered  a "foreign power" does not matter iether.

Russiagate has distracted most Democrats from analyzing how they lost in 2016. The false narrative that was promoted is that it was because of foreign interference (the narrative initially invented by suspected pedophile John Podesta, closely connected to Clintons.)  Eventually, it became kind of Party platform and allowed them to win Midterm. but the problem with the betrayal of the working class remains. The preference for Wall Street over working class is the cornerstone of Clinton democrats policies as well as their affiliation with military industrial complex ("the second war party") and adoption of neocon foreign policy based on ‘regime change’ interventions.

The preference for Wall Street over working class is the cornerstone of Clinton democrats policies; as well as their affiliation with military industrial complex ("the second war party") and adoption of neocon foreign policy based on ‘regime change’ interventions.

Democratic Party brass now feels pressure as there is an obvious trend in the US society for a transparent and fair campaign with a progressive nominee. The campaign  based on more than the Party establishment and Wall Street favoritism (see Autopsy).  The main task of Democratic Party establishment in not  to win the elections, but  to derail this possibility which can materialize if  Warren, Gabbard or Sanders became the party nominee.

Democratic Party brass now feels pressure as there is an obvious trend in the US society for a transparent and fair campaign with a progressive nominee. The campaign  based on more than the Party establishment and Wall Street favoritism (see Autopsy).  The main task of Democratic Party establishment in not  to win the elections, but  to derail this possibility which can materialize if  Warren, Gabbard or Sanders became the party nominee.

Of course each of those candidates' have warts. For example, Sanders compromised himself by his folding to Hillary in 2016 elections. That simplifies  railroading of his candidacy this time too.  IMHO despite all warts, those three candidates from Democratic Party still make sense, and I think all three can give a fight to the establishment wing of the Party (DemoRats) and the republican candidate (presumably Trump).

We will see to what extent they will be successful.  In any case the US military budget and foreign policy need to be changed, priorities recognized from serving the interest of empire to serving common people and repairing decaying infrastructure. Candidates who try to avoid those issues are of no value to the country.

The crisis of neoliberalism make 2020 elections the second referendum on the direction of the country

"Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."

Matthew 7:15

The real issues is the crisis of neoliberal which make elections the referendum on the direction of the country.  There are three direction possible:

IMHO we are facing three choices for the future of this country:

  1. National neoliberalism -- neoliberalism without classic neoliberal globalization (Trumpism) -- which one might view as some flavor of far-right nationalism, or diluted version of neofascism (fascism was national socialism and contained several important socialist elements in its program but for only one nation; no such elements of the program exits in national neoliberalism )
  2. Kicking the can down the road  Attempt to continue to pursue classic neoliberalism + warmongering (with neoliberal globalization at the center)  despits crisi of 2008 and Iraq war fiasco.  May be with some attempt to take financial oligarchy and MIC (Warren and Tulsi)
  3. "Inverted totalitarism" which is  updated for new level of technology version of STASI rule, but far more effective and less repressive.  A version of Orwell 1984.

Trump platform is essentially based on "national neoliberalism" ideology. And he got substantial support for it. That means that the fight against Trump can not be won by Clinton DemoRats.  For example Creepy Joe Biden probably understands that he is unelectable.  He was want to get enough delegates to derail any non-establishment candidate like Bernie, Warren or Tulsi.

Trump now will definitely enjoy the advantage of overcrowded field of Democratic Candidates (over 20 and counting)  and the fact the  Democratic leadership is more afraid of Sanders/Warren/Gabbard than of Trump. Also Trump position is busted by Mueller final report and, especially, Barr investigation of CIA and FBI machinations.

Who will challenge neoliberal dogma?

The elections of 2020 are interesting in a sense that for the first time since 1970th there are two candidates who openly challenge neoliberal dogma: Tulsi Gabbard (who which to end the US global neoliberal empire, and imperial wars) and Elisabeth Warren (which can be viewed as the adherent of restoration of the New Deal Capitalism, while being a typical neocon in foreign policy  who blindly repeat the State Department talking points). There are also a couple of other candidates with interesting ideas, For example, Andrew Yang is one; he has made a $12,000-per-year basic income for all American adults the centerpiece of his campaign (and will probably steal a lot of former Trump voters. Cory Booker proposed badly needed criminal reform.

At the same time Tump2020 is a completely different person than Trump2016. Trump2020 displayed blatant contempt for the rule of law and other longstanding republican values, provided us with several public displays of his stupidity, extreme character flaws, and irrefutable evidence of psychological instability. so form one point of view his reelection task is easier, as US people usually reelect even complete jerks (Bush II) but from the of the point of view is more difficult as now he has a baggage and he lost some important parts of his electorate and first of all anti-war Republicans and large part of blue collar workers who now will go with Andrew Yang or some similar candidate.

Although this time the field of Democratic contenders is definitely overcrowded. It is also the first election in the USA history which is run during a color revolution against sitting president launched by the War party, and intelligence agencies in 2016

So the nation today finds itself in an interesting situation which reminds  me of Gorbachov's Perestroika.  The USA neoliberal society after 2008 entered secular stagnation and need changes. the problem is that there is not viable alternative to neoliberalism other then return to New Deal Capitalism (which is not realistic as social forces that created this possibility -- the some (shaky) alliance of management and workers against capital owners based on WWII experience of this generation of US people is not longer present.)

Looks like it is still impossible to depose old entrenched neoliberal elite, despite of crisis of neoliberal ideology, which started in 2008. It is even was impossible to depose Pelosi ;-)  

For some, unclear to me reason the US neoliberal elites, especially neoliberal MSM controlling them intelligence agencies,  that drive the national conversation have reached the conclusion that nothing surpasses in importance then Trump’s removal from office and laughed full scale color revolution against him, destabilizing further the US society.  In this sense the appointment of the Special Prosecutor of fake charges was their "insurance" after Trump surprising win.  And intelligence agencies were at the helm of this color revolution (aka RussiaGate) from the very beginning, becoming real modern Praetorian Guard, which can depose of even kill the Emperor.

The midterm elections that returned the Democrats to power in the House are considered a step in the right direction for achieving this goal. That resulted in  in a crowded field for 2020 presidential election, and many candidates think that they can beat weakened Trump, who betrayed most of his voters and now try to compensate this with his jingoism with Venezuela and the Wall.  Sensing opportunity, candidates rush to join the competition. 

This also might be the first election in which the issue of the foreign influence on the US election (especially British and Israeli) became prominent (mostly along the lines of "Russiagate" witch hunt). The blowback from Russiagate and Mueller investigation reveled dirty dialing of British government and makes the work of British government and Zionist Lobby in influencing the US elections somewhat more difficult, although Israeli lobby continue to possess formidable financial resources for directly and indirectly bribing US politicians.  MI6 retained the ability to intercept all important US communications and as such can use this information to influence the US election, like they did in 2016 with Wiretapping Trump tower, Steele dossier  operation and  George Papadopoulos entrapment.

Bothe the level of British and Israeli influence clearly demonstrate that the immune system of the US state is weakened by decades of  neoliberalism.

The issues on which Trump might  lose 2020 elections

  In the absence of a moral filter, says Martha Stout[1], "Politicians are more likely than people in the general population to be sociopaths...

That a small minority of human beings literally have no conscience was and is a bitter pill for our society to swallow -- but it does explain a great many things, shamelessly deceitful political behavior being one."

Comment on Sic Semper Tyrannis

 by Godfree Roberts Mar 11, 2019  

Trump now has his "national neoliberalism" baggage (Tax cut for rich, pandering to Israel, possible trade war with China, Venezuela interference, Syria interference, Iran saber-rattling,  etc)  like albatross about his neck: he proved to be a weak, uneducated, superficial and impulsive politician. In no way he was a "betrayal of his class" like Roosevelt; he also proved to be  a "national neoliberal" at heart, who lied to his electorate: Republican Obama so to speak. Like Obama he proved to be an obedient puppet of MIC. But in addition to that he positioned himself as a puppet of Israel (MIGA instead of MAGA problem; in this sense Kushner is yet another albatross around his neck.)

His tax cuts had shown that he is a regular "trickle down" neoliberal much like Bush II. That impression strengthen if we look at his cabinet with neocon  hawks such as Bolton and  Pompeo running the show. So his attraction to major voting blocks which propelled him to victory in 2016 is down substantially. Moreover, Trump now has zero, or less, street credibility. One of his nicknames in Pinocchio, the other "A very stable genius". This does not help. 

Polling is unambiguous here. If you define the “center” as a position somewhere between neoliberalism and New Deal Capitalism, when it comes to economic issues the public is overwhelmingly left of center.

If anything, it’s far to the left of the Clinton Democrats (soft neoliberals) and in some  area to the left of The New Deal Capitalism. The hate of Wall Street and neoliberal establishment is now running pretty high (Look at consolatory gestures of Jamie Dimon - Wikipedia with his 100 million education fund proposal)

Tax cuts for the rich are the GOP’s defining policy, but two-thirds of voters believe that taxes on the rich are actually too low, while only 7 percent believe that they’re too high. That fact provides string support for Elizabeth Warren’s proposed tax on large fortunes by a three-to-one majority. Only a small minority want to see cuts in Medicaid, even though such cuts have been central to every GOP health care proposal in recent years.

The result is that to be an economic conservative in America means advocating policies that, on their merits, only appeal to a very small faction on the population, mainly professional and neoliberal elite. Basically nobody wants these policies on their own; they only sell if they’re packaged with far right nationalism

But forty years of stagnating wages, rising living costs, and intermittent chaos caused by neoliberalism remade the world — slowly, and then all at once

Looks like Democratic Party is so corrupted by Wall Street  and MIC that it can't overcome its fiasco in 2016. DNC will probably prevent any non-establishment candidate from taking that nomination. And establishment candidate has low chances to win against Trump, because Trump now will run as an establishment candidate.

Attempt to offload the blame of Hillary Clinton's fiasco in 2016 to  Russia's manipulation of election  not only failed, they backfired destroying credibility of neoliberal MSM such as NBC, CNN and MSNBC, which are not called "fake news." So now "DemoRats" (Clinton wing of Democratic Party, or Establishment Democrats) have much less tools for influencing public opinion.

Russiagate witch hunt also revealed that the real manipulator of the USA 2016 election were British intelligence services, a pro-Obama faction within CIA (you may call it Brennan faction)  and FBI (you may call it Comey faction) positioning Obama and his weasels (Brennan,   Clapper,  Samantha Power, Susan Rice, etc) as chief conspirators again democratic election; they were guilty of politicizing counterintelligence division of FBI for their own  benefits (see  Steele dossier and Strzok-gate ). That limits their freedom of maneuver in 2020.

One thing is clear though. The Democratic establishment has decided that all that they need is a more likeable candidate.  That's probably in one reason why they dusted off Joe Biden, a grinning neoliberal sell-out, who voted for Iraq war. And as such should be ineligible for any public office. Biden is a Hillary-style neocon who stands well to the right of most Republicans on key elements of the USA foreign policy. 

The USA neoliberal society  after 2008 entered and prolong ideological crisis accompanied by economic stagnation. BTW the current system can be called "inverted totalitarism" and is not that far form neofascism in any case. So some authors predict evolution of the US political system toward neofascism, as far right nationalism is currently the only viable force that is able to tame or destroy the rule of neoliberal financial oligarchy.

The US far right  does not qualify as a national socialist movement

Talking about far right, Trump supporters and his supporters are to heavily infected with neoliberal ideology and  are pretty far in social demands of German National Socialist Program  of 1920 which advocated  using brute power of state and repressions against financial oligarchy ("usurers, profiteers and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race. ").  So they might lose considerable part of working class voters, who after 40 year of neoliberalism now openly tilt toward national socialism ideas.

Paradoxically those demands now position the US neofascists to the left of the Clinton wing Democratic Party (soft neoliberals or DemoRats) , which is in the pocket of financial oligarchy and is ready to privatize Social Security and Medicare to please its Wall Street sponsors. To say nothing about Republican Party which is essentially the party of big capital. Let me remind  the key points of NSDAP program of 1920: 

The 25-point Program of the NSDAP
… … …
7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.
8. Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich.
9.All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.
10.The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all. Consequently, we demand:
11.Abolition of unearned (work and labor) incomes. Breaking of debt (interest)-slavery.
12.In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people, personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore, we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
13.We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
14.We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
15.We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.
16.We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.
17.We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.
18.We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest.
Common national criminals, usurers, profiteers and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.
… … …
21.The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.
22. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army.

The curse of neoliberalism is still very strong

Here is Henry Giroux take on  the current situation in the USA (Truthdig, Aug 02, 2018) which I think contain some interesting (albeit controversial) thought as for the direction of the USA society might take after Presidential elections of 2020: 

Since the 1970s, American society has lived with the curse of neoliberalism, or what can be called the latest and most extreme stage of predatory capitalism. As part of a broader comprehensive design, neoliberalism’s overriding goal is to consolidate power in the hands of the financial elite. As a mode of rationality, it functions pedagogically in multiple cultural sites to ensure no alternatives to its mode of governance can be imagined or constructed.

Central to its philosophy is the assumption the market drives not just the economy but all of social life. It construes profit-making as the essence of democracy and consuming as the only operable form of agency. It redefines identities, desires and values through a market logic that favors self-interest, a survival-of-the-fittest ethos and unchecked individualism. Under neoliberalism, life-draining and unending competition is a central concept for defining human freedom.

As an economic policy, it creates an all-encompassing market guided by the principles of privatization, deregulation, commodification and the free flow of capital. Advancing these agendas, it weakens unions, radically downsizes the welfare state and wages an assault on public goods. As the state is hollowed out, big corporations take on the functions of government, imposing severe austerity measures, redistributing wealth upward to the rich and powerful and reinforcing a notion of society as one of winners and losers. Put simply, neoliberalism gives free rein to finance capital and seeks to liberate the market from any restraints imposed by the state. At present, governments exist preeminently to maximize the profits, resources and the power of the wealthy.

As a political policy, it empties governance of any substance and denounces any viable notion of the social contract. Moreover, neoliberalism produces widespread misery and suffering as it weakens any vestige of democracy that interferes with its vision of a self-regulating market.

Theoretically, neoliberalism is often associated with the work of Friedrich August von Hayek and the Mont Pelerin Society, Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics, and most famously with the politics of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, President Ronald Reagan in the United States and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. Politically, it is supported by various right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and by billionaires such as the Koch brothers.

Neoliberalism’s hatred of democracy, the common good and the social contract has unleashed generic elements of a fascist past in which white supremacy, ultra-nationalism, rabid misogyny and immigrant fervor come together in a toxic mix of militarism, state violence and the politics of disposability. Modes of fascist expression adapt variously to different political historical contexts assuring racial apartheid-like forms in the postbellum U.S. and overt encampments and extermination in Nazi Germany. Fascism --  with its unquestioning belief in obedience to a powerful strongman, violence as a form of political purification, hatred as an act of patriotism, racial and ethnic cleansing, and the superiority of a select ethnic or national group --  has resurfaced in the United States. In this mix of economic barbarism, political nihilism, racial purity, economic orthodoxy and ethical somnambulance, a distinctive economic-political formation has been produced that I term neoliberal fascism.

Neoliberalism as the New Fascism

The war against liberal democracy has become a global phenomenon. Authoritarian regimes have spread from Turkey, Poland, Hungary and India to the United States and a number of other countries. Right-wing populist movements are on the march, spewing forth a poisonous mix of ultra-nationalism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. The language of national decline, humiliation and demonization fuels dangerous proposals and policies aimed at racial purification and social sorting while hyping a masculinization of agency and a militarism reminiscent of past dictatorships. Under current circumstances, the forces that have produced the histories of mass violence, torture, genocide and fascism have not been left behind. Consequently, it has been more difficult to argue that the legacy of fascism has nothing to teach us regarding how “the question of fascism and power clearly belongs to the present.”1

Fascism has multiple histories, most connected to the failed democracies in Italy and Germany in the 1930s and the overthrow of democratic governments by the military such as in Argentina and Chile in the 1970s. Moreover, the history between fascism and populism involves a complex mix of relations over time.2 What is distinctive about this millennial fascism is its history of “a violent totalitarian order that led to radical forms of political violence and genocide” has been softened by attempts to recalibrate its postwar legacy to a less liberal democratic register.3 For instance, in Hungary, Turkey, Poland and a number of other emerging fascist states, the term “illiberal democracy” is used as code to allegedly replace a “supposedly outmoded form of liberal democracy.”4 In actuality, the term is used to justify a form of populist authoritarianism whose goal is to attack the very foundations of democracy. These fascist underpinnings are also expanding in the United States. In President Donald Trump’s bombastic playbook, the notion of “the people” has become a rhetorical tool to legitimize a right-wing mass movement in support of a return to the good old days of American Apartheid.5

As the ideas, values and institutions crucial to a democracy have withered under a savage neoliberalism that has been 50 years in the making, fascistic notions of racial superiority, social cleansing, apocalyptic populism, hyper-militarism and ultra-nationalism have gained in intensity, moving from the repressed recesses of U.S. history to the centers of state and corporate power.6 Decades of mass inequality, wage slavery, the collapse of the manufacturing sector, tax giveaways to the financial elite and savage austerity policies that drive a frontal attack on the welfare state have further strengthened fascistic discourses. They also have redirected populist anger against vulnerable populations and undocumented immigrants, Muslims, the racially oppressed, women, LBGTQ people, public servants, critical intellectuals and workers. Not only has neoliberalism undermined the basic elements of democracy by escalating the mutually reinforcing dynamics of economic inequality and political inequality --  accentuating the downhill spiral of social and economic mobility --  it has also created conditions that make fascist ideas and principles more attractive.

Under these accelerated circumstances, neoliberalism and fascism conjoin and advance in a comfortable and mutually compatible movement that connects the worst excesses of capitalism with authoritarian “strongman” ideals --  the veneration of war, a hatred of reason and truth; a celebration of ultra-nationalism and racial purity; the suppression of freedom and dissent; a culture that promotes lies, spectacles, scapegoating the other, a deteriorating discourse, brutal violence, and, ultimately, the eruption of state violence in heterogeneous forms. In the Trump administration, neoliberal fascism is on steroids and represents a fusion of the worst dimensions and excesses of gangster capitalism with the fascist ideals of white nationalism and racial supremacy associated with the horrors of the past. 7 Neoliberal structural transformation has undermined and refigured “the principles, practices, cultures, subjects and institution of democracy understood as rule by the people.”8 Since the earlier ’70s, the neoliberal project has mutated into a revolt against human rights and democracy and created a powerful narrative that refigures freedom and authority so as to legitimize and produce massive inequities in wealth and power.9 Its practices of offshoring, restructuring everything according to the dictates of profit margins, slashing progressive taxation, eliminating corporate regulations, allowing unchecked privatization and the ongoing commercializing of all social interactions “inflicts alienating misery” on a polity newly vulnerable to fascist ideals, rhetoric and politically extremist movements.10

Furthermore, the merging of neoliberalism and fascism has accelerated as civic culture is eroded, notions of shared citizenship and responsibility disappear, and reason and informed judgment are replaced by the forces of civic illiteracy. State-sanctioned attacks on the truth, facts and scientific reason in Trump’s America are camouflaged as one would expect when led by the first reality TV president --  by a corporate-controlled culture of vulgarity that merges celebrity culture with a nonstop spectacle of violence. Neoliberalism strips democracy of any substance by promoting an irrational belief in the ability of the market to solve all social problems and shape all aspects of society. This shift from a market economy to a market-driven society has been accompanied by a savage attack on equality, the social contract and social provisions as wages have been gutted, pensions destroyed, health care put out of reach for millions, job security undermined, and access to crucial public goods such as public and higher education considerably weakened for the lower and middle classes.

In the current historical moment, neoliberalism represents more than a form of hyper-capitalism, it also denotes the death of democracy if not politics itself. Anis Shivani’s articulation of the threat neoliberalism poses to democracy is worth quoting at length:

Neoliberalism believes that markets are self-sufficient unto themselves, that they do not need regulation, and that they are the best guarantors of human welfare. Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, needs to be encouraged, while everything that supposedly diminishes the market, i.e., government services, regulation, restrictions on finance and capital, and conceptualization of human beings in transcendent terms, is to be discouraged….One way to sum up neoliberalism is to say that everything --  everything --  is to be made over in the image of the market, including the state, civil society, and of course human beings. Democracy becomes reinterpreted as the market, and politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory, so we are speaking of the end of democratic politics as we have known it for two and a half centuries.11

What is particularly distinctive about the conjuncture of neoliberalism and fascism is how the full-fledged liberation of capital now merges with an out-and-out attack on the racially oppressed and vulnerable populations considered disposable. Not only do the oppressive political, economic and financial structures of casino capitalism bear down on people’s lives, but there is also a frontal attack on the shared understandings and beliefs that hold a people together. One crucial and distinctive place in which neoliberalism and fascism converge is in the undermining of social bonds and moral boundaries. Displacement, disintegration, atomization, social isolation and deracination have a long history in the United States, which has been aggressively exploited by Trump, taking on a distinctively right-wing, 21st-century register. There is more at work here than the heavy neoliberal toll of social abandonment. There is also, under the incessant pedagogical propaganda of right-wing and corporate controlled media, a culture that has become cruel and cultivates an appetite for maliciousness that undermines the capacity for empathy, making people indifferent to the suffering of others or, even worse, willing participants in their violent exclusion.

Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole warns that fascism unravels the ethical imagination through a process in which individuals eventually “learn to think the unthinkable…” followed, he writes, “by a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all”:

You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanized. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.12

What is often labeled as an economic crisis in American society is also a crisis of morality, sociality and community. Since the 1970s, increasing unregulated capitalism has hardened into a form of market fundamentalism that has accelerated the hollowing out of democracy through its capacity to reshape the commanding political, social and economic institutions of American society, making it vulnerable to the fascist solutions proposed by Trump. As an integrated system of structures, ideologies and values, neoliberalism economizes every aspect of life, separates economic activity from social costs, and depoliticizes the public through corporate-controlled disimagination machines that trade in post-truth narratives, enshrine the spectacle of violence, debase language and distort history.

Neoliberalism now wages a battle against any viable notion of the social contract, solidarity, the collective imagination, the public good and the institutions that support them. As the realm of the political is defined in strictly economic terms, the institutions, public goods, formative cultures and modes of identity essential to a democracy disappear, along with the informed citizens necessary to sustain them.

The Crisis of Reason and Fantasies of Freedom

As more and more power is concentrated in the hands of a corporate and financial elite, freedom is defined exclusively in market terms, inequality is cast as a virtue, and the logic of privatization heaps contempt upon civic compassion and the welfare state. The fatal after-effect is that neoliberalism has emerged as the new face of fascism.13 With the 50-year advance of neoliberalism, freedom has become its opposite. And democracy, once the arc of civic freedom, now becomes its enemy, because democratic governance no longer takes priority over the unchecked workings of the market. Neoliberalism undermines both the social and the public and in doing so weakens the idea of shared responsibilities and moral obligations. As Zygmunt Bauman argues “ethical tranquillization” is now normalized under the assumption that freedom is limited to the right to only advance one’s own interests and the interests of the markets. Freedom in the neoliberal playbook disavows any notion of responsibility outside of the responsibility to oneself.

As Wendy Brown argues, politics and democracy are now viewed as the enemy of markets and “politics is cast as the enemy to freedom, to order and to progress.”14 Politics now becomes a mix of regressive notions of freedom and authority whose purpose is to protect market-driven principles and practices. What disappears in this all-encompassing reach of capital is the notion of civic freedom, which is replaced by securitization organized to protect the lawless workings of the profit motive and the savagery of neoliberal austerity policies. Moreover, as freedom becomes privatized, it feeds a lack of interest in politics and breeds moral indifference. As a consequence, neoliberalism unleashes the passions of a fascist past in which the terrain of politics, agency and social relations begin to resemble a war zone, a blood sport and a form of cage fighting.

In this instance, the oppressed are not only cheated out of history, they are led to believe that under neoliberal fascism there are no alternatives and the future can only imitate the present. Not only does this position suppress any sense of responsibility and resistance, it produces what Timothy Snyder calls “a kind of sleepwalking, and has to end with a crash.”15 The latter is reinforced by a government that believes truth is dangerous and reality begins with a tweet that signals the legitimation of endless lies and forms of power that infantilize and depoliticize, because they leave no room for standards of language capable of holding power accountable. Even worse, Trump’s war on language and truth does more than limit freedom to competing fictions, it also erases the distinction between moral depravity and justice, good and evil. As I have said elsewhere, “Trump’s Ministry of Fake News works incessantly to set limits on what is thinkable, claiming that reason, evidence, consistency, and logic no longer serve the truth, because the latter are crooked ideological devices used by enemies of the state. ‘Thought crimes’ are now labeled as ‘fake news.’ ” 16

Timothy Snyder is right in arguing that “to abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.”17 The post-truth society is a state-sponsored diversion and spectacle. Its purpose is to camouflage a moral and political crisis that has put into play a set of brutal neoliberal arrangements. Rather than view truth as the currency of democracy, Trump and his acolytes view it and democracy as the enemy of power. Such arrangements put democracy at risk and create an educational and political project receptive to the political currency of white supremacy. As a master of schlock performance, Trump tweets and speaks largely to his angry, resentful base, often using crude language in which the threat of violence and repression appears to function for his audience as a source of “romance, pleasure and fantasy.”18 These core supporters represent, at best, what Philip Roth once generously called the “uneducated and overburdened.” But they also cultivate what Erin Aubry Kaplan calls “the very worst American impulses, from xenophobia to know-nothingism to disdain for social necessities such as public education and clean water, [and their] signature quality is racism.”19

Restaging Fascism Within Democracy

Rather than disappear into the memory hole of history, fascism has reappeared in a different form in the United States, echoing Theodor Adorno’s warning, “I consider the survival of National Socialism within democracy to be potentially more menacing than the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.”20 Theorists, novelists, historians and writers that include such luminaries as Hannah Arendt, Sinclair Lewis, Bertram Gross, Umberto Eco, Robert O. Paxton, Timothy Snyder, Susan Sontag and Sheldon Wolin have argued convincingly that fascism remains an ongoing danger and has the ability to become relevant under new conditions. After the fall of Nazi Germany, Arendt warned totalitarianism was far from a thing of the past because the conditions of extreme precarity and uncertainty that produce it were likely to crystallize into new forms.21

What Arendt thought was crucial for each generation to recognize was that the presence of the Nazi camps and the policy of extermination should be understood not only as the logical outcome of a totalitarian society or simply a return of the past, but also for what their histories suggest about forecasting a “possible model for the future.”22 The nightmare of fascism’s past cannot escape memory because it needs to be retold over and over again so as to recognize when it is happening again. Rather than fade into the past, mass poverty, unchecked homelessness, large-scale rootlessness, fearmongering, social atomization, state terrorism and the politics of elimination have provided the seeds for new forms of fascism to appear. Paxton, the renowned historian of fascism, argues in his “The Anatomy of Fascism” that the texture of American fascism would not mimic traditional European forms but would be rooted in the language, symbols and culture of everyday life:

No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.23

Given the alarming signs that have come into play under the Trump administration, it is hard to look away and condone the suppression of the history and language of fascism and its relevance for understanding America’s flight from the promise and ideals of a substantive democracy. This is not to suggest the only template for addressing the legacy of fascism is to point to Nazi Germany, the most extreme of the fascist states, or, for that matter, to Mussolini’s brand of fascism. Not only does the comparison not work, but it tends to understand fascist ideals only against its most extreme expressions.

While it is true the U.S. may not be putting millions in gas chambers or promoting genocide, there remain reworked elements of the past in the present. For instance, there are already echoes of the past in existing and expanding infrastructures of punishment --  amounting to a carceral state --  that have grown exponentially in the past four decades. In fact, the United States has the largest prison system in the world, with more than 2.5 million people incarcerated. Astonishingly, this figure does not include immigrant detention centers and other forms of encampment around the U.S. border with Mexico. The visibility of this state-sanctioned punishing apparatus and its similarity to a fascist history was on display recently with the caging of young immigrant children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the southern border for months at a time. Needless to say, such institutions and actions resonate with deeply disturbing events of a dark past for which the violent separation of families was a hallmark feature of fascist brutality.

Reports of widespread abuse of imprisoned unaccompanied migrant children separated from their parents are increasingly being reported in the press. Detained under inhumane and cruel conditions, many of these children in government detention centers are allegedly being drugged, sexually abused, and subject to a range of inhumane actions. In Texas, a federal judge ordered a detention center to stop forcing children to take psychotropic drugs such as Clonazepam, Divalproex, Benztropine and Duloxetine in order to control their behavior. Needless to say, such actions, policies, and institutions resonate with deeply disturbing events of a dark past in which the violent separation of families was a hallmark feature of fascist cruelty, barbarism and brutality.

It is against this background that I believe the current debates that dismiss whether the U.S. under Trump is a fascist society are unproductive. The argument against this recognition generally proceeds by claiming either fascism is a relic of the past, fixed in a certain historical period with no relevance to the present, or that the differences between Trump’s policies and those of Hitler and Mussolini are enough so as to make any comparison irrelevant. Many commentators denounce any references to Trump and Nazis in the past as exaggerated, extreme or inapplicable. In this view, fascism is always somewhere else, relegated to a time and a place that suggests an accommodating distance, one that runs the risk of disconnecting historical memory and the horrors of another age from the possibility of fascism resurrected in a different form, newly attuned to its moment. We live in an age in which there is a terror on the part of critics to imagine the plasticity of fascism.

The Mobilizing Passions of Fascism

Fascism is neither a static nor fixed moment in history, and the forms it takes do not have to imitate earlier historical models. It is an authoritarian ideology and a form of political behavior defined by what Paxton calls a series of “mobilizing passions.” These include an open assault on democracy, the call for a strongman, a contempt for human weakness, an obsession with hyper-masculinity, an aggressive militarism, an appeal to national greatness, a disdain for the feminine, an investment in the language of cultural decline, the disparaging of human rights, the suppression of dissent, a propensity for violence, disdain for intellectuals, a hatred of reason, and fantasies of racial superiority and eliminationist policies aimed at social cleansing.24

The ghost of fascism has to be retrieved from history and restored to a “proper place in the discussions of the moral and political limits of what is acceptable,”25 especially at a moment when the crisis of democracy cannot be separated from the crisis of neoliberalism. As a heuristic tool to compare forms of state power, the legacy of fascism offers an opportunity to recognize when authoritarian signposts are on the horizon.

For example, under Trump, the spectacle reigns supreme, harking back to an earlier time in history when bravado, armed ignorance and theatrical performances provided a model of community that squelched memory, domesticated thought and opened the door for a strongman’s followers to disavow their role as critical agents in favor of becoming blind, if not willful, spectators. With regards to the present, it is crucial to recognize the ascendancy of Trump politically within rather than against the flow of history.

Fascism in the United States has arrived slowly by subversion from within. Its roots have been on display for decades and emerged most visibly with President George W. Bush’s and then President Barack Obama’s war on terror. Bush, in particular, embraced unapologetically a raw display of power that sanctioned torture, domestic spying, secret prisons, kill lists, laws sanctioning indefinite detention, warrantless searches and war crimes. Obama did little to correct these legal illegalities and Trump has only breathed new life into them. Instead of the sudden appearance on American streets of thugs, brown shirts, purges and massive state violence --  the state violence waged against African Americans notwithstanding --  fascism has been resurrected through the enabling force of casino capitalism, which has unleashed and mobilized a range of economic, political, religious and educational fundamentalisms.

This is most obvious in the subversion of power by the financial and corporate robber barons, the taming of dissent, the cultivation of tribal identities, the celebration of orbits of self-interests and hyper-individualism over the common good, the privatization and deregulation of public life and institutions, the legitimation of bigotry and intolerance, the transformation of elections into a battle among billionaires, and the production of a culture of greed and cruelty. But, as political theorist Wendy Brown makes clear, it is also obvious in a populist revolt generated by neoliberalism’s decimation of “livelihoods and neighborhoods,” “evacuating and delegitimizing democracy,” “devaluing knowledge apart from job training,” and the “eroding of national sovereignty.”26

Orthodoxy, especially under Trump, has transformed education into a workstation for ignorance in which harsh discipline is metered out to poor students and youths of color. Politics has been utterly corrupted by big money and morally deficient bankers, hedge fund managers and corporate moguls. And many evangelicals and other religious groups support, or are complicit with, a president who sides with white supremacists and trades in the language of viciousness and brutality.27

The corporate state, fueled by a market fundamentalism and a long legacy of racial apartheid, has imposed almost incomprehensible cruelty on poor and vulnerable black populations. The merging of neoliberalism and fascist elements of white supremacy and systemic racism is particularly evident in the environmental racism, dilapidated schools and air pollution that have come to light recently.28 The short list includes going so far as to sacrifice poor black children in Flint, Mich., to the perils of lead poisoning to increase profits, subject the population of Puerto Rico to unnecessary despair by refusing to provide adequate government services after Hurricane Maria,29 and creating conditions in which “America’s youngest children, some 47 percent” under the age of 5, “live in low-income or poor households.”30 W.E.B. Du Bois’ notion of a “racial dictatorship” in his classic “Black Reconstruction in America” has been resurrected under Trump.

As U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston reported, amid a massive concentration of wealth among the upper 1 percent in the United States, 40 million people live in poverty and 18.5 million Americans live in extreme poverty. According to Alston, such neoliberal policies are “aggressively regressive” in their promoting of harsh work requirements for welfare recipients, cutting back programs to feed poor children, and the willingness to both incarcerate young children and separate them from their parents.31 All the while, the Trump administration has shifted massive resources to the wealthy as a result of a tax policy that shreds $1.5 trillion from the federal budget.

Since the 1970s, wages have stagnated, banks have cheated millions out of their homes through rigged mortgage policies, and the political power brokers have imposed financial ruin on minorities of class and race.32 The war against poverty initiated by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration had been transformed into a war on poverty by President Ronald Reagan and has accelerated and achieved its apotheosis under the Trump regime. With a pathological enthusiasm, Trump’s morally bereft Republican Congress has cut crucial benefits for the poor, such as the food stamp program, while also imposing harsh work requirements on Medicare recipients. There is more at work here than the self-serving and vindictive neoliberal belief that government is bad when it gets in the way of markets and does not serve the interest of the rich. There is also willfully savage support for massive degrees of inequality, human wretchedness, the criminalization of social problems, and a burgeoning culture of punishment, misery and suffering.

One consequence is a beleaguered American landscape marked by the growing opioid crisis, the criminalization of peaceful protests, race-based environmental poisoning, shorter longevity rates for middle-aged Americans, and an incarceration rate that ranks as the highest in the world. The war on democracy has also morphed into a war on youth as more and more children are homeless, subjected to mass school shootings, inhabit schools modeled after prisons, and increasingly ushered into the school-to-prison pipeline and disciplinary apparatuses that treats them as criminals.33 Under the long history of neoliberalism in the United States, there has developed a perverse investment in the degradation and punishment of the most vulnerable individuals, those considered other, and an increasing register of those considered disposable.34

Rethinking the Politics of Inverted Totalitarianism

What is crucial to understand is that neoliberalism is not only a more extreme element of capitalism, it has also enabled the emergence of a radical restructuring of power, the state and politics, and in doing so converges with a style of fascism suited to the American context. Political theorist Sheldon Wolin, in his book “Democracy Incorporated,” was one of the first to analyze the transformation of a capitalist democracy into what he called an inverted form of totalitarianism. According to Wolin, the political state was replaced by a corporate state that exploits all but the ruling classes, empties politics of any substance through rigged elections, uses the power of capital to define citizens largely as consumers of products, and applies the power of the corporate state as a battering ram to push through policies that strengthen the power of capital.

For Wolin, neoliberalism was the endpoint of a long process “to transform everything --  every object, every living thing, every fact on the planet --  in its image.”35 He believed that this new political formation and form of sovereignty in which economics dominated politics was hostile to both social spending and the welfare state. Wolin rightly argued that under neoliberalism, political sovereignty is largely replaced by economic sovereignty as corporate power takes over the reins of governance.

The dire consequence, as David Harvey points out, is that “raw money power wielded by the few undermines all semblances of democratic governance.”36 Policy is now fashioned by lobbyists representing big businesses such as the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, going so far in the case of the drug companies to drive the opioid crisis to increase their profits.37

Under neoliberalism, the welfare state has been largely dismantled, while the power of a punishing apparatus of an emerging police state has been expanded, buttressed by a pervasive culture of fear that exempts itself from the legalities and constitutional obligations of a democracy, however neutered. Wolin was keenly aware of the ruthlessness of corporate culture in its willingness to produce striking inequalities in an epical war on the promise and ideals of a substantive democracy.

Wolin’s great contribution to theories of totalitarianism lies in his ability to lay bare the authoritarian economic tendencies in neoliberalism and its threat to democracy. What he did not do is associate neoliberalism and its enervating effects closely enough with certain legacies of fascism. In this absence, he was unable to predict the resurgence of strongman politics in the United States and the ascendant fascist investments in white supremacy, racial sorting, ultra-nationalism, a war on youth, women’s reproductive rights and a race-inspired, eliminationist politics of disposability. What he underemphasized was that neoliberalism impoverished not only society economically while serving the interests of the rich, but it also created a powerful narrative that normalizes political inaction as it shifted the weight and responsibility of all social problems onto the individual rather than the society.38

In the age of neoliberal myth-making, systemic deficiencies such as poverty, homelessness and precarious employment are now relegated to individual failures, character deficits and moral turpitude. Correspondingly, notions of the social, systemic and public disappear, serving to expand the base of those who feel voiceless and powerless, opening them up to the crude and simplistic emotional appeals of authoritarian figures such as Trump. In truly demagogic fashion, Trump promises a new world order that will be fashioned out of the rhetorical bombast of dehumanization, bigotry and a weaponized appeal to fear and hate. As the poor and discarded vanish from the political discourse of democracy, they become susceptible to a “volatility and the fury that [mutilates] contemporary politics that thrives on an appetite for authoritarian and fascistic impulses.”39

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