Political science is without much value this week. For the sake of your health, listen to me: put reason aside and just give up on your game theory. This will save you time. Most efforts to understand the impulses of Washington DC must only be led right now by the simplest psychology. Which is to say, just know that they’ve all gone barking inside the Beltway. Almost all of them.
The President-elect, of course, has been openly bonkers for some time. This is a guy who seems to get as riled about casting decisions in superhero movies as he does about Chinese trade. It’s nice that he has everyday interests, I guess. But when there is no way for the people to tell if he’s only as angry about Chinese President Xi Jinping as he is about whichever guy next fills Batman’s tights, foreign policy is bound to become a deadly cartoon adventure.
At the time of writing — and remember, this could change within the hour — Trump seems maddest about his own inauguration. In the man’s imagination, it’s the “politically correct” aliens of Hollywood that have dissuaded true stars from shining as bright as they did for the birth of Obama. POTUS had Beyonce as just one in his glittering galaxy. Trump has managed to find a pair of million-sellers, but black holes in the line-up are dense enough that he has tried (and failed) to engage a Bruce Springsteen tribute band to shine a light on our miserable future.
Not to go on unnecessarily about Trump’s inauthenticity — there are plenty of outlets doing that smug work. But before we move on to the most instrumental insanity this week in DC, which is playing out in Poland, this never-to-be performance by the “B-Street Band” deserves a moment of analysis. The original Springsteen, who now sings about a white working class long since edged out of labour, won’t even appear as a copy of himself. Trump couldn’t even conjure a facsimile of the Springsteen appearance at the Obama inauguration, which might’ve played out as a nice duplication of Melania Trump’s facsimile in July of Michelle Obama’s speech. All of which is to say, the only people who would’ve found any joy in this inauguration — post-modern hobbyists who like to drool about how “meta” everything is — won’t even get to do that.
As America endures its painful life change from neoliberalism to neonationalism, Trump is not the only one having a nutty hot flash. Both liberal press and the Democratic National Committee seem unable to look reality in the eye any more truly than a Springsteen cover band could play Thunder Road. The Democratic establishment is so reluctant to admit that it lost 16 points off its low-income base to Trump, they gave the guy who recommended ignoring white blue-collar workers the most senior job in government. When Chuck Schumer was elected Senate minority leader instead of being punished for his sheer psephological idiocy, we had a hint the Dem establishment was off its tits.
We have confirmation of that in the liberal press of the present. At Vox, Slate, Salon, The New York Times and, very notably, The Washington Post, journalists keep repeating the claim things will only get worse for those impoverished voters, the biggest segment lost to Trump. This is very likely to be true — those jobs Trump promised to bring back are gone, along with America’s century of middle-class prosperity. But the rust-belt diabetic is about as likely to tolerate these liberal reasonable pleas as the Democratic establishment, in its current form, is to give a shit for such a person.
Forty years of economic policy, much of it dished up by Dems, have produced grim conditions for most US workers, especially the younger ones. A survey released this week compared the lot of Millennials to Boomers at identical life stages, and found that the former group’s median wage has dropped 20%, their net worth by almost half. It’s interesting for wonks to note here that the income of white Millennials, whose earnings continue to significantly outstrip their black and Hispanic peers, has had the most dramatic percentage drop of any ethnic category. Wages for minority groups haven’t risen; they were just so bad from the outset, they couldn’t decline so critically as the white wage.
This stuff is maybe interesting for you, but not to liberal media or the DNC, groups that continue to find a culprit, any culprit, that isn’t neoliberal policy. Why blame wealth inequality, a glaring global fact invisible only to people with a lot of obfuscating equity or ideology, when you can blame the Russians?
There is still no compelling proof that Russian agents “hacked” the election. But the claim has been repeated often enough, 88% of US citizens now believe it. Certainly, all publications aforementioned advanced the case based purely on statements of speculation by the intel community, or its anonymous representatives. They say, without grounds, that Russia hacked John Podesta’s email, while also saying that there was absolutely nothing in that trove to find. Journalists say that only an extremist or Kremlin apologist would not believe that Putin was behind this. But they were saying similar things over at The Washington Post and elsewhere in 2003. After watching then-secretary of state Colin Powell make his presentation to the United Nations Security Council, the Post wrote, “it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction”.
No extraordinary evidence was needed for extraordinary intervention then. It’s not needed today. All we know is that the Russians totally did it, and all we found out about the DNC is that it was a bunch of really nice liberals who enjoyed collecting art. But this anodyne information was sufficient to swing an election, which couldn’t have possibly had anything to do with the real-wage decline that a majority of Americans have experienced. The same real-wage decline that is leading white Westerners to turn away from the centre and vote for extreme right-wing parties in nations that offer no left alternative.
Even if the Post and co disagree, I don’t personally think the Podesta emails contained “nothing”. I hope that if there were local evidence, for example, that a senior employee of a large financial institution had provided a list of cabinet appointments, which were subsequently adopted, Australians would riot. If there is clear evidence of outside interference in state affairs, it’s not in the intel community speculation about Russia, but in the outbox of Michael Froman, former Citigroup exec and now US Trade Representative. I mean, FFS. Citigroup chose Obama’s cabinet. That this verifiable intervention has become, somehow, less significant than its point of origin, still unverified, makes no sense to me.
But it seems to make sense sufficient to permit an action that may prove more painful to many than even the false music of the B-Street Band. Obama, perhaps one of the few rational actors in DC this week, has done something strategic, and potentially terrible. The widespread belief in still unverified “Russian hacking” allows the US to roll out 4000 troops to the Poland-Russia border.
Trump may be enjoying his half of a naive bromance with the far savvier Putin, but he’ll learn, just as other US presidents have, that the power of his passions is as nothing when set against the Pentagon’s path dependency. Turning this stuff back will not be easy. There’s a lot of hardware, a lot of bodies and a lot of enthusiasm from Poland’s PiS government — a right-wing bunch of stinking racist turds — for the profitable US military presence.
Occupation of Poland, I am led to understand, rarely ends well — is this nation ever anybody’s last territorial demand? But it’s a shot in the arm of NATO, for which Trump has had no kind words, and a good example of both the power of negligent press coverage to buoy large-scale military actions and Obama’s political ingenuity. POTUS gets to revive NATO, exonerate Clinton’s baseless indictment of Putin — for which he once mocked Romney — and send a final fuck-you to Trump, whose pro-Russian, anti-isolationism is effectively done.
After years of reason with Russia, Obama now leaves a legacy of instrumental insanity. This extraordinary deployment has Russia pissed off, Poles living again beside tanks, and contracts in the Pentagon refreshed. POTUS better free Chelsea Manning if he wants to avoid hell (where I hear the boys from B-Street are the house band).