The oligarchs’ and powerbrokers’ conspicuous reluctance to hand Donald Trump the presidential reins has escaped the understanding of even the shrewdest political critics for five years running. Why were they so visibly uncomfortable with Trump, whose affability with weapons contractors, support of feudal economics, and penchant for brutal law enforcement were never in doubt? The answer to this question is surprisingly lucid, but it did not become so ‘til it was approached through the miasma of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Next Saturday will mark a full year since Biden commenced his quest for the Democratic Party’s nomination, a typically grueling and demanding process through which he has floated rather docilely. He was preserved, even embalmed, protected from the fusillade of skeptical questions any other candidate must and did face. Who coddled him through this brutal affair? The same puissant people who had such remarkable reservations about Trump. Why did they shield him? For the same reason: to save face in the midst of an existential crisis.
A person navigates a midlife crisis by constructing an artificial neo-adolescence, and a comparable process occurs among nations. The American Empire is in visible decline, and as it perceives its own mortality, it reverts to the crude impulses of its youth. Trump is the most garish symptom of this regression, a puerile fantasy come to life. He, or it, would not be pursued under ordinary, stable circumstances—but these are extraordinary, unstable times. A healthy civilization would not select Trump as its political, intellectual, or spiritual leader—but this is a decidedly unhealthy nation. It is not to say that Trump departs ideologically from the American presidents of yesteryear, but his irrationally ephebic style belies our society’s hollow and flimsy foundations. We cannot help but look upon Trump with unease, perhaps even nausea or malaise, and in our skepticism, the oligarchs are threatened ever so slightly—not in their person, but in their position.
Such was their motivation to support Hillary Clinton so generously in 2016. Her policies were not significantly different from Trump’s, which is really a gentle way of explaining that both of them were equally loyal to the corrupt establishment. Nonetheless, her placid professionalism contrasted sharply with Trump’s bellicosity, and because the former is much more effective—at least for the oligarch’s purpose of pretending “the system” is both functional and stable—Clinton earned their unequal patronage. The mainstream media, empowered by corporate funding, depicted her as the preferable candidate, perhaps even as the required candidate; however, this had the ironical effect of refashioning Trump as the underdog, a historically adored archetype that stands at the center of so many American myths. Did this reversal—or assignation—of roles play to Trump’s unexpected benefit? At the very least, the establishment tipped its hand, the same hand it plays in all elections, including the present contest.
The difference between the corporate media and the underground media is this: the former focuses on who will compete against the undefeated establishment; the latter examines the establishment’s strategies and methods. Trump’s furious political ascent and the establishment’s graceless reaction to it have furnished an exceptional opportunity for our examination, providing us with innumerable examples of provocative hypocrisy, especially by the establishment’s ostensibly left wing. The so-called liberals in Congress, even those who have resurrected their careers through their relentless criticism of the current president, have authorized his criminal foreign policy, his administration’s repeal of the First Amendment, and his historic indulgences of corporate welfare. There is so much to discuss—all too much, really—as long as one is unfettered by major sponsorship. We who are free of such entanglements have been endlessly productive in the Trumpish Age, and soon we will have learned to apply our work to future trends: we already predicted the uninspiring “blue wave” and the ill-fated impeachment, and now we await, with an almost giddy zeal, the Democrats’ grand humiliation with Biden’s impending (and inevitable?) defeat.
Biden’s campaign was entirely absent organic support. Nobody voted for him out of independent enthusiasm. He ran exclusively on a joyless homage to “electability”, a characteristic conferred on him by a subservient client press. His mechanical march through the pageantry of the primaries, a fait accompli that would have redefined “dystopian” were it not for the coronavirus, also brings to mind Anthony Burgess’s intended meaning of the term “clockwork orange”. To be fair, this wasn’t the first time that the oligarchs controlled an entire political process, the unsuccessful nominations of John Kerry and Mitt Romney being recent examples. However, there was an oppressive gratuity to Biden’s coronation, a heavy-handedness so overbearing that even several bourgeois Democrats privately confessed to me their disquiet. It is now unquestionably the Antidemocratic Party, a party that may represent many things, but that clearly does not represent the will of the people.
Ergo, it is exceptionally tempting to root against the Democrats, even if it is impossible to root for the Republicans and Trump. It is especially tantalizing for those of us who write and speak about the effective equivalence of the two parties, because Biden’s defeat would validate our years-long criticism of the Democratic Party, an organization that betrayed us with its promises of progressive values. Libertarians can and should feel commensurately used by the Republican Party, but anyone who still believes in the integrity of that organization may be behold help. The Democratic Party still enjoys an association with the learned, and it is this sinister façade that needs shattering most badly. It suffered a serious, nearly lethal blow when Hillary Clinton coasted to defeat, and although Biden’s downfall would not be as drastic, it could be enough to lead erstwhile party loyalists astray. They could find themselves reading subversive material such as this, and maybe even writing some of their own.
The same risk is not present in a scenario wherein Biden is elected. The Trumpeters would be irate, maybe even belligerent, but their sympathy for their fallen leader would blind them to the unilateral structure of American politics, and likely compel them to seek his vengeance by supporting another like-minded right-winger. On the other hand, Trump’s re-election may well prove to be the psychic capstone to the neoconservative movement, a success so monumentally satisfying that it dulls the political ambitions of millions of voters. Even if their favored candidates should fall in every future presidential election, still they can bask in the transcendent afterglow of Trump’s dual improbable victories. Fat, happy, and lacking motivation, they could leave a vacuum to be filled by libertarians and progressives, both of whom pose their own unique existential threat to the establishment and its comprising oligarchs—a threat far more credible and potent than the one that Trump posed just four short years ago.
Contrary to popular belief, the oligarchs have an awful lot riding on this next election, and that is why we can expect them to follow Tulsi Gabbard’s lead and offer their “full support” to Joe Biden, who will defend the establishment and surround himself with polished, articulate assistants. He is not their perfect puppet, not when his malapropisms rival Trump’s truculence in their theatricality, but he is still a serviceable instrument—or a stopgap, if you prefer, one that will delay the closing of the circle, theirs and ours, for just a little longer.