Thursday, November 24, 2016


One may ask why does Donald Trump as president continue to encourage racism and xenophobia, as shown by his naming of Steven Bannon as chief strategist. After all, from a political viewpoint it doesn’t appear to make sense. Trump needs to veer to the center and distance himself from the extreme right to secure the support of his Republican Party, particularly in congress, and try to neutralize the mainstream media. The conclusion that some draw is that it’s all about Trump’s personality; after all, he is not a political person. Others attribute the appointment of Bannon to Trump’s racism. Still others believe Trump is appealing to racism which is widespread in the U.S. and adds up to many votes.
In fact, Trump’s triumph in key states with a large working class population was not due to his racism. Millions of Trump voters in the Rustbelt and elsewhere had previously voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Trump won because he promised to reverse globalization and the loss of U.S. jobs and investment. The xenophobic and even racist discourse served to enhance the credibility of Trump’s promises. It also seemed to demonstrate that he was serious about bringing about change, a promise made by Obama in 2008 on the basis of his race and by Hillary in 2008 and 2016 on the basis of gender.

Workers who voted for Trump did so not because he was going to build a wall on the Mexican border, but because his promise to build the wall underpinned his promise to halt the outflow of jobs and investments. It was a rhetorical ploy that worked; it got him elected.

The strategy was no easy feat. After all, Trump ran as a Republican and the Republicans, not the Democrats, fully backed Obama’s efforts to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). And the Republicans, more than the Democrats, backed Clinton’s NAFTA in 1994. The working class had all the reason to be skeptical about Hillary’s rejection of the TPP, as demonstrated by the Wikileaks emails. In order to back his claim to being anti-globalization and intent on reversing globalization, Trump had to do outrageous things. The outrageousness seemed to demonstrate that he would not be deterred from carrying out his promises, that he had the guts to buck powerful establishmed interests. And his tacit and not so tacit alliance with the racists served to demonstrate that he would do the impossible to stand up to the Mexicans and the Chinese, and above all the multinationals that invest in those nations.

Empty rhetoric is usually not completely empty. It reflects reality, albeit to widely varying degrees. When Trump pledged himself to twist the arms of Carrier to scrap its plans to move their Indianapolis plant to Mexico in 2019, only fiery anti-Mexican rhetoric could convince the workers that he meant business. Their support for Trump was not a measure of their anti-Mexican sentiment, but rather their desperation.

In the short run, Trump may be able to score some victories, but more of a symbolic nature than anything else. He may be able to get some companies to refrain from moving plants out of the country and some to actually return capital. The enticements will be tax breaks, anti-worker legislation and other benefits, more than rhetorical threats. And in the long run, not even those inducements will do the trick. What Lenin said about imperialism a century ago, is applicable to globalization: it’s not a policy, rather it’s a stage. Globalization is a result of the mobility of capital made possible by technological developments and made necessary by certain contradictions in the system that reached a threshold in the 1970s. There’s no turning back, Donald Trump notwithstanding.  


At January 15, 2017 at 1:20 AM , Blogger pejecaiman said...

Prof. Steve
Lo de regreso de empresas lo esta promoviendo Mexico cuando a la TOYOTA le ofrece no pago de impuestos y mano de obra barata libre de sindicatos en una jugada para detener la migración a EU. Es decir los paises maquilas haran esfuerzos con ese capital viajero para evitar ese regreso a tierras EU a pesar que signifique para esos paises mas pobreza y contaminación ambiental. Considerando esto ultimo, para el regreso de empresas a EU se esperaría que Trump promueva cambios en la legislación ambiental que es bastante fuerte en materia de reparación de daños ambientales?


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