Support for Trump

Image: João Nitsche


The most brilliant thing Republicans and their media aides have done to sideline Trump's actual performance is to identify Democrats with socialism and Trump with freedom.

I write this text while we wait to know the result of the American presidential elections. Five states – Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania – have yet to finish counting their votes, which could take days to complete and certify. Some states do not require absentee ballots to be arrive to the polls before November 12. These bills, orabsentee ballots“, are collected from those who could not be present at the polling places, but registered their vote.

While Biden has a narrow path to victory, albeit not as narrow as Trump's, we also don't know what will happen with the lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign. These actions are intended, among other things, to delegitimize mail-in ballots, a long-established and accepted means of voting used this year by millions of people to avoid crowds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

So, we still don't know much. But we already know of some, which we can count on, regardless of the result.

Out of approximately 155 million voters, which is equivalent to about three-quarters of the adult American population, between 72-75 million voted to re-elect Donald Trump. That's a substantial increase from the 63 million that brought him to power in 2016. So it's not just that Trump has lost few supporters in that period, he has recruited new supporters, including among the black, Latino and young white communities. About a third of American voters support his presidency, and they want more than they've seen. Or, at the very least, they ardently want to avoid a Biden presidency.

These voters like it or don't care that this president makes no efforts to lead or unite the nation, but instead barks, brags, swears, and lashes out like an unruly playground bully.

They like it or don't care that he pays lower taxes than workers pay and owes nearly half a billion dollars to unknown creditors.

They like it or they don't care that he failed to deliver on his 2016 campaign promises – from a new health plan, to reindustrializing the Midwest and a wall paid for by Mexico, to an answer to the opioid crisis that is now under way. sweeps the country.

They like it or they don't care that it incites white supremacist hate groups, right-wing armed militias, and dangerous conspiracy theories tied to threats of extreme civil violence.

They like it or not care that he has been credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault by more than two dozen women and that he routinely attacks his female counterparts or opponents with misogynistic slurs.

They like it or they don't care that he has handled Covid 19 almost nonchalantly, with no regard for public health and medical protocols, so that infection and death rates are rising in the regions where he has the most support and exceed those of any industrialized nation, collaborating to weaken the economy and possibly leading to the breakdown of the country's already overburdened health care system.

They like it or they don't care that the only emergency fiscal package during the pandemic, the CARES Act, far from alleviating the daunting hardships of the pandemic-displaced middle and working class, constituted the largest single-act upward redistribution of wealth in the history of capitalism, done through tax cuts for the richest and cheap, unrestricted loans to corporations.

They like or dislike your rejection of the climate emergency and other related ecological crises that threaten our future.

Perhaps most significantly, they like or dislike the president's disregard for democratic institutions, norms, and practices. They are supportive or indifferent to the fact that their regime has all the earmarks of a new fascism, which is likely to intensify in a second term. In addition to his dictatorial personality, which was evident when he, without any basis for it, declared himself the winner of the elections on Tuesday night, the new fascism includes attempts to limit and control independent courts and government agencies; punish legislators, governors, and even entire states for lack of loyalty; relentlessly attacking the media, its professionals and intellectuals; disseminate propaganda using his mandate; resorting to military and police forces to intimidate and crush resistance; and, of course, calling into question established procedures and election results.

But apart from those who really like all of the above – and some do – how are we to understand those who simply don't care about all this because the Trump regime offers something else that is vital to them? The answer does not lead us to a single problem or a monolithic approach. For some, all that matters is their investment portfolio or how much they pay in taxes. For others, it's the sanctity of heterosexual marriage or the unparalleled innocence of the fetus. For a select few, it's Jerusalem or the West Bank settlements. For still others, it is the right to bear arms. And, of course, for many, it's the fact that their right to white male supremacy is in jeopardy.

For most, however, a certain type of freedom is at stake. In virtually every interview done with Trump voters, Biden and the Democratic Party were identified with socialism. Trump, on the other hand, was identified with freedom. Republican campaigns for Congress hit this key: voting against the Democratic Party would mean preventing a socialist takeover of the nation, exemplified by the Democratic primaries, by the “Esquadrão” in Congress (group of parliamentarians, re-elected in 2020, formed by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez , Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib), by the Marxists who were supposed to organize the Black Lives Matter movement, and by the black woman vice-presidential candidate who at some point supported a system with universal health coverage (reference to the support of Kamala Harris to Medicare for All, in a country dominated by private healthcare)

It would be easy to imagine this as Cold War talk reheated, and it is certainly what cemented the vote for Trump in Miami, Florida, where millions of Cubans still harbor resentment of the 1959 revolution. was at stake in this caricature of the Biden-Harris candidacy as a socialist. Rather, the danger raised is one that Friedrich Hayek outlined in The Road to Servitude and Milton Friedman portrayed in Capitalism and Freedom (both are part of the neoliberal current of philosophical, political and economic thought). It is the sleeping giant of socialism that the right sees in any program of social justice (which they call “social engineering”), that is, in any attempt to correct historic and systemic unequal access to housing, resources, education, employment, and even labor. vote. It is also a promise to replace regressive taxes on income and wealth with progressive taxes.

O Obamacare is identified by the Republican Party as socialist. Fox News routinely refers to the Socialism of the National Committee of the Democratic Party. And right-wing sites like Breitbart identified “Comrade Kamala” with communism after she released a campaign video explaining that equality is the principle that everyone starts the competition from the same point and plays by the same rules.

These characterizations do not evoke the danger of political repression (although they may refer to the imposition of “political correctness”). Instead, they rest on the fear that redistributive and social policies will replace a crude (and manipulated) market economy, which Trump supporters have learned to identify as a space of self-determination. They may be living on a financial precipice, dealing with opioid addiction in their families and communities, with their children attending bad schools and college appearing financially out of reach. But the mantra of socialism makes them fear that what little they have will be taken from them by a Green New Deal, a Obamacare expansion, greater access to universities, reform of immigration laws, and a nation that is less harsh and mean to those perceived as outsiders or with the Insider viewed as racially and ethnically abject.

Of course, what excites Trump voters may also be more primal. Visceral racism and xenophobia; the hatred of feminists, environmentalists and coastal city elites; the furious resentment of the disdain they know more educated, cosmopolitan Americans have for them; and love for a bully who takes what he wants and attacks at will.

The passion of all Trump supporters cannot be explained by neoliberalism alone. The most brilliant thing Republicans and their media aides have done to sideline Trump's actual performance is to identify Democrats with socialism and Trump with freedom. It was a version of the freedom he expressed in his resistance to Covid 19 protocols, cutting taxes for the rich, increasing the power and rights of corporations, and destroying what remained of the social and regulatory state. It's a version of freedom that already saturated the anti-government, anti-democratic neoliberal culture, so all the Republican Party had to do was build on that foundation.

And we can only imagine. If the Democratic Party would really be stamped as a socialist, wouldn't it have been better to field a true democratic socialist instead of Biden? This could have been an opportunity to educate America about what democratic socialism really is (and the freedom it presents!), to openly reject Trumpist kleptocracy rather than just the person of Trump, and to galvanize the ten million of the millennials who, at some point, saw 2020 as a year that could deliver a fighting chance for the planet and for their own prospects to prosper? Biden ran with a focus on decency, but that old-fashioned virtue isn't exactly at the top of people's minds in the XNUMXst century. For many, a better future is at stake.

*Wendy Brown is a professor of political science at the University of California (Berkeley). She has published, among other books, In the ruins of neoliberalism: the rise of anti-democratic politics in the West (Politeia)

Translation: Flavia Biroli protocols for 2020 Election Observatory of the INCT .




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