Essentially, Trumpism is a conservative authoritarian response to the Democratic Party’s continual neglect of the legitimate grievances of large sectors of the white voters who ended up supporting Trump.
By doing so, these white voters hoped that he would reverse the socioeconomic and political decay resulting from neoliberal policies that the Democrats themselves established under Clinton and Obama and will most likely continue under Biden.
Abandoned to the fate of deindustrialisation and structural unemployment, white America continues to suffer from the ills of despair sunk in the widespread consumption of opioids and rising rates of suicide.
It is true that the economy of the United States continues making material strides in fields including high technology, communications, medical science, and entertainment. But in overall terms, this material progress is not as large or evenly distributed as that of previous historical periods. As Northwestern University economist Robert J. Gordon argued in two influential papers published in 2000 and 2018, since the early seventies, the American economy has been experiencing a continuous decline in the rate of increase of productivity, except for a temporary revival from 1996 to 2006…
The decline of the rate of growth of productivity has had a negative effect on the rate of profit, which has contributed to the capitalists’ efforts to extract greater production from workers and other attacks on workers’ demands. It may also be a key reason why between 1980 and 2020, the US real GDP-per-person growth has averaged less than 3 percent a year and has been slowing down regularly.
The capitalist attack on workers’ demands has increased the uneven and skewed distribution of wealth and strengthened the capitalist opposition to the taxation required for a substantial improvement in the access to services like education and health care. Education for the majority of the people has continued to deteriorate, and notwithstanding advances in medical science, so has health care.
Along with the entirely inadequate response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to the destruction of the environment by the decision-makers, Republican and Democrat, these are all powerful expressions of capitalist decay. They reveal the systemic inability of a social system to assure its long-term survival, to provide a meaningful alternative and solution to the ecological, economic, and social crises that considerably increase the likelihood of pandemics, and to enact an effective and egalitarian public health response to those pandemics.
Abandoned to the fate of deindustrialisation and structural unemployment, white America continues to suffer from the ills of despair sunk in the widespread consumption of opioids and rising rates of suicide. African Americans continue being victimised by police brutality and a highly unstable labour and housing market that has increased the precariousness of its recently expanding middle class, while the black majority continues to be poor as a black minority rises into the managerial and executive ranks. In the last decade, student debt has become an increasing burden for college students who like their noncollege peers do not expect to live as well as their parents’ generation.
The increasing number of young people who have to work at McDonald’s and their retail equivalents are not exactly encouraged to feel optimistic about their futures when they are plagued not only by low wages, but are expected to be available for sudden changes in work schedules that wreak havoc over their lives, especially if they have young children.
These are the concrete expressions of the long-standing rise of inequality in the United States, the country with the most unequal distribution of both personal wealth and income among the G7 economies.
Material prosperity has been indispensable to the maintenance of social cohesion and peace in a highly individualistic American society where historically the solidarity based on class and community ties has been comparatively weak.
As this prosperity recedes, the great question remains: What social forces will emerge to struggle for a progressive democratic and socialist alternative from below to right-wing reaction, whether Trumpian or not?
• Excerpted from the Jacobin website here