Don't miss the special, extra-length issue of In These Times devoted entirely to the subject of socialism in America today. This special issue is available now. Order your copy today for just $5.00, shipping included.
Donald Trump cuts through the ideological haze of American politics and exposes its underlying truth, the truth of enjoyment. Where other candidates appeal to a fictitious unity or pretense of moral integrity, he displays the power of inequality. Money buys access — why deny it? Money creates opportunity — for those who have it. Money lets those with a lot of it express their basest impulses and desires — there is no need to hide the dark drives when there is none before whom one might feel shame (we might call this the Berlusconi principle). It’s the rest of us who bow down.
As Trump makes explicit the power of money in the contemporary US, he facilitates, stimulates, and circulates enjoyment (jouissance). Trump openly expresses the racism, sexism, contempt, and superiority that codes of civility and political correctness insist be repressed. This expression demonstrates the truth of economic inequality: civility is for the middle class, a normative container for the rage of the dispossessed and the contempt of the dispossessors. The .1 % need not pretend to care.
The freedom from civility, the privilege of enjoying superiority, incites different responses, all of which enable people to enjoy — get off on — this political round.
Some of the underpaid and exploited enjoy through Trump. Not only does he give them permission to express their racism, sexism, and hate, but they are already accustomed to imagining themselves with his power, firing and degrading a wide array of those with whom they disagree. His television shows taught them to do this, instilling in them practices of judgment and dismissal ready to move out of prime time and into the political sphere. Others like the way Trump’s brutality, his directness, unsettles and disrupts the branded lies that are the mainstream parties. He’s going to screw the same folks who screwed them. The more Trump calls women ‘slobs,’ ‘dogs,’ and ‘pigs,’ the more they (a ‘they’ which may include some women) like it. The more incendiary his racism, the better. Trump’s not afraid to back down — he’s not even angry. It’s just good business, good sense, a fact. An American id, Trump affirms the obscene impulses it’s just too much effort to continue to repress.
Liberals enjoy their outrage. Here Trump confirms for them their rightness in despising the Republican base, itself only seldom anything other than their own disgust with the working class. As they use Trump as a catalyst for their own good feeling, liberals repeat his practices of contempt in another register. Not only is he a candidate they can enjoy hating but he enables them to extend their hate to all the non-millionaires supporting Trump: they really must be idiots.
In a plutocracy, the plutocrats rule. The Republicans don’t like Trump because he doesn’t hide this point under flag and fetus. For him, flag and fetus are present, but incidental to his politics of truth. Those with money win. Those without it lose. Winners get to do whatever they want. Losers get done to. Trump unleashes the drives US electoral politics more typically attempts to channel along set scripts. This is his politics of enjoyment.
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
We've partnered with the publisher, Haymarket Books, and 100% of your donation will go towards supporting In These Times.