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Trump Is the Next Stage of the Disease

2016 December 22
by Ian Welsh

One of the more common mistakes regarding Trump is to see him as something that came out of the blue; unheralded and strange.

Trump is a kleptocrat. The US is a kleptocracy. It “formally” became a kleptocracy when the Supreme Court ruled in Citizen’s United that money was speech. (It is ironic that Trump won with less money, but it doesn’t change this fact.)

America was pragmatically a kleptocracy in 2009, when Obama entered office and continued his predecessor’s policy of bailing out bankers, taking houses away from little people and not prosecuting bankers for clear crimes.

Punish the people without money; let the people with money walk.

Trump is a walkimg emoluments violation: He should be impeached month two of his term for his refusal to sell his company.

But he won’t be (though he may eventually be impeached if Republicans decide they’d rather have Pence as President, and that they don’t think Trump’s followers will personally visit their houses to discuss the issue).

Kleptocracies are run for the benefit of the rich. It is that simple. A monarchical kleptocracy like Putin runs, and like Trump seems interested in running, makes sure the peasants get something, which means it may feel slightly better than what came before it. (Putin is very, very popular and was so even before the recent wars for the simple reason that Yeltsin was far, far worse.)

But they are still kleptocracies. Trump’s first order of business is tax cuts, mostly for the rich. There is a report that his team has asked for information on funding of environmental groups, and Trump plans on shutting down NASA’s climate change group.

These things get in the way of making money; and because environmentalism was pushed during a period in which the economy was, for too many people, a negative sum game, it is also unpopular with his base.

But these things are extensions of the already-existing Republican party orthodoxy. Tax cuts and fuck-environmentalism is where Trump stands in solid agreement with the kleptocracy that already ran the country. These things are not what make Trump interesting, or unique, they are what make him simply another stage of the disease.

Understand that what we had in 2016 was a crisis point. There were three options. Clinton was for the status quo kleptocracy. More or less the same, with a bit more help for those hurting the most, like students.

Trump was for monarchical kleptocracy, minus globalism: add tariffs and one-to-one trade deals to the mix, change up the foreign policy, make sure some more people get jobs, while gutting worker rights in general.

Sanders was an opportunity to actually change some of the key domestic policies away from kleptocracy: While not ideal, he was clearly a change from the status quo in a kinder direction, and he came fairly close to winning the Democratic primary, despite an active conspiracy by the DNC to stop him (no, no, it meets the actual definition of conspiracy).

Of those three options, Americans chose Trump: a new stage of the kleptocratic disease. Double down on transfers to the rich, but let’s give more scraps to the poor and fuck over some foreigners to get those scraps while burning up the world even faster. (Obama was not good on the environment; he was bad, but Trump will be much, much worse.)

I am not panicking, or running around screaming. I regarded something like Trump as nearly inevitable, with a small, but real, chance to avoid him by embracing the populist left (in this case, championed by Sanders).

In fact, Trump is not as bad as what I expected. His victory, a squeaker, may wind up precluding Trump 2.0, that is, the guy who would run next time, having learned from Trump what was possible, but far more disciplined, focused, and ideological than Trump.

Trump has the support of some powerful ideologues (most notably Bannon), and he has a world view, inchoate as it is, but he’s a very flawed man. Despite being very good at getting what he wants, it is undeniable that he lacks discipline, focus, and a broad base of understanding. Nor does he self-identify as being ideologically driven. Bannon may want to be the Lenin of the right, Trump does not.

More to the point, because the actions of US elites (and the world’s), along with the repeated votes of US voters, kept pushing America down this path, for decades, I regard running around screaming as pathetic. It’s like running full speed at an oncoming train for five minutes, with plenty of opportunities to veer off, then complaining when you get hit.

Many Americans, and the vast majority of their elites, affirmatively chose, repeatedly, to take actions and institute policies which were most likely to lead to Trump. Those who opposed those policies lost, and a huge chunk of the population sat on the sidelines doing nothing.

There were many, many opportunities to turn away from this path; the largest was to NOT bail out bankers in 2009.

In 2009, I wrote the US off. I knew that Obama had affirmatively made the choice to save oligarchy from itself (quite different from FDR saving capitalism, but not oligarchy). I knew then that something like Trump was the most likely outcome, but I expected worse than Trump, so far, seems to be.

So running around screaming is ridiculous. This was a choice, made affirmatively, repeatedly. If Trump had lost to Clinton, Trump 2.0 would have tried in 2020 and almost certainly won. The US is a kleptocracy, and eventually the disease would move to the next stage, if not reversed.

What I seek to do now, with regards to Trump, is two things. The first is simply to understand him and his movement. We’re going to be living in his America; it’s his world, for some time, so we’d best figure it out.

The second is to poke people who didn’t and still don’t get it, because until enough people do, we will keep losing to kleptocrats (whose number includes both Clintons) and people like Trump.

These two things are meant to support realistic assessment of Trump, the US, and the world so that effective action can be taken.

I have a friend who, as a result of Trump, is leaving the US with his two children. He has carefully looked at Trump, made his assessment of the US’s future and chosen a course of action. That is effective.

Make your assessment, take your action. Stop the hysterics. I strongly recommend that many people, who are most worked up, take two weeks off the internet, except for unavoidable work related tasks. Calm down, think, and decide what you need to do for yourself and your dependents. Heck, depending on who you are, you might even be one of the winners from Trump (they will exist).

Then decide what you’re going to do. Understand the consequences of your actions. Make your assessment. If you really think Trump = Hitler you should be getting the fuck out or preparing to fight, and I do mean fight. If you don’t, what do you think he is?

Get real.

In the meantime, I will continue to keep an eye on Trump and his team and try to provide analysis without hysterics or panic. Fear may be appropriate (it is for some people, for sure), panic is not.

But it will be vastly harder to fix this if people keep pretending it wasn’t affirmatively chosen, and not just by people who voted for Trump this time, but by everyone who supported the previous status quo, starting around 1980. Kleptocracy is neoliberalism’s child, its logical end-result, and Trump is just a new stage in kleptocracy, and yes, many people worked hard for this including most people who voted against Trump.

Understanding how and why you got here is necessary to get out of here–not in one piece (it’s too late for that), but without losing any body parts you’ll really miss (always choose to lose a leg–the prosthetics are great).

Trump: Just another stage in the disease of kleptocracy, made inevitable by neoliberalism and affirmatively chosen by modern “liberal” hero, Barack Obama.

Own it.

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120 Responses
  1. different clue permalink
    December 30, 2016

    Peter and realitychecker,

    There are Berners who did not vote for Clinton in the end. I don’t know how many. I know I was one of them.

    Whatever the integrity and/or toughness level of Sanders himself . . . . there are several million SanderBackers who have discovered eachothers’ existence and can stay in touch with eachother and deepen their cross-organization and thing-doing levels if they so wish. They can do this all on their own, Bernie or no Bernie, now that they have found eachother. Their future is in their own strong hands.

  2. realitychecker permalink
    December 30, 2016

    @ different clue

    Bernie promised radical change. I think we need radical change. I doubt that Bernie folks on social media will bring about radical change, though I would hope they do.

    But there is no point in trying to justify Bernie’s craven personal behavior. He did not fight the primary hard enough, he acquiesced to having the nomination stolen from him, and he gleefully sucked the clit of the hellbitch who stole the nomination from him and represented the opposite of everything he said he stood for.

    In the final analysis, just another god with clay feet. Not a worthy hero to worship. Maybe nobody is? Maybe we all need to fight our own fight?

  3. Peter permalink
    December 30, 2016


    I didn’t see anything radical in Sanders’ talking points they seemed to be social democrat based with OWS rhetoric borrowed for its appeal. He parroted them monotonously throughout his campaign and never really expanded them or produced any actual description of how he would accomplish anything.

    Your last sentence does verge on radical Anarchist thought, the idea that we should reject all the leadership caste.

  4. realitychecker permalink
    December 30, 2016

    @ Peter

    Radical was his attack on trade deals. Radical was his reliance on small donations. Radical was his focus against the 1%. Radical was his constant use of the word ‘revolution,” even though he did not appear to mean violent revolution.

    Radical compared to the usual pap.

    Can we trust anyone to be our leaders anymore? I question whether any truly radical leader can arise and survive in present day America. Individual revolutionaries could probably be more effective.

    No easy escape from our present predicament. We slept too long, we let the bad guys get too entrenched. This ain’t Hollywood. 🙁

  5. Ann Thomsen permalink
    December 30, 2016

    One of the reasons I liked Sanders was that he sounded so much like Trump — in the beginning.

    Sanders said we couldn’t engage in a race to the bottom on wages because the slide for American workers would continue until we lived like the working Honduran.

    The music is slowing … and there are not 7 billion chairs. Until and unless we address the demographic realities of life for ALL creatures – we will continue the downward spiral for people, animals, plants, rivers, oceans bees and butterflies.

    SAVE THE CHILDREN? ,…. not on your life.

  6. Peter permalink
    December 30, 2016


    You’re doing with the word/idea radical what I did with the word/idea revolution maybe even more so. There was nothing in Bernie’s rhetoric that was radical if you think that radical in economic terms is to strike at the root of capitalism. All he offered were reforms and remedies for the ills of capitalism but no attack on the underlying disease, social democracy is not socialism.

    The disgruntled Clintonites and pseudo-leftists in the Berners ranks were viewing their reality from the extreme center of Clintonism which made their reform platform appear to resemble something radical but that’s just a warped perspective.

  7. different clue permalink
    December 30, 2016

    People who are looking for a hero to worship are their own problem and their own fault, not the fault of mundane political-world leaders who never claimed to be worship-worthy. People who supported Sanders to this point will either decide or not-decide what they will do next. They have found eachother. They can stay in touch with eachother if they wish.

    As to Social Media, it is a fine platform for meatspace people to stay in touch with large numbers of eachother and perhaps co-ordinate what to do in meatspace. If people wish to retreat to an online Social Media presence only; that is the fault of those people only, not the fault of the Social Media technology platform.

    Just as with a blog like this here. People can send their avatars here to interact. People can also use these avatars to pick up information to take back to the meatspace to put to analog uses in the Reality Sphere. If they want to.

  8. different clue permalink
    December 30, 2016

    By the way, another thought occurs to me off and on. One wonders if Sanders was quietly threatened with assassanition of his wife and/ or daughters by “wet work messengers” from the Clintonite Group. Given the utter moral and ethical turpitude with which the Clintonites have always operated, and given their connections to the Intel Industrial Complex; should the suspicion be dismissed out of hand?

    In other words:

    I wonder if
    somebody put
    a horse’s head
    in Bernie’s bed?

  9. realitychecker permalink
    December 30, 2016

    @ different clue

    You place greater faith in the potential of social media than I do.

    P.S. Just lettings my thoughts run free, maybe Bernie betrayed his supporters because Hilllary promised to have sex with him if he did so? (Where’s the brain bleach lol?)

    2016. Good-bye and good riddance.

  10. different clue permalink
    December 31, 2016


    When I first read your comment I found the language so shocking I thought to myself . . .
    ” I can’t believe what came out of his fingers. Does he touch himself with those fingers?”

    But now that I have returned for another flyby, I see that you have cleaned up the language. That is good. I have always tried to express my rage and hatred in gender-neutral and sexless terms, myself.

    As to social media, it is not a matter of faith or not-faith. We see the valuable uses people are making of social media to put before the eyeballs of thousands the questionable behavior of certain police officers in certain situations, for example. Of course there is the cerebro-neuronal addictogenicity of digital device engagement . . . including for social media. Perhaps the people who are cerebro-neurochemically addicted to constant social media device engagement . . . are expressing their addiction as faith in social media.

  11. realitychecker permalink
    December 31, 2016

    @ Peter


    I’m always trying to get the maximum precision out of the imprecise tools we call language. (If only to save wear and tear on my fingers.)

    Now you, my erstwhile trusted ally of the mind, have martyred me and exposed my limitations in this area where I try so hard to excel. That’s the bad news.

    The good news is that now I get to play the victim lol.


  12. realitychecker permalink
    December 31, 2016

    @ different clue

    “When I first read your comment I found the language so shocking I thought to myself . . .
    ” I can’t believe what came out of his fingers. Does he touch himself with those fingers?””

    Amigo, any time you find my choice of language scandalous to your eyes and mind, you may rest assured that my purpose in using that language was to very deliberately express my fundamental belief that it is ridiculous to give too much power to mere words.

    They are just words. Please save your ‘shocked’ moments for something real.

    And, as to your quoted query, no, I have a girlfriend lol.

  13. different clue permalink
    December 31, 2016


    No words are “just” words . . . at least not in the hands of a Master Word Herder.

    Words are to a bunch of minds what magnets are to a bunch of iron filings. That is power.

  14. realitychecker permalink
    December 31, 2016

    @ different clue

    Words have only the power you let them have. If your mind functions, they have little power over you, but you have much power over them.

    Respect your own personal power, and don’t be silly about surrendering it. The PC bullshit was never about empowering you; quite the opposite.

    Resist mindfuckery. I can see you are smart enough to do it.

  15. different clue permalink
    January 2, 2017


    Thank you for the confidence and respect. I hope you will remain as respectful of my potential to do that when you realize that I consider a lot of Leftist Purity Ponyism against Sanders to be mindfuckery as well, also to be resisted.

    But always in the nicest politest way possible.

  16. realitychecker permalink
    January 2, 2017

    @ different clue

    “Leftist Purity Ponyism”

    Oh, is that what we are calling total blatant betrayal of all one’s principled positions, and endorsement of the person who embodies everything one ran against, these days?

    Mindfuckery is bad, but mindfucking oneself is sad. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, amigo.

  17. different clue permalink
    January 3, 2017


    I hear you ringin’.
    But I ain’t hoppin’.

  18. realitychecker permalink
    January 3, 2017

    They only abuse you because they love you so much.

  19. different clue permalink
    January 3, 2017


    You still be ringin’.
    I still ain’t hoppin.

  20. realitychecker permalink
    January 3, 2017

    @ different clue

    Well, the bell does not ring for you alone, fortunately.

    I have faith that you will hear it eventually. A few more disappointments should be sufficient to open your ears.

    After that, you may even hop. 🙂

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