A friend pointed out to me today that the main benefit of the Trump victory in the US presidential election is that the left will no longer be able to blame ‘the media’ for its lack of support in the main imperialist countries. Despite near universal ridicule and rejection by the established pundits, especially those outside the US, The Donald has won. More importantly, the result reflects broader developments.
Even before the election result, Trump was seen as having voiced the concerns of the (white working class) mass of the electorate in the US, and of taking votes from those who were understandably less than enthused by Madame Clinton. But for him to claim basically half the electoral vote on a programme that was fronted by building a wall on the Mexican border, protecting US jobs against the nefarious schemes of domestic capitalists and foreign countries, and to ‘Make America Great Again’, reveals more than a little about the political outlook of the voters. More than half of the voters, one would have to say, given that Clinton also felt the need to shadow some of Trump’s policies. It is an outlook that will support the revival of economic nationalism by the US as an imperialist power, and it will encourage others to do the same.
In that respect, the US election has similarities with the Brexit vote in the UK. It is not so much that the incumbent political class has ‘lost touch’ with the masses, and must move aside or reconnect, although this view is supported by the presence of dumb elites who have still not really figured out that their comfortable maxims no longer work as the capitalist crisis becomes entrenched. It is more that a political system only works if votes can be accumulated to support particular policies. But maintaining the previous policies has less and less political support. In north-west Europe and in the US, the masses are revolting – in both senses of the term, as far as the elites are concerned. The politicians must, and will, adapt. Yet, they will be adapting not to a burgeoning protest about the evils of capitalism, but to a demand that privileges must be protected in a stagnant world economy. In other words, they will respond to reactionary popular sentiment.
It should be little surprise that the Brexit vote is seen as a marker by many commentators. After all, Britain is a key part of the existing structure of world power – of trade, financial and security arrangements – despite weighing far below the US. Another interesting, historically more distant, marker is the devaluation of sterling on 18 November 1967, an event that was a watershed in the later collapse of the Bretton Woods world financial system of fixed exchange rates. Ironically, the 14% or so devaluation then is similar to the devaluation of sterling after the 23 June 2016 Brexit vote! This also reflects the pressures on the system of world power and the trouble faced by the Anglosphere today.