“Trump and other would-be tribunes of American greatness have come to resemble Captain Renault from the movie Casablanca, who was “shocked, shocked” to find gambling in the café, even as he served a system whose force and fraud made that vice all but inevitable.
Let’s all stop claiming to be “shocked, shocked,” that many Americans are frightened and angry that a regime of casino-like financing, predatory lending, intrusive, addictive consumer-marketing has chosen as its president a financier of casinos and a predatory self-marketer whose only country is himself and whose fellow Americans aren’t sovereign citizens but props on his stage.”
Jim Sleeper in my opinion is among the most prescient political commenters working today. The quote above is from an Alternet.com article today linked at his name above. Sleeper’s thesis is that all of America is complicit in the horror of Trump’s election, because for too long we have all accepted the destructive excesses of a predatory form of capitalism. I’ve never believed that systems of organizing a nation’s wealth are evil per se, be it an expression of a Capitalistic or a Socialistic framework. Although, like the accretion of interpretation that exists with any religion diverging from its’ Prophet’s original intent, these economic theories have devolved into political philosophies far removed from their basic purposes. In the modern world, where human technological advance has made most of us independent from the production of our basic life necessities, our mass society needs some kind of economic system that distributes the necessities to us all. Self interest intertwines with inequality of distribution, to add the overlay of political philosophy upon how a nation distributes it goods and services. Current Liberal vs. Conservative paradigms break down into perceptions of the fairness of the economic system we live under.
The Constitution, which created the government of the United States, nowhere dictated the economic system the new nation must live under. At the time of adoption of this foundational document, the 13 States all distributed their economy’s wealth under roughly capitalist systems. The inherent dichotomy, bowed to by the Founders in the definition of a slave being 3/5 of a person, was the distinction between States economic systems either based upon slavery or Mercantilism. While our nation’s Founders were mute on economic systems in their Constitution, we can be certain that their vision was a maintenance of the economic system then in place. Those Right Wing zealots who believe in using the theory of Originalism to guide our Constitutional interpretations, are in essence dooming us to viewing the nation’s economics through the eyes of 18th Century slave-holders, agrarians and merchants. Our United States and our surrounding world has changed so radically since the late 18th Century, that the idea of using the framework of 18th Century proto-Capitalism is ludicrous. Yet, from the standpoint of political philosophy, that framework is what has brought us to the America Jim Sleeper describes in his piece as “a regime of casino-like financing, predatory lending, intrusive, addictive consumer-marketing”.
The 12 words in Sleeper’s phrase should sum up for most of us the reality of today’s America. To supply someone with the overwhelming proof of that phrase’s truth, would take a tome I am not prepared to write. However, think though about your own experiences of our America. From the Billionaires whose money influences elections. From the manufacturing corporations more interested in profit than good product. From the Entrepreneurs who use various forms of financial manipulation to produce nothing for the society, but riches for themselves. From the bloated expenditures feeding the Military/Industrial Complex that have made us into an imperial country trying to impose our rule upon the nations of the world, through what seems to be endless warfare. From the wages of most of the population that are unable to keep up with the cost of living. From the exorbitant interest rates charged us by lenders and credit card companies, while their own cost of money is in the low single digits. From the student loan debt that is forcing today’s graduates into becoming indentured employees (servants). From the sports contests that mesmerize and keep our attention away from the “Kleptocracy” robbing us and turning most of us into serfs. From a once noble public education system being commandeered by piratical pretenders that profit will make for better schools. From a justice system that determines guilt based upon ones wealth, or skin color. From Law Enforcers who see the public as “civilians” to be controlled, or “animals” to be slaughtered at their whim. From an all pervading, culturally ingrained sense of “White Privilege” that resents the aspirations of people merely wanting their fair share of the “American Dream”.
Now add to this a formerly slave-holding South, that lost that perquisite in a bloody war of treason and managed to turn defeat into victory by building a mythology that they were somehow the aggrieved and noble party. Through this “heroic” mythologizing the South was able to extend a revised form of slavery up until recent times, while the vile odor of their racist belief systems lingers for many of the American people. We have politicians today, so inculcated by this false mythology, that they claim Black people were better off as slaves. By the same token the genocidal extirpation of Native Americans was reduced to a trifle compared to the need for agricultural and industrial expansion. Those losing Southern States remain today a bastion of the autocratic politics and policies, that befit totalitarian rather than egalitarian countries. The citizens of the States steeped in the misplaced heroic mythology of their noble, ancestral soldiers defeated by treachery, continually seem to cast their ballots for candidates like Trump, who are antithetical to their own self-interests.
So it is within this context that Jim Sleeper makes his points about the complicity of our entire nation in the election as President of “a financier of casinos and a predatory self-marketer whose only country is himself and whose fellow Americans aren’t sovereign citizens but props on his stage.” We in the United States were given the gift of a flawed, but hopeful country, which had the possibility of achieving a landmark in human history, the achievement of our Declaration of Independence embodied in its most famous lines:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
All of us Americans have allowed the promise of this country of immigrants and its’ pluralistic mix of cultures, to be high-jacked by grifters, demagogues and hypocritical religious con men. We were all complicit to some extent in the election of this vile man, who is the apotheosis of all that is wrong in our country. There is only one course for any thinking citizen and that is to