Goodbye, American Neoliberalism. A New Era Is Here

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Above Photo: ‘What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth.’ Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Trump’s election was enabled by the policies that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. We gird ourselves for a frightening future

The neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang. The political triumph of Donald Trump shattered the establishments in the Democratic and Republican parties – both wedded to the rule of Big Money and to the reign of meretricious politicians.

The Bush and Clinton dynasties were destroyed by the media-saturated lure of the pseudo-populist billionaire with narcissist sensibilities and ugly, fascist proclivities. The monumental election of Trump was a desperate and xenophobic cry of human hearts for a way out from under the devastation of a disintegrating neoliberal order – a nostalgic return to an imaginary past of greatness.

White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.

What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth and a condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. For 40 years, neoliberals lived in a world of denial and indifference to the suffering of poor and working people and obsessed with the spectacle of success. Second we must bear witness to justice. We must ground our truth-telling in a willingness to suffer and sacrifice as we resist domination. Third we must remember courageous exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr, who provide moral and spiritual inspiration as we build multiracial alliances to combat poverty and xenophobia, Wall Street crimes and war crimes, global warming and police abuse – and to protect precious rights and liberties.

The age of Obama was the last gasp of neoliberalism. Despite some progressive words and symbolic gestures, Obama chose to ignore Wall Street crimes, reject bailouts for homeowners, oversee growing inequality and facilitate war crimes like US drones killing innocent civilians abroad.

Rightwing attacks on Obama – and Trump-inspired racist hatred of him – have made it nearly impossible to hear the progressive critiques of Obama. The president has been reluctant to target black suffering – be it in overcrowded prisons, decrepit schools or declining workplaces. Yet, despite that, we get celebrations of the neoliberal status quo couched in racial symbolism and personal legacy. Meanwhile, poor and working class citizens of all colors have continued to suffer in relative silence.

In this sense, Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. The progressive populism of Bernie Sanders nearly toppled the establishment of the Democratic party but Clinton and Obama came to the rescue to preserve the status quo. And I do believe Sanders would have beat Trump to avert this neofascist outcome!

In this bleak moment, we must inspire each other driven by a democratic soulcraft of integrity, courage, empathy and a mature sense of history – even as it seems our democracy is slipping away.

We must not turn away from the forgotten people of US foreign policy – such as Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Yemen’s civilians killed by US-sponsored Saudi troops or Africans subject to expanding US military presence.

As one whose great family and people survived and thrived through slavery, Jim Crow and lynching, Trump’s neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do.

For us in these times, to even have hope is too abstract, too detached, too spectatorial. Instead we must be a hope, a participant and a force for good as we face this catastrophe.

  • WHY NOT?

    A lot of education needs to take place to educate the american people as to just who the enemy is…Far too many had no idea what the term neo-liberal even is…By and large most americans can’t put a face on what it is that’s destroying the american dream. But they were able to attach the Clinton’s to it, as well as Obama the Trojan Horse plant. Yet again far to many equate liberal with left-wing or even communism. All the while sheltered by their collective ignorance spewed on them by the pundits and a media completely taken over by the oligarchs in charge who are responsible for it. So sick of the status quo that many had decided that a change, almost any change apparently was what they wanted. I can’t understand how anyone can ignore the baggage that the con-man that is Trump…But many did …..the outcome mighth have been quite different if Sanders had been the con-man’s opponent. But Killary, with all the graft and corruption they are well known for, was a terrible choice. So thankyou Debby Wasserman, and John Podesta, and all the “Super-Delegates” that ignored the will of the people to support the neo-lib. agenda..I know in WA. St. the Gov., Rep. R. Larsen and Sen. P. Murray all voted against their constituants to support Killary’s candidacy.

  • jemcgloin

    I wouldn’t celebrate the end of neoliberalism so quickly. Racist police states and neoliberalism get along fine.

  • DHFabian

    “White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and
    anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies…” As usual, liberal media have carefully avoided the most critical issue for the past 20 years — US poverty. They apparently no longer count the truly poor as part of the US population. The great majority of US poor are white. Media continue to imply that our deregulated capitalism is so successful that everyone is able to work, there are jobs for all, and the worst off anyone can be is a minimum wage worker. They are wrong.

    In real life, not everyone can work, and there aren’t jobs for all. Our capitalist system works very poorly. The US shut down/shipped out a mass of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. The last I heard, there are 7 jobs for every 10 jobless people who still have the means to pursue one (home address, phone, etc.). The majority of US poor are white. For this election, Democrats chose the most anti-poor candidate they could dig up. People said from the start that if Clinton were selected, a Republican would be elected.

    Poor white people (and those who get why it matters) who formerly made up a chunk of the Dem voting base did not vote for Trump, or for Clinton. The Clinton admin. made the war on the poor cool, and HC played a critical role in formulating the agenda that tore so many poor families apart, plunging many into hopeless poverty. Much of the Dem voting base voted third party or withheld their votes. The working/middle class — who have supported much of the neoliberal agenda — voted for Trump.

  • DHFabian

    Agree. Reagan’s infamous “dumbing down of America” seems to have been an amazing success. People aren’t stupid, but they are misinformed and grossly under-informed.

    Broadly speaking, the US has actually been implementing fascism, by definition, for years — slowly, and from the bottom up. Every aspect of our lives today is determined by economic status, so it makes sense that our form of fascism is class-based. We’ve stripped our poor of a list of fundamental civil and human rights since the 1980s, to the disinterest of liberals in general, meeting the definition of fascism. Our more fortunate truly no longer regard the poor as real human beings, qualified for human rights protections.

  • Will Cooper

    Cornell West is right. We must summon our courage for the fight ahead. We must never be silent and acquiesce to fascist tyranny. Having opinions is not enough. Now is the time for strong and resolute action.

  • chetdude

    The parallels to the early 1930s are disturbing.

    Instead of electing another FDR (Sanders), USAmerica (mostly enabled by the democrats) have “elected” another Uncle Adolph…

    Mobilize!

  • chetdude

    Good point.

    Just as Reagan was led to understand the cynical use of the Social Security Trust Fund to make the debt/deficit look smaller, once it’s explained to Trump using his 4th grade vocabulary he will fully embrace neoliberal vulture capitalist economics…

    And the republican wing that has total control are the original neoliberals…

  • The “parallels” are, substantially, nonsense whipped up by the MSM and its rapt “journo” followers who actually serve the real and existing neoliberal corporatist fascists.

  • chetdude

    I’m not really sure what you mean…

    My view of the parallel is of a country in economic distress that decides to go with a fascist strongman instead of any reasonable form of democracy and rebirth…

    USAmerica could have gone with a real, positive, pro-active change agent, Sanders but went with Trump instead…

  • “instead of any reasonable form of democracy and rebirth…”

    Yeah, well, that was not on offer and the only rebellion at this moment is within the Republican party rank.

    As for Sanders, I’m not exactly certain of his sincerity, leave alone character; what with claiming that Schummer is a great, best, choice for the Minority Leader position, and his support of the Ukrainian coup, of the first bombing campaign against a major city (Belgrade) in post WWII Europe, his support of deposing Assad, etc…

    He is a regime change, pro exceptional and indispensable American hegemony nationalist and neocon lite, best I can tell….

  • Kathy Barker

    The last debate between Trump and Clinton had a foreign affairs section and was called “Hot Spots.” Hot spots! That’s both Trump and Clinton’s discussion of militarism, that’s what our wars under Obama and Clinton as Sec. of State have been reduced to. There will probably be an outcry against Trump’s wars, as there was against Bush’s wars, but unless we are honest about the deep racism beneath the neoliberal wars, we will again be spinning our wheels. Thanks, CW!

  • chetdude

    Ah, but with his counter-neoliberal domestic policy proposals, he could have sparked a revolution…

    FDR was a patrician Plutocrat but events took over…

  • Do you perhaps have a handy-dandy list of Sanders’ proposals to nationalize (exclude profit motive) from any – other than education – systemically important industries, or his urgent calls to facilitate growth in the working class’ ownership of the means of production?

  • chetdude

    It took 45 years, the collusion of both political “parties” and billions of dollars to erase the New Deal…

    As “incremental” as Sanders suggestions were, it could have been a start in a new direction and may have gotten people to think “Hey, we CAN have free education, tax the millionaires and billionaires and have worthwhile, universal Health Care — why not demand more!”…

    As for Marxists and Socialists, most are primarily engaged in trying to transfer ownership of the deck chairs being re-arranged on the after deck of the Titanic into “public” hands…

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  • Prince

    D.C. is a separate nation-state, not part of America. It headquarters a private company called Corp. U.S. Inc. Trademarked indebted to foreign powers and interests.

  • Khrish

    WITH the selection of trump’s woman for education, nobody except those who are wealthy, or in the loop will get education of any type by the time she finishes bilking the funds for charter schools with no real purpose and rules for education……instead of those empty votes to prove a point, they should have gone to the one that we could have worked with for a viable solution…..never with this lying, con man of an idiot. Hope West feels real good about himself. Don’t know about your town, but you couldn’t trust the “white woman vote” here they go into the booth with their husbands and he knows who they vote for and it will be whomever they tell them………..funny no one is asking for those emails of pence????????

  • Khrish

    would that be the same as all of us Blacks who voted for Pres. Obama because he was Black……..not that crap again.

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