Washington Babylon’s editor-in-chief Ken Silverstein argued, somewhat cheekily, today that the left should support Trump in 2020. He provided eight reasons in support of this, an argument reminiscent of Alexander Cockburn’s in 2012 that the left should support Romney over Obama as the former could vivify the anti-war movement that the latter had lulled to sleep. But 2020 isn’t 2012, and Trump isn’t Romney. Ken provided eight arguments in support of his position, and wrote that he would renounce his position if he were “convincingly” refuted. I don’t know if this will convince him, but I will address each of his eight reasons.
1) Ken argues that Trump is going to win anyway, so “let’s just accept the inevitable.” Aside from death, though, nothing in this world is inevitable. Even taxes aren’t inevitable, as plenty of revolutions and alternate forms of social organization have demonstrated over the millennia. Moreover, Trump lost the popular vote by 3,000,000 votes. And he only won the electoral college by a very small margin, in a handful of counties, against an unprecedentedly unlikable candidate in HRC. So, it seems unlikely that Trump will win — that is, without considerable fraud, election machine manipulation, and so on. And why should this be accepted? At the very least a Trump victory is hardly inevitable. There’s great disgust among the majority of the electorate with Trump. And the disgust is only likely to grow. So, it’s not inevitable.
2) Bernie Sanders. Ken says he won’t win and no one else could either beat Trump or would be any better. But… he might win. No one knows what’ll happen. Sure, the DNC probably won’t let him win. But Elizabeth Warren (herself an odd synthesis of Bernie and Hillary Clinton) could feasibly win. And, though she’s also a highly problematic imperialist, she would be better than a president presently, as we’re sitting here, carrying out his white nationalist base’s genocidal fantasies.
3) Bernie would die in office. Total conjecture! Who’s to say?
4) Let Trump win, destroy the country and pave the way for a radical in 2024? But he might destroy things irreparably. He’s already wrecking the ecosystem irreparably, wrecking the courts almost beyond repair, killing people, encouraging police violence, Border Patrol and ICE violence… It’s one thing to throw up your hands and say nothing can be done. It’s another to offer actual support to the racist rapist Trump. And, yes, Clinton was a rapist. And Obama deported more people (included as reasons in Ken’s #4). But three wrongs don’t make a right, or absolve anyone. This is exactly the type of absolving cynicism that Hannah Arendt discusses in Origins of Totalitarianism as contributing so much to the neutralization of any opposition to totalizing coercive power. Reproducing this is in itself reactionary.
5) Trump hasn’t started a war so far. That’s a reason to support him, we’re told. But he’s almost started a few, and has plenty of time to start several. Moreover, his ordinary policies amount to war against the environment, ramped up class war, and even race war. No leftist should support any of this.
6) Again with Bernie… But, even if Bernie can’t win, why support Trump? Why embrace him?
7) Reason 7 is: It’s not Weimar. No, it’s not. But fascist goons do regularly march into bookstores and interrupt and threaten those they don’t like, just like during the Weimar Republic (watch Bob Fosse’s Cabaret for a good depiction of this) and regularly march into libraries where “drag queen story time”s are underway and threaten those they want to kill. So, in some respects it is like Weimar.
Ken continues: You’re not going to be hauled off to a camp, he writes, unless “you are an immigrant without legal papers who runs a stop sign…” Of course, anyone being hauled off to a camp is too much. I’m sure Ken doesn’t mean to say that some people are less deserving of freedom from abuse than others, but it’s hard to get a sense of that from Reason 7. Furthermore, as though the crisis is mitigated if the victim is “an immigrant,” many people who aren’t immigrants are hauled off to camps; these camps need to be shut down immediately; the camps that already exist are only likely to spread, and, if history is any guide, they will only expand the pool of people they imprison as well (though they’re already uncontainable); and Trump’s mere existence encourages this. And, again, just because Clinton and Obama carried out egregious policies regarding imprisonment… Two (or more) wrongs don’t make a right. Absolving cynicism must be rejected.
8) Reasons for #8 are that Ken wants to see radical change. But he’s confused if he thinks that radical change will be coming from the Democratic Party; no matter what kind of imagery they employ, they’re a capitalist party. And capitalism is structurally determined to exploit everything and subordinate everything to the profit of the rich. With its big property owners controlling every social policy and every aspect of daily life this isn’t just inimical to a classless society; it’s contrary to the basic requirements of an actually democratic society as well.
Also part of reason #8: “it’s fun to watch.”
But, no, it’s really not.