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The US Ruling Class and Trump's Personality and Politics: A Fatal Attraction

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President . . . is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else."

Theodore Roosevelt, Editorial in The Kansas City Star May 7, 1918


"Ruling Class" is a term that over the centuries has had a variety of definitions. For this purpose, I shall use the following one:

"The elements of society that own and control the means of industrial and natural resources production; the financial system including the banks, the insurance companies, and the investment houses; the personal and freight transportation systems; and the media for both news and entertainment, print, motion picture/television, and electronic."

The primary, although not always the exclusive, objective of the owners of these various enterprises is the production of "profit." Profit is that excess of financial gain from the operation of their enterprise(s) over the costs in plant, materiel, and labor, of producing their product. Profit is used for two purposes: to enrich the enterprise's owners personally and to create more productive resources to make more profit. The system under which they operate is called "capitalism."

In any society, capitalist, socialist, or other (there are still monarchies), the ruling class controls the political system and the government it produces. A now obscure late 19th-early 20th century Russian political scientist named Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (better known by his nom-de-plume "Lenin") termed what we call government "the State." The term covers the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government, law enforcement, social and health services, transportation and communication, and so on and so forth.

Many economically advanced capitalist countries operate under a system usually called "constitutional democracy." About the function of this system under capitalism, in 1917 Ulyanov had this to say:

"To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics."

It still holds.

But, shortly following the publication of "The State and Revolution" another form of the capitalist state appeared, a totally oppressive one ruled by a single figure holding total state power. Of course, states like that had been common in human societies going back to the time of the early nations in the Middle and Far East and later in Europe. But those single rulers were always members of a "royal family" of one sort or another.

In Hungary in 1919 appeared the first non-royal who had absolute power. That power was delegated to him by a royal regent of the newly independent state of Hungary, following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in WWI. Admiral Miklos Horthy held it until late in World War II he was deposed by his former ally Adolf Hitler for not being anti-Semitic enough. Horthy functionally become the first fascist dictator, with the name being given to such forms of non-royal absolute state power by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Now, the U.S. has a Constitutional democracy which has worked just fine for the U.S. ruling class since the founding of the nation. Nevertheless, Trump clearly wants to convert it into a dictatorship, and lo-and-behold a chunk of the U.S. ruling class would like that to happen. But why? Aren't things going just fine and dandy under constitutional democracy?

Well, capitalist ruling classes can be split in terms of what form of the State they desire to run the national governmental apparati. They have been since the constitutional monarchies that ran the state apparati in the early days of capitalist economies disappeared to be replaced by constitutional democracies. In the 20th century a variety of national ruling classes turned to the nonparliamentary form, usually called "fascism," although the various states had their differences.

Prominent among them were, of course, Nazi Germany, Italy-under-Mussolini, Japan-1935-45, and Spain under Franco. They did this for two main reasons: the working classes were becoming too powerful to be controlled by the conventional means available under constitutional democracy, and (except for Spain) their ruling classes wanted to expand their geographic area-of-control (for a variety of reasons). Except for Spain they came into armed conflict with the constitutional democracies, and the Soviet Union (for different reasons), and were defeated in World War II.

Since that time the Western Constitutional Democracies have been able to remain in control of state power (though a variety of political mechanisms which we shall not consider here). But, in the long run, ruling classes are always split about which form of government is the best for them to remain in control of state power. As long as constitutional democracy is working for them, fine. But suppose it is not or can be predicted to be not, sometime in the future?

And that, as is well known, is what we are facing in the United States. Very simply (and admittedly simplistically here for lack of space) race and racism have been major factors that have enabled the U.S. ruling class to remain in power, used either actively or passively, under the U.S. system of Constitutional democracy. Since the Civil War elections have enabled this. But throughout that history, major political forces have worked to suppress the vote of those who might challenge, in elections, ruling class power.

For example, the Ku Klux Klan was founded by the ex-Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest specifically to suppress the vote among the newly-freed slaves. In our own time, various Republicans work hard to suppress the vote of the African-American community, and not only in the states of the former Confederacy. (Again, also see my book on this subject.) And now down-the-road they are facing major demographic changes over the whole country, involving Latinx, East Asians, and South Asians. They anticipate "bad" things happening to them electorally, even in the context of Constitutional democracy. And so, while they push along with their racist electoral agenda/policy, along comes Donald Trump.

Except for his in-grown racism, Trump has no particular political ideology, other than what is working for him at the time. As a long-time builder in New York City, dealing with a crowd that was largely Democratic, for example he financially supported the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, as well as pro-choice organizations. Of course, he changed markedly when he decided to run for President, forcefully bringing his personal (but then not yet political) racism, misogyny, and xenophobia to the fore. But further, and very important to the Republican ruling class sector, he supported policies on matters that were most important to them: massive economic de-regulation, massive tax cuts for the wealthy and the large corporations, and massively moving the Federal judicial system to the Right, not only to benefit the criminalizers of religious thought in the matter of abortion and LGBTQ rights, but also on a variety of regulatory and legislative matters of great value to the corporate world.

But Trump doesn't think in the conventional sense, or at least doesn't think much, about the issues. As is well-known, he thinks about himself. From his rallies to his rally-substitutes (otherwise known as his current "press conferences" on the COVID-19 epidemic in which he loves to tell us what a great job he is doing even if the numbers tell us otherwise) it's always about him. Despite the fact that he ignored numerous warnings, he claims a) that he didn't. And even if he did, the fault does not lie with him. He is the smartest scientist in the room, he understands epidemics better than anyone, and so on and so forth. He is the ultimate narcissist. In fact, one of the letter writers cited in that last sentence, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School had this to say about him:

"As a psychiatrist who contributed a chapter to the 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,' I have often been asked whether he meets the definition of a narcissist, to which I have answered, half in jest, 'No, rather he gives narcissism a bad name.'

"President Trump's grandiosity and paranoid retaliatory behaviors are so far beyond those shown by what in contrast could be called 'ordinary narcissists' that he requires a category beyond narcissism. The proper category would be 'destructive dictator,' because Mr. Trump, like Hitler and Stalin, has the personality of a grandiose-paranoid dictator who would destroy all he saw as his enemies while endangering the nation that he supposedly was advancing through his leadership."

And so, among other things, Trump will break the law to advance the interests of that segment of the ruling class that supports him. For example, see his declaration that he will ignore the law in the just-passed bail-out package passed by Congress and signed by him (for the benefit of his rich [white] friends and himself). In another example, he did this sort of thing in using military money to "build the [his] wall." Further along the Trump dictatorial line, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan (who Trump refers to as "that woman"), desperate for medical supplies for her state, was told by vendors that "someone" told them not to deal with her. Then of course, there is Trump's famous statement that Article II of the Constitution permits him to do "whatever I want to do."

And then reflecting the "paranoid retaliatory behaviors" cited by the Times letter writer quoted above, there is one of his primary principles in carrying on business:

"One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you've got to hit 'em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You've got to get even. Get even. . . . The reason you do [it], you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can't take advantage of you."

To say nothing of "Always attack; never defend" and "sue a lot" (just like he is doing now over an anti-Trump ad he doesn't like --- for good reason I might add; it's terrific) both of which he learned at the knee of the McCarthy/organized-crime lawyer, Roy Cohn.

The primary point here is that that sector of the U.S. ruling class which to date has been able to use a variety of techniques, electoral, ideological, and propagandistic, in order to maintain power over the State apparatus, sees it slipping away with the demographic changes now underway in our nation. And so, fascism, or certain aspects of it, are becoming evermore attractive to it, even if the form is not thought of in that specific way.

And what better a bird to lead the way than someone who is totally self-focused, who takes everything personally, who is grandiose to the enth degree, who will never take responsibility for anything ever going wrong, and who is the blamer-in-chief. Since he refuses to take national authority and responsibility for dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic he is setting up the governors to shoulder the blame --- which he will dump on them at suitable times.

Of course, he will use the Defense Production Act only to go after specific companies, like General Motors (after all it has female CEO and was bailed-out by Obama), not to set up a national plan for dealing with epidemic and its outcomes (beginning with medical/nursing supplies and equipment which, in competent hands, could be pretty easily organized, pretty quickly). And further, even if he wanted to, his Administration is hardly staffed with the kinds of people who could do that. But most importantly, the ruling class sector that supports him holds any kind of national planning for anything as a major threat to their economic dominance (and profits), and doesn't want any kind of precedent set that in the future a Democratic President might use to really bring them under control in a national emergency of this nature. This is why the day after he said he was going to invoke it, he said that he was just thinking about it. He got lots of phone calls that night.

And so, when the interests of that sector of the ruling class with which the Republican Party is embedded is put together with a man with the personality (and personality disorders) of Donald Trump, one gets what we are seeing now. And, as I have said before, he will see it to a much higher degree if with their help he wins re-election. And that outcome will be fatal to the U.S. republic, as we have known it.


This column was previously published on Buzzflash.com at https://buzzflash.com/articles/the-us-ruling-class-and-trumps-personality-and-politics-a-fatal-attraction, on March 20, 2020

(Article changed on April 18, 2020 at 23:15)

(Article changed on April 20, 2020 at 18:23)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY). As well as having been a regular political columnist on several national websites for over 20 years, he is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 37 books Currently, on the columns side, in addition to his position on OpEdNews as a Trusted Author, he is a regular contributor to From The G-Man.  In the past he has been a contributor to, among other publications, The Greanville PostThe Planetary Movement, and Buzzflash.com.  He was also a triathlete for 37 seasons, doing over 250 multi-sport races.  Among his 37 books (from the late 1970s, mainly in the health, sports, and health care organization fields) are, on politics: The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022; A Futuristic Novel (originally published 1996; the 3rd version was published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY, sadly beginning to come true, advertised on OpEdNews and available on  (more...)

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