Time to take Joe Bageant down from the shelf and consider his more-relevant-than-ever reflections on the American hologram.
He wasn’t kidding when he wrote that “the four cornerstones of the American political psyche are (1) emotion substituted for thought, (2) fear, (3) ignorance, and (4) propaganda.” Those ingredients have now put a beligerent, misogynist ass into the country’s highest office and a conservative majority into both houses of Congress.
Bageant told it like it is: what we are witnessing is a class war.
“Class,” however, is defined not in terms of income or degrees but in terms of power…. Leaving aside all numbers, “working class” might best be defined like this: You do not have power over your work. You do not control when you work, how much you get paid, how fast you work, or whether you will be cut loose from your job at the first shiver on Wall Street.
Why on earth anyone thinks that Donald Trump heralds a corrective to this, I don’t know. Well yes I do: see above numbers 1 through 4. Trump is a class hero precisely because he has no class.
Bageant goes on to observe that
The New Conservatism arose in the same way left-wing movements do, by approximately the same process, and for the same reasons: widespread but unacknowledged dissatisfaction, in this case with the erosion of “traditional” life and values in America as working people perceive them. Otherwise known as change…. There is no good reason why for the past thirty years the uncertainty and dissatisfaction of people… was automatically snubbed as unenlightened by so many on the left. If the left had identified and dealt with this dissatisfaction early on, if they had counteracted the fallacies the Republicans used to explain that dissatisfaction, if they had listened instead of stereotyping blue-coller angst as “Archie Bunkerism” (itself a stereotype of a stereotype delivered unto their minds by television) and maybe offered some gutsy, comprehensible, and practical solutions, we might have witnessed something better than the Republican syndicate’s lying and looting…. Real movements take advantage of the protest-potential to be found among dissatisfied and disappointed people – people disenfranchised by bureaucracy, technocracy, and “experts.” Rightists tapped into that dissatisfaction by lamenting the loss of community and values and attributing it to the “cultural left’s” feminism and antiracism, the gay movement, and so on. The Republican message, baloney though it is, was accessible [while] the Democrats didn’t have any message at all.
Joe Bageant passed away in 2011 and so missed the culmination of New Conservatism, playing out as it is into this endgame called President Trump. The working class people have now got what they want: an ignorant, mediocre, self-obsessed white man dragging us all down with him. Trump is the President of
Plain Americans, isolated by the rest of the world by the certainty that it’s better to be American than anything else, even if we can’t really prove why. Even if we are one house payment away from homelessness, even if our kids can’t read and our asses are getting so big they have their own zip codes, it’s comforting to know we are at least in the best place on earth.
The best place on earth, soon to be great again. Or so he says.
Excepts from Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant, Random House, 2007.