Yesterday was a good day at the Missouri River in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a resounding victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied passage for the Dakota Access pipeline – in proximity to tribal water supplies and sacred ancestral lands – and announced it would look for other routes. It may be a temporary victory, but it is an important one in our country, where a lame-duck Obama administration represents the last gasp of what passes for sanity in American corporate-funded politics. It happened only because thousands of protestors and their military veteran protectors put themselves in harm’s way – and in daily view of global media.
What Trump’s congealing administration will do in response to this and other crises is anybody’s guess. His incoming regime only further unfolds the question of what happens when money so poisons politics that even the self-preservation of future-thinking conglomerates falls victim to kinglike egoism and present-tense profiteering. This moment’s money talks, and all else walks.
What do we know of what comes next? Nothing. Trump’s co-optation of the rage of white working poor voters – after the Republican and Democratic parties left them stranded roadside for decades – could lead anywhere. He could develop a taste for ideology and move toward becoming what Noam Chomsky calls an “honest ideologue” in the Hitler mold, as opposed to Trump’s heretofore anchoring in ego and lazy impulse. He could push the nuclear red button at the prompt of a tweet. He could tire of the hard work of an actual idea-driven pursuit and quit or be impeached within a year, as David Brooks has reasonably suggested. Or he could simply implode from stubborn ignorance and confusion in the face of his impossible promises to his voting base (An unbuildable wall? A fantasied flood of new industrial blue-collar jobs? An assurance of better health coverage via a crippling of popular Obamacare reforms and a free rein to greedy insurance companies?). If Trump is known for anything, it’s for pitching suckers and then ditching them – be they investors, contractors, voters, reality show apprentices, or members of his own leadership team.
The big and terrifying question that we have to live with and deal with in the coming months, and perhaps years, is that no one, probably including Donald Trump himself, knows what in the world he will do. He is a pathologically self-blinded narcissist who awakens each morning as a kind of raging baby billionaire: the Frankenstein creation of a political culture where elections themselves have become banal, profanely scripted, chain-jerking reality shows. In a de-evolutionary swamp that has spawned the successive amoralities of Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Mitt Romney, how is Trump not a fit? And how is he not a deadly joke who could blow up the American state?
And so the corporate sector gets what it paid for: a white electorate in morbid withdrawal from the promised salve of privilege.
Any way you look at it, being a racial ex-boss is a dead-end job.