Modern-day Western pseudo-liberalism boils down to grave misunderstanding and distortion of some of the most basic principles of the noble and lofty classical liberalism.
What you end up with is: “US President Donald Trump today signed an executive order on…”
It’s been a year since Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States of America, a.k.a. the most powerful man on Earth.
I don’t know about you, but I still can’t get used to the sound of this phrase: “US President” + “Donald Trump.”
It still sounds really weird, and not that much because of “the Donald’s” personality or his whatever outrageous statements he might have made on the campaign trail, or whatever wrong – or right – policy moves he’s already been making in the White House.
It is weird, first and foremost, because the man had been a pop culture celebrity for so long.
Heck, Trump was even (mentioned) on Friends. Twice. In two different seasons (season 4, episode 11; and season 5, episode 5), in one and the same year (1998).
In “The One with Phoebe’s Uterus” (aired on January 8, 1998), Donald Trump allegedly “wants his blue blazer b(l)ack” from Joye, who got a job as a museum guide. And in “The One with the Kips” (aired on October 29, 1998), Chandler and Monica both saw “Donald Trump waiting for an elevator.”
Imagine what Joye, Chandler, and Monica would’ve thought if they were told that 20 years later Donald Trump would have already served a full year as the 45th president of the United States.
In a sense, the rise of Trump, a pop culture celebrity, reality TV “star,” and real estate tycoon, to the American presidency has been unthinkable.
This is precisely why its analysis has been vastly intriguing, and papers and books are already being written on it.
(Such as Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” – all logic suggests that the account in this book seems highly plausible.)
My take is straightforward: Trump’s rise, regardless of whether one thinks highly of him or to the contrary, has been caused by the complacency of the liberal elites.
Or, rather, the pseudo-liberal elites.
I am aware that styling them “pseudo-liberal” is rather bold but as an admirer of the authentic, genuine classical liberalism I cannot help but see them that way.
Trump and Pax Americana
With all its flaws, which are easily acknowledged by critics in a free society, the US is not just the most powerful country in the world.
(Again, hence the informal title “most powerful man on earth” that US President Donald Trump has held for a year now.)
The US has long been much more than that. The old cliché about the “beacon of hope” is correct, of course, but there is also something even bigger than that.
Namely, Pax Americana, the system of peace generated by American security commitments all over the world (including NATO).
These commitments have provided for stability in Europe and Asia (“not so much” in the Middle East, though), maintained freedom of shipping on the high seas, and, more often than not, stood behind international law.
In other words, at least in two of the global regions that matter most – Europe and East Asia – the US has had both the right foreign policy principles and the resolve and integrity to back them by military force and financial sacrifice. Thus, the US President matters to his own people, but almost as much, or even more, to the people around the world.
Shortly after Trump’s election, some commentators described his victory in the election for President of the United States of America as “an American tragedy,” and others as a “disaster for the planet.”
Leaving aside Trump’s inclination to bash individuals or groups based on their physical appearance, or ethnic or racial identity, which doesn’t seem very “presidential,” or any of his numerous controversial policy moves, there are still indications that the 45th US president might do irreparable damage to Pax Americana, and thus to a countless number of people around the world (Americans included) who have enjoyed peace, human rights, and economic opportunity thanks to it.
The Pax Americana order might be a flawed one in some respects, but both historically and in relative terms, it is better than any likely alternatives for the time being.
(That’s not talking of idealistic, and therefore unlikely utopias).
While much of Trump’s trumpism (for lack for a better word) on the international stage has been cushioned by the well-oiled checks and balances of the democracy of the American republic, many of the US President’s statements and acts are so contradictory, especially on top issues such as relations with Russia and China, that they don’t bode well for Pax Americana.
How can such an “unorthodox” pick as Trump be elected President of the great American democracy? (For great it is regardless of all justified criticism that I or any other fair-minded critic can blurt out for days.)
And keep doing what he is doing a year into his first term?
The answer is not a head scratcher. President Trump is the creation of paradigms imposed on the US and global public by complacent pseudo-liberal elites who think it is OK to enjoy all the benefits and none of the downsides of globalization while marginalizing economically, educationally, and culturally both the middle class and the lower (working) classes (those referred to as “white trash,” “trailer trash,” you name it).
Modern-day Western pseudo-liberalism is a phenomenon warranting not just a special article but in-depth academic research, but in a nutshell, it boils down to grave misunderstanding and distortion of some of the most basic principles of the noble and lofty classical liberalism.
These distortions have then been used as the basis for allowing and even promoting various kinds of misguided policies, and even violations, abuses, and outright crimes.
Basically, the highly complacent pseudo-liberal elites in the US (the goody-goody Democrat establishment is a classic example, but so are many Republicans, libertarians, etc.) have long deemed it OK to let the lower classes grow “dumb” and “fat,” without this ever backfiring.
Again, I deem it fair to term these elites “pseudo-liberal” for distorting the tenets of classical liberalism to their benefit – and enjoyment!
They have been content with raking up the financial profits and other benefits of the neoliberal economic order, abandoning not just the well-being but also the education and even the sheer culturedness (that is a word) of the lower middle and working classes.
In doing so, these elites have been relying on reality TV, Hollywood, sports, Internet porn, junk food, etc., to keep the ever more marginalized lower classes happy, full, and fully under control.
Because, after all, how can the elites “force” the lower classes to become literate, educated, well-read, even erudite? That’s not “liberal”!! (Pseudo-liberal, that is.)
“Every person is a master of their own fortune, so let them be,” as the pseudo-liberal philosophy goes.
And they did. The elites left the lower classes to subsist physically on junk food and mentally on junk TV.
Leaving the unchecked influence of corporations (big business) and social polarization (i.e. inequality) aside, which are very unpleasant distortions, America has always been a country of great spiritual values.
Yet, one gets the impression that these spiritual values, too, have been enjoyed disproportionately by the better-off, who have made little effort, if any, to promote them to those who by inertia or by choice have ended up in the “fat and stupid” social category (President Trump’s language, not mine).
What Could’ve Been Done Differently?
The pseudo-liberal elites (this term, as I see it, includes not just self-proclaimed liberals but also a huge number of self-proclaimed conservatives, libertarians, etc.) in the US could have done so much about the universal basic education of their own compatriots, rather than leaving them alone, letting them be.
They could have addressed the economic plight of the marginalizing classes, including by redistributing part of their wealth (that many of them don’t even need but at all) through fairer taxes and government policies. (And, no, I am in no way a “socialist”. This is common sense.)
They could have also recognized the superficiality of human nature when it comes to ethnic, racial, and other diversity (yes, most humans are innately and primarily superficial), and handled differently the essentially anti-democratic agenda of “political correctness.”
There are probably fairer ways to deal with ethnic and racial issues in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society that might have prevented the rise of “white supremacy” (which, by the way, honestly, seems more and more like “white trash supremacy”).
But all those things they could have done contradict the elites’ (pseudo-liberal) principles.
So how can there be a surprise that the lower and lower-middle classes elected Trump?
He has been “educating,” “culturing,” and “enlightening” them with his bad TV shows for decades!
The paradox of the impoverished classes voting for a billionaire is sufficient evidence that something doesn’t quite add up.
(By the way, please allow me my humble opinion that whoever invented reality TV inflicted a horrible evil upon humanity.
And my modest and shy observation about liberal education in the US: it is great at producing the world’s top experts in every field possible, but oftentimes even these top experts in their fields seem to be lacking basic common knowledge in other fields such as politics, geography, or history, for example.)
Pseudo-Liberals of the World, Unite!
President Trump is not the first political creature born by the Western elites’ failure to make a targeted effort to enlighten and uplift their lower classes.
What’s even more important, though, is that Trump’s election is definitely part of a trend, given what happened with the June 2016 Brexit vote in the UK where some Brexiteers even had the decency to google “European Union” and “Brexit” once they had cast their votes in favor of the latter, and against the former.
On the other side of the Atlantic the complacent European pseudo-liberal establishment is messing up exactly the same way, by deserting the lower classes, and is about about to destroy the European Union, the best thing that has happened to Europe since the Reformation.
Since the problem of pseudo-liberal elitism is the same all over the West, the trend will probably keep playing out in the near to medium run, with the destruction of the European Union not so unlikely a possibility, unfortunately, which would be a truly nightmarish scenario!
President Donald Trump owes his presidency to the the complacent pseudo-liberal elites in the West who have flat out failed to comprehend the responsibility of their own position, and to grasp countless opportunities to create better, more just, and less polarized societies.
The alternative candidate in the 2016 US presidential elections, Hillary Clinton, by the way, did not fare much better on many of the same establishment points, even if she might have taxed the hyper-rich more, stood unequivocally behind US peace and security commitments in Europe and Asia, and certainly not have made a gazillion COVFEFE (that is, botched) statements.
Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s competitor for the Democratic Party nomination in 2016, even though he did not go without any controversies, seemed like the revolutionary candidate who as President might have tried reversing the abandonment of the middle and working classes by the upper class. Yet, he never got the chance thanks to the complacent establishment of the Democratic Party, which rather naturally went for another Clinton.
Under President Donald Trump, social polarization and ethnic and racial tensions in the US seem to be worsening, and the most important regions of the world may succumb to chaos and then takeover by aggressors.
(That is, the US “survived” the Bush presidency; it will “survive” the Trump presidency. It’s uncertain if the same can be said of Eastern Europe.)
Should the world then hold a grudge against Trump’s supporters?
That is a controversial question given that many of them probably aren’t quite aware of the wider range of issues at stake. Remember the Brexiteers googling “Brexit” after voting for Brexit?
The one certain thing is that those who had the knowledge, power, and moral responsibility to ensure a better future for the West, liberal democracies, and the entire world – the pseudo-liberal elites – have failed to do so because of greed, delusions, and complacency.
The big picture is that instead of urgently fixing their existing issues in order to be able to address the worsening global ones, the US and the EU may be descending into disarray.
That would be much to the benefit of evil forces and dictators worldwide, and to the detriment of those wishing a more just, fair, democratic, and politically and environmentally sustainable world.
(Or at least a world that might survive the upcoming environmental disasters in some decent shape!)
Some have compared the election of President Donald Trump to the election of President George W. Bush (both lost the popular vote, both have polarized the American society to new extremes, both have given anti-Americanism a boost, etc.).
Unlike Trump, however, with their dubious “moral” agenda about spreading democracy, regime change, and whatnot, at least the Bush-Cheney bunch of neocons were predictable.
That eliminated the element of surprise to some extent.
(Even though they ultimately didn’t invade Iran, which was a bit of a surprise. But Trump might, which may or may not be counted as a surprise.)
The failure of complacent pseudo-liberal elites to recognize and rectify the woes of the lower classes has caused the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.
Whether Trump himself could still rise to the challenge and fix those woes as he repeatedly promised is just one side of the story (given his first year in office that is increasingly less likely!).
The other is that deliberately or otherwise he might do, or might already be doing, irreparable damage to Pax Americana, an international order which, despite its flaws, has provided security, stability, democracy, and freedom for the world’s most populous and most important regions.
If that goes down in flames, it won’t be so much on Trump as it will be on the Western (pseudo-)liberal elites!
Your contribution for free journalism is appreciated!