• Trump Versus the Establishment? Not Quite

    I am always surprised that, whenever I write a piece that is critical of Donald Trump, a number of people post comments that defend him, usually along the lines of what is now described, I understand, as “whataboutism”.

    Such responses make no attempt to dispute the charge sheet against Trump.  The defence they try to mount is to argue that any criticism of Trump has to be offset by the comparable crimes and offences of others – usually Hillary Clinton, or Trump’s predecessors  in the Oval Office.

    How, they imply, can it be fair to criticise Trump when others who can be similarly criticised go unchallenged?  I’m afraid that I have difficulty in understanding the logic of this position.

    Even if it were the case that Trump’s manifest failings could be equated with those of others, why should that invalidate in any way the criticisms that can legitimately made about Trump?  He is, after all, currently in a position (whereas others are not) where his shortcomings can matter very greatly, to both Americans and to the rest of the world.

    I suspect that the “whataboutists” share a particular personality trait – that they imagine themselves to be the intellectual superiors of the general run of people, and that they are therefore able, as others are not, to swim against the tide that carries others along, and enjoy being able to demonstrate that they can do so.  They alone, it seems, are able to see through the generally accepted attitudes and to make their own dispassionate assessment of the true position.

    They are joined, no doubt, by those who see Trump’s defiance of the usual norms of responsible and civilised behaviour as welcome evidence that he is prepared to “take on” the establishment and to “drain the swamp”.  The more extreme and outrageous his words and actions, it seems, the better the job he is doing in standing up for the ordinary American – and the criticism he attracts is merely further confirmation of this analysis.

    So, let us test this out.  Let us cast to one side his boorishness, his evident racism, his brutish treatment of and attitudes towards women, his willingness to bend the truth, his ignorance of the rules of the US constitution, his self-obsession, his inability to build loyalty from his own staff and colleagues, his furious intolerance of criticism – the list is a long one and could be much longer.

    Let us say that each of these failings is merely evidence of his willingness to break the rules, and to defy worthless conventions designed to rein him in, all in the interests of keeping faith with his “base”, who voted him into office.

    We are invited, it seems, to disregard the charges usually brought against him, and allow him to get on with what is really important.  So, after we have dismissed from our minds the evidence of our own eyes and ears as to the kind of person he is, what is it that wants to “get on with” that is so important?

    The evidence here is incontrovertible.  His central mission is beyond doubt to bring about huge tax cuts for the very richest Americans – principally the top 1%.  Such tax cuts, worth billions and billions of dollars, are to be funded by denying to millions of families access to affordable health care that would allow them to escape from the destructive vicious circle of poverty and ill-health, and ill-health and poverty.

    Don’t take my word for it that this is the focal point of the Trump presidency.  He repeatedly declares that those who stand in his way are frustrating his determination to cut taxes in this way – and the prospect of such cuts is the only reason his Republican colleagues in Congress maintain, in an unholy alliance, their wavering support for him.

    Here, then, is not the great champion of the rights of ordinary people or the courageous opponent of the establishment and the privileged.  His supporters may be prepared to forgive – even celebrate – his personal ability to pollute all he touches.  But are they prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he fractures – along religious, racial, and above all economic lines – the society he was elected to serve?

    Bryan Gould

    2 November 2017




  1. Patricia says: November 2, 2017 at 7:08 amReply

    Have you watched the US TV series “the House of Cards” Bryan? The English one was very good but if I remember rightly was made around 1990. The US series is very topical with the shenanigans that is currently going on in the US. There are five series and I have just watched the fifth series. I can highly recommend it.

  2. Jon says: November 2, 2017 at 7:22 amReply

    Probably because you have never been critical of Obama or Clinton bryan. Trump is not the answer but I fear you are driven by ideology. The work you do for positIve money and your understanding of credit creation is fantastic. But we need a new way. I fear jacinda and Co only represent women and minority interests. I am passionate about boys education and male suicide prevention. Every time I put it to labour or the greens I’m suddenly called a bigot? So I don’t trust the left. Trump is a fake but at least he gave the forgotten blue collar voters hope. I’m afraid you might be an elitist lefty academic who looks down at lower skilled workers yet claims to represent and have empathy towards them. So sorry bryan I think the right wing shift is a backlash people lIke you played a hand in.

    I look forward to you Bryan asking that more truck drivers and laborours get spots on labour list in Parliament as we need people we can relate to for the sake of diversity. Or is 60 nationalities of lawyer’s your idea of diverse?

    Come on bryan why do you think blue collar people are turning away from labour when it’s list are all university educated academics. Or will you say that only people with degrees are fit to rule? That’s neo monarchy! I look forward to your next article urging labour to have people in Parliament representative of all people and backgrounds. Not just ethnic and gender.

    Ps national and act are also a disgrace.


  3. Jon says: November 2, 2017 at 7:27 amReply

    Oh bryan what’s your view on articles that humiliate blue collar men and say they are not good enough for professional women? That’s articles are disgusting.

    I’m afraid you have no compassion for boys struggling or low status males forgotten by society.

    Shame on you! Biggoted and a classist snob. Try actually including laborers in your circle of friends. You might learn humility.

    • No, I haven't seen it but I hear that it is very good. I imagine that it would be hard to find story lines that outdo the reality of the US at present.Bryan Gould says: November 2, 2017 at 8:53 pmReply

      Jon, thank you for taking the trouble to read my pieces and to comment. Your comments however bewilder me – they seem to have no connection to anything I have ever done, said, written or thought.

  4. Jeremy Callaghan says: November 2, 2017 at 11:10 amReply

    Jon your caricature of Bryan Gould is as silly as it is inaccurate. You may not know him personally, but even a cursory reading of his contributions to social and economic thinking would show just how wide you are of the mark.

    People on the left come from all kinds of backgrounds and classes and need to work together against the politics of wealth and privilege to build societies that are just and offer opportunity to all their members. There is no merit in seeking to divide them with spurious criticisms. Shame on you!

  5. No, I haven't seen it but I hear that it is very good. I imagine that it would be hard to find story lines that outdo the reality of the US at present.Bryan Gould says: November 2, 2017 at 9:02 pmReply

    Thanks Jeremy.