I've borrowed my post's title from Mr. Reimann's piece over at The North Star. The lede paragraph:
The Marxist method is to start by trying to figure out the main processes – the main forces at work – and get some idea of how they will interact and develop. Only then can we figure out our tasks within that general process. Recently a small group of Marxists – the Workers International Network – held a conference in Britain. Here are some thought on the perspectives for the United States that were submitted to that conference:It's a fine thought, but then why is the following sentence so spectacularly wrong?
On November 9, 2016, the world awoke to Americans having elected the most right wing and racist president since before the US Civil War.Surely Presidents Reagan and both Bushes were more "right wing" than Trump, at least if judged against standard Republican principles. They all explicitly tried to shrink the size of government (unsuccessfully), and were eager to use US military force abroad (Grenada, Nicaragua, Kuwait, Iraq). Trump, meanwhile, just signed the biggest deficit-spending bill in history, and apart from two pinprick strikes against Syria has barely used American military force at all.
The "racism" charge is also mostly phony. As Scott Alexander puts it, Trump is no more racist than the average 70-year-old white guy. So that's more "racist" than Obama, but it hardly qualifies him as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Unlike previous Republican candidates, he actively campaigned in Black neighborhoods and sought out their votes. And while unsuccessful at the time, Trump is slowly winning support from Black men (see, e.g., Kanye West).
What is true is that Trump is spectacularly uninterested in racial politics or issues, about which he knows nothing and cares less. That's why he has such a tin ear on things like Charlottesville, where the media were able to take his remarks completely out of context. (See my comments on that episode here.)
Then we're told that Trump is in cahoots with the Russian mafia. Mr. Reimann's source for this is something called oaklandsocialist.com, which refers us to the equally obscure site WhoWhatWhy.org. These tout conspiracy theories--that Trump has surreptitious ties with Russian oligarchs that not Robert Mueller, nor the otherwise bloodthirsty media has been able to reproducibly uncover. This is just BS.
Finally we get to real substance: Mr. Reimann asserts that American imperialism is in decline. He separates this into two parts: domestic and foreign. He asserts that Trump's slogan, Make America Great Again, is in fact a promise to reverse this decline--a promise he won't be able to keep.
Mr. Reimann does have a point. As a fraction of global output US GDP has declined: from 37% in 1967 to 25% today. This happened (in major part) because China (a very big country) rejoined the world economy in 1980 and global GDP has expanded considerably as a result. But it is a big mistake to interpret this as the decline of America (though in Mr. Reimann's defense, Trump makes the same error). The US has hugely benefited from the industrialization of China, as I have documented in detail here (in response to an article by Marxist Lynn Henderson).
It is an undeniable fact that almost all Americans at all income levels are far richer than they were in 1980. Today we have the Internet, cell phones, 500 channels on cheap, 72" televisions, access to streaming movies, real-time video games, much safer, more reliable, and better cars, cheaper food and much cheaper clothing. Etc. I find it completely incredible that my Trotskyist friends can still claim that we're all getting poorer with a straight face. That is manifestly not true!
Yes, some things have gone awry: Mr. Reimann cites lower home ownership rates. Even there he's cherry-picked his data point, for the quality of housing has increased dramatically over that past 40 years. Even renters are substantially better off than they used to be.
Speaking of cherry-picking, Mr. Reimann cites At Our Own Peril, a report published by the US Army War College, as if it represented the last word in Pentagon thinking. Rest assured--it does not. DoD is a huge organization and publishes a zillion reports annually. Some of them are certifiably stupid, like the one that suggested that climate change is the most important defense priority for the United States.
At Our Own Peril is not silly, but to take it as the last word on global politics is silly. Yes, in many ways US influence has declined since 1945, most precipitously since the demise of the Soviet Union. A multipolar world is intrinsically more complex than a bipolar one. And ever cheaper technology makes weapons of mass destruction more easily obtainable, even by non-state actors. So in that sense Mr. Reimann is correct.
But the US spends 37% of all global defense expenditures, roughly triple what China spends. We are by far the most powerful nation on the planet, a fact that is not likely to change any time soon. It's not even close. When President Trump promises "fire & fury," he is very much in a position to deliver just that.
In an all-out war with North Korea, we win. Easily and hands down. But Mr. Reimann distorts that prospect. He writes
There is the matter of North Korea, for example. Right now, the rhetoric as far as crushing that country seems to have receded. But who knows what’s going on beneath the surface? There have been some reports that some generals are implying they would disobey an order to launch a first strike nuclear attack. But relying on the military, which has always had its crazed Dr. Strangelove wing, is a very weak assurance indeed.Why would the US launch a first strike nuclear attack? We have no need--we can destroy the Nork's nukes with perfectly conventional weapons. Which (I hope) is what we will do if Mr. Kim cannot be persuaded to give them up otherwise.
Mr. Reimann devotes much of his article to the political responses to Mr. Trump. Given his assumption that Trump is some right-wing, Russia-loving, kooky crackpot, no wonder he gets it all wrong. I remind him that Trump won the 2016 election, and he didn't do that by being a bumbling, incompetent, undisciplined idiot. Quite the contrary--the campaign was spectacularly well run. See, for example, here and here (unfortunately I can't now find the best article on this subject).
The truth is Trump is a masterful politician! He has upended politics in precisely the same way Amazon disrupted bookstores, and Uber has trashed taxicabs. The man is not only disciplined--he's a genius! That doesn't mean he's always right on the issues, but he understands the political pulse in America as no other.
Mr. Reimann, writing back in January, claims Trump only had 32% support. Today it's up to about 50%. But none of those numbers matter. Trump may very well be the most unpopular politician in America--except for all the others. I can't think of a single Democrat who has a chance of beating him.
A lot can change between now and 2020. If nothing else, Trump is getting on in years and his health might fail. Still, Trump is far and away the odds on favorite to win reelection in 2020.
- Summary Statement of US Strategic Goals for the Coming Period
- If Everybody is a Racist, Then Nobody is a Racist
- Book Review: The Accidental Superpower