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Comrade Trump is ruining Amerika’s image globally

April 2016

Local and anecdotal evidence and speculation has been accumulating for months that U.$. presidential candidate Donald Trump is affecting Amerika’s image outside the united $tates. Trump’s critics were raising the issue after Trump had just gone done announcing eir candidacy. The question is worth answering systematically. It will be interesting to see results of the Pew Global Attitudes survey for 2016. Will the increases in u.$. favorability since 2008 stop? Amerika’s image is an issue of importance to those struggling against u.$. policies, not just to supporters of these policies.

The title of this article is a joke about how Decepticon Trump supposedly could be anything regardless of current form. In all seriousness, though, it has to be said what Trump is probably doing to the united $tates’ global image favors the ability of the world’s people to maneuver in various contexts. Self-centered Amerikans who think they are progressive or being anti-racist are prone to thinking primarily in terms of domestic issues or acting reactively on the basis of offended feelings instead of realizing Trump’s candidacy, and the appearances resulting from efforts to thwart it, could be useful to various people with some righteous disagreement with u.$. foreign policy or the privileged amoral and patriarchal culture of many Amerikans that so many in the Amerikan “Left” identify with. Those commentators who have recognized that Trump is marring Amerika’s image, as if that were a bad thing, may be able to understand the discussion here.

With the substantial deterioration of Amerika’s global image likely being caused by Trump’s statements and certain aspects (not all) of the commotion around Trump’s candidacy, governments in the Third World will have a harder time stooging for Amerika at least publicly. It will be less easy for u.$. allies and others to cooperate with the united $tates in certain ways in wars. Diplomats will have a better position to start from in terms of their countries’ public opinion. The CIA, the U.$. State Department and various non-governmental actors may have a harder time confusing people about democracy and the supposed merits of Amerikan culture and overlordship. It may be harder for the united $tates to influence people through culture and media associated with the united $tates. It may be easier to disagree with accepting “humanitarian” assistance with unfavorable terms attached. It will be more difficult to equate the views of the so-called international community with those of the united $tates. It may be harder (though some may make an exaggerated distinction between the u.$. government and individual Amerikans) for Amerikan spies to go to the Third World pretending to be tourists or some kind of progressive. It will be harder for Amerikans already in the Third World to operate openly without tension. It will be easier to get others to reject approaches to environmental and nuclear questions favorable to the united $tates. It will be slightly harder to go to war and justify bloated military and spying budgets on the basis that people in targeted countries would welcome an Amerikan invasion. It may be harder for non-Amerikans to accept old justifications for war (such as Obama’s justifications that were repeats of Bush’s) even if a future Amerikan president has a favorable image as an individual.

Trump may end up hurting u.$. image more than the entirety of the Amerikan “left” has hurt u.$. image over the last eight years or more. There are various forces behind Trump, but so do alleged progressives also seek to unite and lead Amerikans they themselves may increasingly perceive to be reactionary.

When it first appeared (in 2008 and then 2009) that many non-Amerikans viewed Obama positively and that Obama was improving Amerika’s image (including specifically the appearance of “American democracy” and reputation for potential benevolence in international relations), some—alleged anti-imperialists and “communists” as well as conservative Republicans interestingly—said there would be eventual disappointment, and that this let-down involving public opinion would be politically significant in a desirable way or hamper u.$. efforts. This has generally not been the case after 7-8 years. The misguided, counterrevolutionary or reactionary “leftists” and “progressives” said or suggested not only that Obama’s election would improve “race” relations in the united $nakes regardless of Obama’s decisions (or u.$. policies Obama was cynically viewed as bound to go along with), but also that an Obama presidency would pose a problem for u.$. imperialism in terms of public opinion and credibility eventually. Quite the opposite, now more than half of countries have majorities with views favoring the united $tates, the President, and u.$. military actions against “ISIS.” Well, there won’t be a f*cking Nobel Peace Prize for Trump like there was for war criminal Obama, but it seems the sitting president’s strenuous efforts in concert with former presidents to undo Trump’s damage to u.$. image are adding to the proof there is nothing special about Obama in regard to lowering u.$. standing in image. Hopefully, Obama won’t bomb thousands of more people before ey leaves office to damage u.$. image in the way some of Obama’s ignorant or evil supporters were imagining ey would.

What is good for Trump politically—and bad for Trump’s election opponents politically—may be bad for Amerika’s image. What is bad for Amerika’s image, that doesn’t yet include openly repressive actions by people in power, may make things easier for those who are struggling with or against u.$. imperialism. The oppressed need all the help they can get in their uphill struggles against imperialism. Though Trump doesn’t offer help there should be no illusions about what it means to be concerned with Amerika’s image, no illusions about those who seek to install themselves into, or utilize, imperialist power.

Many alleged non-Democrats and progressives in the United $tates delusionally imagine they can latch onto some Democratic candidate every four years, or chase after the candidate’s supporters or ride a wave of anger, disgust and fear with a Republican, and maneuver their way into communism, some “socialism,” or some other goal, as though they had such control. Instead, what happens is building for war, repression and fascism with non-proletarian classes in an imperialist country with lots of people, hundreds of millions who think they are victims, and lots of money and assets to expend on repression. Some conservatives think they can actualize or restore Liberal democracy by acting in a similar way with some Republican candidate. Anti-imperialists shouldn’t have delusions of control or power with respect to the causes and consequences of a Trump victory. Nonetheless, it is important to understand there is no point in talking about fascism, white supremacy, racism, sexism, ableism, bullying etc. etc. (which Trump’s conservative opponents have shown they are also able to talk about) if it is just to counter the appearances Trump’s candidacy is generating and make Amerika look good externally while building for fascism internally. Evidence of the emergence of fascism is more than tone, language, shades of position, antics, and the behavior of supporters. It is possible to build for fascism in ways that involve progressive rhetoric because of how the rhetoric, equality, flattery of a majority or a near-majority with partial criticism of capitalists and elites, ideas about economic threats and false ideas about the economy, and state interventions, are connected to parasitism on poor countries, to existing bourgeois dictatorship and finance capital power, to hostility to other imperialist countries, and chauvinism toward—or fear of—lumpen and oppressed nation people.

There are other ways to signal dissatisfaction, and voting and being involved in elections (both at presidential and lower levels) doesn’t help to overthrow imperialism and frequently conflicts with anti-imperialist movements in concrete ways. Amerikan democracy doesn’t work for the oppressed. It works for the oppressors and people who are bought-off or going to be bought-off. It helps to stabilize imperialism, and it can help make fascism a difficult-to-discern reality with a mandate.

Regarding fascism, some would earnestly say u.$. fascism already exists as a system lying on top of a bourgeois democracy, a possibility anti-fascists have recognized since the 1930s. However, many of those seeing a u.$. fascism in the present would have to explain why it is their assumptions and actions seem to suggest a different thinking, including both their actions in the united $tates and their actions in other countries that may be experiencing u.$.-backed repression or an externalized u.$. fascism. If u.$. fascism already exists and is not just a topic people raise every two or four years for election purposes or some agitational purpose, then to single out Trump as a “fascist” is profoundly misleading; that much should be clear to anyone. Then, of course many consider Trump a fascist, a frequently overused term even for what is claimed as evidence of fascism, but then why is #1 prison state leader, deporter-in-chief, former Government Motors dictator “Buy America” jingoist Barack Obama, who presided over a huge expansion of surveillance and spying and started wars or new wars in at least three countries and bombed and backed repression in others, not a fascist? For what Obama has already done and what Trump has not done yet, Obama would have to be more fascist than George W. Bush ever could have been at the height of eir unpopularity. It comes down to that Obama cannot be fascist for reasons that seem to apply to nobody else who isn’t a liberal Democrat. There is a lack of recognition that, for historical reasons and because of how Amerikans can use liberalism to distinguish themselves from the supposedly inferior, a fascist head of state could be black and liberal. This is connected to an ongoing process of Black nation opinion and younger adult opinion of u.$. imperialism, the office of the u.$. president, and the Democratic Party, benefiting from Obama’s presidency and own image and from all the sycophantic nonsense during Obama’s campaigning about some progressive upsurge surrounding em.

The extent to which Obama built in areas normally considered aspects of fascism should be taken into account in any analysis. Then again, with the various presidential candidates of 2016, the standard for not calling a candidate a fascist cannot be that ey would introduce less to fascism than the previous president. If that were the standard, then nobody would ever be a fascist. Fascism could just keep on developing with a new supposedly-not-fascist head every four years. Nothing Hillary Clinton (emblematic of a trend of Democrats outdoing Republicans in warmongering), “ISIS” hawk Bernie Sanders or “cheap hawk” John Kasich has said shows they wouldn’t be a fascist in this context, and in fact they all agree with Trump on “wasteful spending” in the military. Financial efficiency with the military doesn’t preclude maintaining the current spending level or spending more on the military overall at some point, or spending more on the CIA as Clinton shows. If somebody had gone into a coma in the 1990s after Democrats started supporting Bill Clinton on spying and war and were to wake up mid-2017, ey might consider the U.$. president to be fascist regardless of party, pot-smoking, background, persynality, appearance, provocations, tone, some expressed variations of racism, etc. In 2015, Amerikans were still much more likely than the rest of the world (people in the average country) to believe torture to be justified in their own country.(1) Toward the end of March 2016, a majority of Amerikan poll respondents (favoring any candidate or party or none), agreed with stopping Muslims from entering the united $tates.(2) A majority of respondents to the YouGov poll who didn’t answer “not sure” admitted to agreeing with “patrolling and securing” Muslim neighborhoods. Despite decades of racially liberal militarism and warmongering in the Democratic Party, that includes 27% of Democrats and 43% of independents.

The U.$. Green Party’s likely candidate Jill Stein is somebody who is on record as claiming they want a military spending cut of 50%. That’s overall spending, not just “waste.” It would still leave the united $tates as the #1 military spender globally (of course Stein knew that) and the proposed reduction is within the realm of ideas about efficiency, but fine. Talking about some overall cut is better than talking about mere “waste,” or speaking vaguely about excessive spending, and making justifications, or suggesting possible justifications, for war at the same time. Stein also has a problem with drone attacks and contractors supposedly so maybe Stein isn’t one of those “bring our troops home” people who would replace soldiers with drones, non-uniformed mercenaries, robots, and air-ground and sea-ground missiles. Eir thoughts on how to decrease the u.$. nuclear stockpile and reduce spying (particularly international spying) seem less clear, and the Green Party has its difficulties with leaving behind capitalism, chauvinism, and the labor aristocracy. However, “Protect Mother Earth” Jill Stein could be a good alternative to candidates who might have more actual or rhetorical emphasis on preserving capitalism, equalizing various exploiters in the united $nakes, hassling migrants, building up the military or war momentum, nationalism, or protectionism. Relative to some others, Stein’s lack of discussion of “socialism” and more focus on climate change and decreasing chances for new wars actually makes em attractive in an imperialist country context without a legally employed proletarian class.

It is not that Amerikans should go and vote for Jill Stein or that Stein is other than bourgeois or petty-bourgeois politically. Although, if they are going to vote or be involved in supporting a candidate anyway, they should ask themselves why they would do so with a Democrat or Republican only. The reason Stein must be mentioned here is that there is a lack of imagination. How is it that so-called progressives in Amerika know about Stein (see the CommonDreams 2012 reader survey results comparing Stein with Obama, and Stein’s 470,000 votes in 2012), but for some reason even not-a-Republican Republican John Kasich often comes up as an alternative and not Jill Stein? Kasich’s and Stein’s chances of winning the presidency are probably both close to zero at this point even if Kasich’s election probability is many times greater and eir name could come up in an open convention. Many Amerikan critics of Trump aren’t serious about opposing either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. It is why Stein and global public opinion (except that Trump regretfully hurts it) don’t play any role in their considerations. It is the same a*s-kissing sh*t every election season, the same flattering, pandering and chasing after popularity or career instead of building for something else. A*s-kissing is less likely with Stein because eir party seems to have no chance of winning this year despite frustration with the two-party system or the “establishment.” Addressing what Jill Stein claims to offer is necessary to expose the various Democratic strategies that emphasize criticism of Trump or the Republican Party without saying anything positive about any non-Democratic candidate as an alternative or recognizing anything potentially useful about Trump’s candidacy. The problems with not talking about a less-militarist, non- “socialist” (potentially fascist) third party, one without all the problems of paleo-conservatism, are particularly glaring at this time of great dissatisfaction with the political system. One has to wonder if the point is to preserve that system. Even talking about Democratic candidates critically and harshly while in some way suggesting Trump is the lesser evil at the moment, and telling untruths about white and non-white Amerikan workers being exploited workers on the verge of overthrowing capitalism (rather than disgruntled imperialist country parasites on the verge of embracing fascism or backing more war), can be a Democratic strategy. The effect of criticizing Democrats while supporting social-democracy or fascist phony socialism, and suggesting Trump might nonetheless be the principal enemy, could be to raise the idea of voting among people who weren’t going to vote in the first place.

Many would sense something cynical, pragmatic or nihilist about a calculation regarding Trump’s usefulness for tanking Amerika’s global image. To some, such ideas, the very idea of rejecting Amerika’s dominant international roles or easy agreement with u$ wishes, rejecting illusions of progress through the Amerikan elections process, seem to leave nothing to do. The emptiness of these people’s own pragmatism is revealed in their attitude toward all third parties, their notions of involvement as participating only with the Democrats or the Republicans, their obvious disregard of the rest of the world’s interests as being relevant to the “practical” except when interests appear to them as threats justifying warmongering, and their resistance to considering Trump’s international impact as even remotely a good thing, even before November 8. If progress on domestic issues in the united $tates is all that matters, then just ignore Trump’s international impact. Either Amerika’s image dropping several percentage points is a good thing, or it isn’t, or it doesn’t matter. Which is it?

Those who study what underlies Amerikans’ disagreement with Trump will find that “social desirability” has been influencing reported support for Trump, which has been underestimated.(3) This is relevant to the global image question because, while media discussion of this type of bias in responding may deal more directly with a specific question of what respondents might do in the secrecy of a polling booth versus what they say to a pollster or to others where there is even less anonymity, it raises the issue of how some of those who claim to disagree with Trump strongly (and won’t vote for em) may actually be concerned about image at least unconsciously—contrary to past claims by their favorite party about needing to do the right thing regardless of polls or perception. Many may not actually disagree with Trump about various things, but may be concerned about looking bad in various contexts, not just in the context of interaction with pollsters, friends, workmates, etc., but in tourism, international business, political, academic, and other contexts, such as diplomacy. On the most obvious level, the White House and the State Department have been trying counter Trump’s impact in public opinion with public gestures and reassurances.

That is to say, much discomfort with evaluating Trump’s international public opinion impact scientifically may represent underlying agreement with Trump or agreement with another candidate with essentially similar concerns. This pertains even to people who have a classless society as one of their goals. The neo-conservative phenomenon of people who were/still are anti-Stalin “leftists” ending up as racists and jingoists and/or liberal appendages or leaders of conservatives, and working with non-conservative liberals, is well-known, but there is a “red” to “brown” (shirt-changing) phenomenon found in other countries, even among highly educated people who weren’t Trotskyists or liberals before the 1960s in the united $tates, with an underlying class basis and an ideological similarity due to economic parasitism warping watery “Marxism.” It goes beyond the social-fascism issue involving parties seeking power falsely called “socialist,” to approving or openly or consciously helping a candidate one would have previously had less association with.

In April 2016, there is now almost eight years of data covering the Obama presidency. For almost every country the Pew Research Center reported data for for 2007 or 2008, there was a major increase in u.$. favorability between that year and 2015.(4) Such increases have lethal consequences; u.$. foreign policy and susceptibility to u.$. influence affect life, and public opinion does matter. U.$. favorability increased in some countries with Obama’s election and remained steady, fluctuated, or decreased as in Germany, but there has been a general sustained marked “improvement” from the Bush years. Exceptions to the general upswing, which is simply undeniable in 2016, include Russia, which went from 41% with a positive view in 2007 (with an increase by 2008 thanks to Obama) to 15% in the spring of 2015, Jordan, and Lebanon. Of course, Obama gets credit for those decreases related to war or warmongering, but this writer will not speak of “Comrade Obama” even jokingly because invasions, warfare, intimidation and meddling in neighboring countries are not acceptable as ways to lower Amerika’s standing. By contrast, Trump damages Amerika’s global image without even being in office. Perhaps the best outcome would be for Trump to go all the way to the general election, do maximum damage to u.$. image, and then not win, but again to stress such would feed into a Democratic strategy. A completed Trump run with a Jill Stein victory could be optimal, and Amerika to some extent would deserve increased favorability if it cut overall military spending by half, but that outcome is extremely unlikely so here it is just appropriate to point out all of these 60-, 70- or 80%+ figures on every continent are way too high, undeservedly. What Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden did wasn’t enough to reverse the direction of global public opinion over a year.(5) Amerikans’ and Obama’s response (uninterested, half-hearted, strident, or token) to the Snowden revelations may have actually made the Amerikan people, if not the u.$. government, look good in the long run. So now it is time to see what Trump can do.

“Vulgar” nationalism and “vulgar” racism have already been unleashed. Those who think they can put that genie of Amerikan discontent back into the bottle through an escalation of rhetorical confrontation and inculcation of Amerikan victimhood, while trying to turn the united $nakes into some gigantic version of Norway or recover the former luster of Amerika’s image, are severely mistaken.

Of course it could be just that it is in the middle of the campaign season, but non-Amerikans should look at what Amerikans are saying about themselves right now and hold them to it. Previously, there was discussion as if 99.9%, 90% or 50% of Amerikans were or would be a vehicle for progress or some revolution. Now it would appear that a large majority of Amerikans are either mentally ill, wicked, degenerate, profane or pretenders to religion, or prone to supporting fascism, for not supporting one candidate, or at least a large minority or plurality is or would be hardcore-racist for supporting Trump or Trump’s proposals. (A majority of Amerikans are in fact prone to supporting fascism, but not for the reasons some conservatives are talking about. Nonetheless, the reputation internationally would be beneficial to the oppressed.) However, it is not believable that so many people are “hideous, disgusting racists,” “vile,” “unchristian,” “sick,” “crazy,” “scary,” etc., while everyone else is pure or essentially different from these shameless people. All of the top candidates speak of the “anger” of Amerikans as being righteous, and Democrats have for years proved that liberal and “labor” Democrats can be just as bigoted as Republicans toward Islam and migrants, and more so in some respects. If Trump doesn’t manage to put a dent in Amerika’s image, it would be because Amerikans are putting on a false or misleading display anti-racism and anti-fascism. The fact that many of Trump’s supporters are former Democratic voters, and failure of Amerikans to consider Jill Stein, represent not “low information” so much as labor aristocracy and other oinking petty-bourgeois influence, and hostility to Islam, in both of the two parties.

The Amerikkkan people can’t invade right now all the countries they want to invade so, among Amerikan voters broadly, there is some thought at some level about which candidate would be good for purposes of influence and spying. Wanting to go on international vacations and interact with non-Amerikans without feeling unwanted, unadmired, or disdvantaged (not just wanting to have more dating opportunities), also plays a role. Obama has pointed to one of the real functions of the presidential election, selecting a candidate that makes Amerika look good. Obama was quoted as saying, “This is about the American brand. Why would we want to tarnish that? Who are we? How are we perceived around the world? The world pays attention to what we say and what we do.”(6) And why would you not want to tarnish that? If the point is to prolong some nightmare fantasy of mass imprisonment and a century of foreign war without revolution in a United $tates that has a massive proletariat, then by all means put on some white persyn with a non-racist image or another persyn with dark skin. Or make racism look more sexy by exporting more Hollywood movies and TV shows. Work for the Democratic Party for free (or for a bribe) and take up obvious and not-so-obvious Democratic approaches to criticizing candidates.

Trump is the candidate most associated with white male workers though of course Bernie Sanders is a competitor in that respect. The discussion of this has been interesting (though addressed only partially here) and reflects on Amerika as a whole. On the one hand, various Amerikans were holding up white male workers as an example for Third World males to follow (in various ways), but now the story is that Trump’s supporters are just hillbillies, rednecks, or some other white trash and some of the lowest scum politically and culturally, or at least those white male workers supporting Trump and not Sanders or another candidate are. “Business” Republicans have come out criticizing Trump’s voters and supporters, not just Trump emself, and many Democrats have (also) sought the female, non-white or politically correct vote in relation to Trump. So-called poor whites should be defended in some contexts relative to richer whites, and vice versa, because anti-imperialists can’t be uniting with one or the other all the time in a parasitic country like the united $nakes (if there must be unity with any group of Amerikans), but people wanting to think about Trump’s support in terms of class and exploitation need to tread carefully. It’s not that there’s some reactionary white proletariat in the united $tates with false consciousness while the “middle-class” and higher are progressive or revolutionary. To say that would be to concede an absence of revolutionary potential, without saying so, because of a fascist and racist or chauvinist notion that Amerikan imperialist state power (almost the state by itself, somehow divorced from various parasitic classes) is the only means of moving forward. In reality, Amerikans are generally bourgeois or bourgeoisified. Trump and eir opponents are making the united $tates look like a “banana republic” right now not particularly worth emulating. The united $tates does have inequality, elites and an oligarchy to an extent, but it is an imperialist country without an exploited working class. It has various classes of exploiters that will many times try (whether this is readily apparent or not) to install fascism before their workers descend to incomes comparable to the wages of workers elsewhere in the world.

If much of an imperialist country’s bourgeoisie seems more progressive than its workers, it could be because the country is going fascist with the labor aristocracy providing most of the force behind that. Historically and also because of the extent of bourgeoisification of most imperialist countries, it would not be possible to divert the country to socialism without an external force. Flattering people “angry” and “frustrated” about the economy and “elites” would in fact contribute to the momentum for fascism. The vast majority of those seeming to criticize the Amerikkkan working class at this time actually do so inconsistently while implying their own bourgeois-led solutions connected to finance capital. Many in the world who don’t think Amerika is so superior can see there is no bourgeois-led socialist or progressive movement there, just the same old bribery plus repression and war or warmongering. Some still may encounter difficulty understanding why Amerika is just generally reactionary (rather than having some liberal middle-class people more revolutionary than workers). However, Amerika’s image problem with its white workers may make it easier for non-Amerikans to see that it is just dealing with bourgeoisie when it comes to Amerikans, not much of anything else.

One drawback of Trump’s campaign is that Obama is already trying to strengthen ties with other countries in anticipation of more damage to Amerika’s image. The whining by allies, bootlickers and compradors is also revealing. The net result is unclear right now, but hopefully Trump’s already-known affairs and multiple marriages, in addition to eir current behavior, will suggest to Muslims, Hindus, Third World Christians and others something about Amerika even if Amerikans genuinely care less about such things nowadays. Obama talks about Trump being damaging to the united $tates outside of power, but the world in a sense needs somebody like Trump who is persynally offensive and can hurt Amerika’s ratings without having dropped a single bomb. Positive views of the united $tates and Obama coupled with less-positive views of particular u.$. policies(7) just lead to a kind of masochism or abuse—taking it from somebody you have feelings for.

Trump personifies the narcissism of Amerika as a whole. Narcissism involves concern with image and need for approval combined with disregard for the needs of others. Obama also personifies Amerikan narcissism, but Trump is doing a better job of trashing Amerika’s global image without having stepped into office. ◊

1. “Global publics back U.S. on fighting ISIS, but are critical of post-9/11 torture,” 2015 June 23.
2. “Divide on Muslim neighborhood patrols but majority now back Muslim travel ban,” 2016 March 28.
3. “Trump’s big if: why polls may underestimate his support,” 2015 December 22.
4. “1. America’s global image,” 2015 June 23.
5. “U.S. reputation survives spying revelations, poll find,” 2014 July 14.
6. “Barack Obama accuses Donald Trump of scaring America’s children,” 2016 March 15.
7. See: “Global opinion of Obama slips, international policies faulted,” 2012 June 13.
See: “America’s global image remains more positive than China’s,” 2013 July 18.
See: “Global opposition to U.S. surveillance and drones, but limited harm to America’s image,” 2014 July 14.
See: “Global publics back U.S. on fighting ISIS, but are critical of post-9/11 torture,” 2015 June 23.

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