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News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Climate for anti-Americanism versus anti-fascism: Only 2% of Americans named the environment as most important issue, right before election
November 17, 2016
There has been much discussion of whether now-President-elect Donald Trump will “cancel” the Paris Agreement as promised. Even if the United States doesn’t withdraw from the agreement, it could make it less effective. As with many topics, many of the things Americans and their collaborators say about climate change is problematic, to say the least. Also, the Paris Agreement could be criticized from the perspective of a global majority in a variety of ways. However, the United $tates is by far the largest OECD country and still has some of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world and one of the largest carbon footprints per capita. The united $tates stands out as an emitter whether one is talking about domestic electricity production, manufacturing/construction, consumption or vehicle emissions. There is certainly no reason to prioritize u.$. “economic growth,” or Amerikans’ consumer spending, above addressing climate change.
It is one thing to talk about the economy in a relatively poor and small imperialist country with a small military budget. It’s another to do so in the united $tates. The united $tates is the hegemonic rich country with a “defense” spending dwarfing any other’s. During a Democratic presidency, that settler imperialist entity has continued or started wars in many countries. Those constantly talking about how majorities of AmeriKKKans are economic victims are helping politicians bribe amerikans – already at least highly privileged by global standards – to embrace even more economic privilege as a package deal with other things, like war that the united $tates is able to carry out with relative ease. Among other ways, one can know that by looking at polls.
For example, a plurality (38%) of registered-voter amerikan respondents to a poll (CBS News/New York Times) on October 28-November 1 chose “economy and jobs” as the most important issue to them.(1) 28% chose “national security, terrorism.” Only 2% volunteered “environment.” 9% answered “something else.”
That is in spite of climate change’s being a priority in Clinton campaign messaging, even an “urgent threat.” To both Clinton and eir surrogates, “protecting our planet” often came second to other things such as “protecting our country,” or climate change was subsumed under other topics. Whether it reflected their own opinions or those of amerikans, they said them, and it influenced listeners. Nationalist Clinton said climate change was a threat to “our economy” and “national security.” Clinton said it was a threat to u.$. naval bases at a rally with Al Gore last month. Nationalist Al Gore, who on other occasions said climate change was the top priority, together with Clinton related climate change to creating clean energy jobs that couldn’t be “outsourced.” It is a bit more complicated to “outsource” or offshore military work, so an effect of such statements could be to support efforts on job and income issues that do not involve cutting the u.$. military budget. Despite any good intentions, raising economic issues with amerikans easily leads to more chauvinism, militarism, and warmongering, and this may be reflected in polls.
Let’s cross-check the poll information. Only 8% of registered-voter respondents to another amerikan poll (NBC News/Wall Street Journal, conducted by Hart Research Associates), in May 2016, picked “climate change” (read in rotation) as what “should be the top priority for the federal government” from a list of choices explicitly including “climate change.” 26% chose “job, economic growth.” 21% chose “national security, terrorism.” And only 5% chose “religious, moral values.”
According to a The Economist/YouGov poll (Web-based interviews) of registered voters in the united $tates, on October 30-November 1, only 37% of likely voters answered that climate change was “very important” in their vote.(2) Only 7% of likely voters chose “climate change” as the issue most important to them. There were ten choices including “health care” (14%) and “social security” (15%).
According to a Bloomberg Politics (Selzer & Co.) report, 6% of u.$. adult respondents in early August, 2016, chose climate change (read in rotation) as “the most important issue facing the country right now.”(3) 13% chose “a decline in real income for American workers.” 17% chose “unemployment and jobs.” 1% chose “trade.” 14% chose terrorism. 11% chose “the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.” The climate change percentage has basically only fluctuated between 5% and 6% since June 2014. That 1% who picked trade shouldn’t surprise anyone, by the way, because few non-elites who aren’t economists, bankers etc. give a shit about things like current account deficits. Many care about “trade” only to the extent that it is seen as impacting their employment and wages. They are willing to support policies that promise to improve some things for them, regardless of what makes sense in the long term. The resulting crises lead to fascism, not socialism.
In other words, with amerikans, politicians and candidates had more wiggle room on certain non-economic issues. A greater number of amerikans apparently cared more about jobs than either ending abortion as alleged murder or supporting abortion rights as females’ choice, for example – unless the 95% or so not picking “religious, moral values” has to do with thinking the federal government, as opposed to individual states, shouldn’t be involved in opposing or supporting abortion rights in any way. Even if “national security” or “terrorism” isn’t their top priority, many amerikans of diverse ideology could be influenced to go along with a war because of how much priority they give to jobs and the economy, versus other things. In addition to survey data, there are other signs – legal advances, contraceptive advances – that some social issues increasingly have the potential to be regarded as moot, or no longer important enough to emphasize, by various amerikans.
In January 2016, “Democrats/Democratic leaners” cared more about “terrorism and national security” (82% considered it extremely or very important “in influencing your vote for president”), “the economy” (85% extremely or very important), “employment and jobs” (88%), “healthcare and the Affordable Care Act” (83%), “education” (90%), and “the distribution of income and wealth in the United States” (75%), than they cared about “gun policy” (70%), “social issues such as gay marriage and abortion” (46%), and “climate change” (69%).(4) So at the beginning of year Democrats/leaners cared more about domestic inequality and so-called national security than they did about climate change, at least in terms of influence on their vote. For many different amerikans, national security can somehow, in the long or short term, be separated from climate change in importance. Here it’s not that more chose “terrorism and national security” as the most important. Fewer considered climate change very important even though multiple things could have been very important all at the same time.
National security and terrorism concerns can be distinguished from foreign affairs concerns. In fact, according to the same Gallup survey, Republicans/leaners cared about “foreign affairs” (77% extremely/very important) more than Democrats (65%) did. One would think more Democrats would care about foreign affairs at least in connection with the so-called War on Drugs, but here we have survey evidence supporting stereotypes about some Democrats and liberals as people too busy with marijuana issues to worry about how relations with other states are affecting chances of war. Whether former Secretary of State Clinton would have moved the world closer to, or farther away from, a situation threatening to wreck the atmosphere just wasn’t important to some Democrats and liberals. Alternatively, it may be that some thought caring about foreign affairs somehow wouldn’t make a difference though 82% of Democrats/Democratic leaners said terrorism and national security were of above-average importance.
In March 2014, two years after a vigilante murdered Trayvon Martin, Democrats may have worried “a great deal” about “crime and violence” (42%) more than Republicans did (38%). And Democrats worried a great deal about “crime and violence” more than Democrats worried a great deal about “climate change” (36%) or “race relations” (23%).(5) Again it’s not a question of picking one over all of the others.
There are many surveys like these. They are relevant to a variety of questions, some of which amerikans are asking themselves after Trump won the election. Of course many have observed the importance placed on the economy in elections. The point here is to think about how various amerikans – with conflicting ideas including different irrational or ignorant ideas about the economy – could bring about a result together, thanks to pandering to so-called workers and the so-called middle class in the #1 international exploiter, oppressor and aggressor on the planet.
This writer is hesitant to talk about “fascism” in the u.$. context because so much recent discussion of that word is influenced by Democratic politics. Much discussion of “fascism” in one way or another flatters the amerikans or an amerikan majority. However, it can’t be denied there has been an upsurge in First World populism and First World so-called “working class” and “middle class” concern about international trade (if not explicitly as the most important issue, then in combination with jobs etc.).
If more were saying Democrats themselves or amerikans themselves were fascist, there would be less of an issue with talking about “fascism.” So there are several potential areas of difference. One is over the extent to which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are also fascist, if Trump may be considered one, for example since the same dynamics have clearly influenced what all of them have said. If what Clinton and Sanders said was just for an election, what Trump said could have been, too, but the inverse could be true as well. Even if one u.$. candidate would have been better for the world than another, various non-elite segments of the u.$. population keep pushing in a certain direction, and this pressure is represented in the adjustments parties make to win votes. Even if Clinton could have been better than Trump, the same could be said about the Green Party’s Jill Stein despite Stein’s problems with certain oppressed countries.
Instead of contemplating what could have been with Stein, whose presidency is now just as hypothetical as Clinton’s, one should consider what conclusion might need to be drawn if amerikans keep electing people more or less like Trump. Even if a Republican kept winning, that wouldn’t by itself make global anti-amerikan united fronts, not relying on amerikans, less necessary. Amerikans have had multiple chances since Eisenhower to stop Republicans from being elected. For years there has been talk of abolishing the electoral college, but even if a sufficient number of amerikans found it necessary to accomplish that, or could act to overthrow their government, the new thing might be fascist or prone to fascist tendencies.
Extraordinary repression is a feature of fascism among other things. Some who are familiar with prison conditions and the amerikan criminal injustice system, who know about incarceration rates comparatively, could quite-understandably arrive at the conclusion that fascism already exists in the united $tates, has existed for a long time now, and is supported by Democrats who at times show more concern about “crime and violence” than Republicans do. To talk about fascism only where Republicans, migrants, or certain campaign trail words, are concerned could reflect Democratic strategy. Either Sanders’ and Clinton’s support for border and anti-migrant repression today is fascist, or so-called border security is arguably no more fascist than the super-high u.$. incarceration rates that have existed for decades and are particularly relevant to national oppression of the Chican@ nation, multiple First Nations, and New Afrika. And, after the support shown for Obama in the present circumstances of domestic and international spying and repression, the possibility of a future fascism supported by a majority of non-white amerikans, or a population that is mostly non-white, must be seriously considered. Such fascism, with liberal or internally egalitarian features or not, may be opposed by non-imperialist and imperialist countries including majority-white ones.
As indicated by recovery and increase in the price of certain securities, many financial investors now seem to be more comfortable with the idea of a Trump presidency than before the election. But if there is something particularly fascist about the coming Trump presidency in comparison with previous presidencies, it would have to do with introducing a greater cycle of risky economic policy and the use of repression and state control to make up for losses. (Although, Democrat Bernie Sanders might have been more fascist in this way than George W. Bush.) A Saudi official commented about this recently. The Saudi government is obviously religious, theocratic and monarchical, but the official in one sentence said something more concrete and accurate than what many secular Western pseudo-leftists are saying. The united $tates “benefits more than anybody else from global free trade.”(6) Not just as much, but more than anyone else. Indeed, the united $tates exploits through international trade more than any other, and the u.$. population shares the benefits.
Fascism involves an element of exploited-worker cooperation against the working class’ interests. That could be achieved internationally with no overall-exploited workers within u.$. borders except among some groups of migrants. So there could be proletarian cooperation in Saudi Arabia, with fascism. That would be true with both non-nationals and Saudi nationals contrary to much foreign ignorance about this as if every Saudi citizen received a lot of money from the government. However, threatening to disrupt economic ties with Saudi Arabia – once called a “free rider” by Obama and targeted by environmentalists as allegedly one of the world’s worst “climate sinners” – could itself be fascist. That is what many of Clinton’s critics were doing both conservative and liberal. (Obama called Saudi Arabia a free rider only eight months ago now, and called China a free rider about two years ago. Obama spoke. Trump repeated.) There wasn’t really much separating Clinton and Trump in terms of I$rael/Palestine directly despite contradictory messages/perceptions about Trump and Jews, Israel, or the two-state solution; both Republican and Democratic leaders have opposed the two-state solution in reality while sometimes appearing to support it strongly. But Iran and Saudi Arabia were both points of differentiation between the major-party nominees. Green Jill Stein played more of a particularly-anti-Saudi role. Everyone from Democrats to fake leftists want to play dumb and stupid about this now, but as indicated in polls, secular rhetoric about foreign workers/production, secular anti-Saudi rhetoric as well as secular anti-Iranian rhetoric and secular anti-Islam chauvinism mixed with various kinds of pornography, built up over the years, probably helped elect Trump more than any accumulation of Christian conservatism did.
Whether Trump’s election is a particular victory for antisemitism or not (it is one or the other), there have long been antisemitic elements in amerikkka – including liberal atheists – either supporting I$rael or opposing both Jewish and Muslim states. Given that both conservative amerikans and liberal amerikans have fascist tendencies today, it is somewhat understandable that some took the approach of going to clearly white-nationalist media to spread an anti-Israel message. Some of those, who think Trump is a white nationalist more pro-Israel than Clinton, perhaps feel a sense of vindication: that they failed but at least anticipated the election of a “white nationalist” and tried to influence the particular amerikans they classified as “white nationalist” away from pro-Israel positions. However, they may have just contributed to making amerikans look good internationally and confusing everyone about amerika’s role, in addition to making Trump look better to some pro-Palestinian people.
Saudi Arabia isn’t an imperialist country. The evidence for that involves finance capital as has been discussed.(7) At the same time, the Suez Crisis more than half a century ago showed there can be serious conflict between the united $tates and a variety of countries that are now strong u.$. allies: imperialist then, now, or not. So the question of whether Saudi Arabia is imperialist is important but only to a point at this point in history. Alliances even with imperialist countries come ago, and right now there need to be anti-amerikan united fronts in which many imperialist countries also struggle against the united $tates. France has some responsibility for colonialism in Palestine currently and historically, but its continuing economic interests in the Middle East have put it in conflict with the united $tates over the two-state solution. Saudi Arabia has its own interests in the two-state solution and its own contradictions with the united $tates.
As little as amerikans strongly prioritize climate change issues despite appearing to differ from other amerikans on the topic, amerikans opposing dependence on foreign oil are threatening to make Saudi Arabia “climate sinner” #1, or more vulnerable to various criticisms after the amerikan-Saudi economic relationship weakens. Those amerikans include supporters of clean energy. Oil imports as a percentage of amerikan oil consumption started decreasing under George W. Bush. Amerikan oil production increased, but Bush spoke of clean energy during eir presidency. Any military conflict with Saudi Arabia would be about a lot more than just climate change or petroleum, though.
The united $tates has had various economic interests in the Red Sea area for decades. It has been involved in that area militarily for decades. It had been conducting so-called anti-terrorist operations in Yemen for years before there was the so-called “Saudi-led intervention,” as MIM has discussed (see note note 5). There are many oppressed country allies of the united $tates. Since 9/11, many amerikans have been warmongering against Saudi Arabia. And, the Saudi economy is particularly vulnerable even in this supposedly post-crisis, post-recession period of sustained low global economic growth, and Saudi Arabia wouldn’t benefit in the long term from increased amerikan influence near trade routes in the region. So, if Saudi Arabia now needs to be selected for criticism for what it is doing in Yemen as a result of u.$. influence in Yemen and other countries such as Djibouti, that is only after certain facts have been established.
Most of the rest of the world also has interests in the area around the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Bab-el-Mandeb. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are cooperating with or talking about cooperating with China militarily, nowadays.(8) Maybe Iran and Saudi Arabia can come to an agreement on Palestine and Yemen. The zero-sum view of Iranian/Saudi relations with other countries never represented reality faithfully. China, Iran and Saudi Arabia are considered “climate sinners” and “fascist” by Westerners more than many imperialist countries are, but if the amerikans want to be irrational and ruin their retirement incomes for the sake of “jobs” and domestic production, then China, Iran, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and multiple Muslim, Third World and imperialist countries could work something out that the amerikans don’t like and constitutes progress against the amerikan-I$raeli colonialism in Palestine.
In related news, english.khamenei.ir last week published an article containing the misleading statement from a Western journalist, “Trump wants to do away with trade deals that have enriched American corporations and Wall Street but have impoverished millions of American workers.”(9) The united $tates and Israel are both majority-exploiter settler entities. The united $tates is even more rich and parasitic than Israel is. To speak positively of an amerikan so-called multiracial class struggle against “the establishment,” “ruling circles,” “Wall Street,” and “economic elites,” but not find any internal struggle inside Israel worth mentioning, could be misleading. Israelis are much closer geographically to Middle East issues than most amerikans are.
Thankfully, Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted in an article published yesterday saying of the u.$. election result, “I do not have any comments on the outcome of the presidential election in the U.S. Anyone coming from either of these two parties is pure evil.”(10) “We neither mourn nor celebrate . . . .” “The enemy has targeted the [Iranian] economy . . . .” According to Tehran Times, Khamenei said, “We have no judgment about this election (the U.S. presidential election) because America is the same America, and over the past 37 years either of the two parties which has been in office not only has done no good (to the Iranian nation), but has always been an evil to the Iranian nation.”(11) Whether Khamenei was explicitly contradicting Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s November 8 statement downgrading the united $tates to second-rate (or third-rate) enemy status, or not, is unclear to this writer at this time.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are both having economic difficulties caused by the united $tates. Despite disagreements between Iran and Saudi Arabia over production questions, it is increasingly clear to other analysts that Saudi Arabia’s actions in the oil market have been more about struggling with the united $tates than about struggling with Iran.(12) The Saudis may or may not have anticipated such low oil prices for so long, beyond its control, related to u.$. advantages in finance, investment, and trade.
Saudi Arabia can’t be fascist on its own, but whether the united $tates is fascist or not in any sense or in any appendage, there is a basis for an anti-amerikan international united front including oil-exporting countries.
There is nothing particularly enlightened about what the atheistic/polytheistic secular democracies of the West are doing and saying. Whether the repression is inside or outside u.$. borders, if amerikan fascism existed then amerikans would support it. It wasn’t Germans who overthrew German fascism. Amerika has even more of a bourgeoisification problem than Germany did in the 1930s and 1940s. Nothing about amerika’s (non-)religious practice or culture compensates. The practical significance of correctly identifying fascism could be international and not domestic at all despite Western beliefs about social-democrats and what Germans could have done in the 1930s.
There is no World War II situation now where countries could invade and occupy the united $tates within a few years, but today there is u.$. hegemony. Even when the Soviet Union existed as a superpower that was no longer socialist and had become imperialist, many in the 1960s and ’70s were saying that the united $tates or the Soviet Union – one or the other, each pursuing hegemony – was enemy #1. Amerika is no longer just a “hegemonist.” It is the hegemon. Nobody should tolerate any country’s proposal that is not on the same page as the oppressed in terms of opposing the amerikans, but a more-even struggle against imperialist countries makes more sense when there are strong prospects for socialist revolution within one decade or two in multiple countries. That isn’t the case today. It arguably wasn’t the case even by the mid-1960s. Nearly a century now after October 1917, the analogy of the weakest link in the chain must be reconceptualized in the current economic and political circumstances. Focusing on weak links shouldn’t mean having delusions about amerikans’ one day overthrowing imperialism and then conspiring with them to target small countries in geopolitical hotspots for destabilization when the Dollar Empire can just swoop in with its military and spies. All states are neocolonial or capitalist today and will be until there is a sufficiently major change in the global economic and political situation. Generally, countries that are allies of the united $tates or have strong ties with that entity – even governments with traits that might be viewed as evidence of fascism and have not been installed by the amerikans recently – already exhibit independence of action and can change their attitude toward the united $tates. Saudi Arabia is in fact one of the weaker (in various senses) u.$. allies with a lot of strong anti-amerikan sentiment internally. There is a way to view Saudi Arabia as a weak point, among others, and defeat the amerikans in a battle at that point short of carrying out a violent revolution there.
There are some confused or confusing people who seem to suggest that Israel or Saudi Arabia is simultaneously a weakest link and a superpower bullying/manipulating the amerikans. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia function as an outpost for the amerikans in different ways, and what is happening to Yemenis may in a way be worse than what is happening to Palestinians at the moment. But certainly nobody should call Saudi Arabia fascist just to support amerika’s relations with other countries. In many cases, the practical benefit of speaking of fascism is similarly unclear. The idea of fascism as something externally imposed by the amerikans seems difficult for many to apply in practice correctly. ◊
“Iranian-Palestinian relations develop in the midst of unexpected U.S. election result,” 2016 November. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-11-15-news-Palestine-Iran-Abbas.md
1. “Problems and priorities.” https://web.archive.org/web/20161116063853/http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htm (http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htm)
2. “The Economist/YouGov Poll (Registered Voters).” 1388 registered voters. Conducted October 30-November 1, 2016. https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/warkw5pdui/econToplines.pdf
3. “Bloomberg Politics National Poll.” Selzer & Company. Study #2142. 1007 U.S. adults ages 18 and over. Conducted August 5-8, 2016. https://assets.bwbx.io/documents/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/rAjnCYJjgvBw/v0
4. “Democrats, Republicans agree on four top issues for campaign,” 2016 February 1. http://www.gallup.com/poll/188918/democrats-republicans-agree-four-top-issues-campaign.aspx
5. “Climate change not a top worry in U.S.,” 2014 March 12. http://www.gallup.com/poll/167843/climate-change-not-top-worry.aspx
6. “Saudi Arabia warns Trump on blocking oil imports,” 2016 November 15. https://www.ft.com/content/c0ff2e20-ab49-11e6-ba7d-76378e4fef24
7. “The strategic significance of defining fascism,” 2016 November. https://www.prisoncensorship.info/article/the-strategic-significance-of-defining-fascism/
8. “Iran, China ink deal on defense cooperation,” 2016 November 14. https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/11/14/1240436/iran-china-ink-deal-on-defense-cooperation
“Iran attaches importance to ties with China: official,” 2016 November 17. https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/11/17/1243140/iran-attaches-importance-to-ties-with-china-official
9. “Crisis of democracy in U.S. makes it uniquely unqualified to ‘spread democracy’: analyst,” 2016 November 13. http://english.khamenei.ir/news/4321/Crisis-of-democracy-in-U-S-makes-it-uniquely-unqualified-to
10. “We neither celebrate nor mourn the US election outcomes: Ayatollah Khamenei,” 2016 November 16. http://english.khamenei.ir/news/4328/We-neither-celebrate-nor-mourn-the-US-election-outcomes-Ayatollah
11. “Leader: Iran ready for any ‘likely incident’ under Trump,” 2016 November 16. http://www.tehrantimes.com/news/408361/leader-iran-ready-for-any-likely-incident-under-trump
12. “Saudi Arabia’s oil war gained it 1% market share – which it is about to lose,” 2016 October 28. http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Saudi-Arabias-Oil-War-Gained-It-1-Market-Share-Which-It-Is-About-To-Lose.html
“OPEC is now irrelevant – this oil price plunge is different,” 2016 November 3. http://www.baystreet.ca/articles/commodities.aspx?articleid=27836
“Oil price crash was not Saudi Arabia’s fault,” 2016 March 10. http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Oil-Price-Crash-Was-Not-Saudi-Arabias-Fault.html