Is Trump’s Administration the New Neoliberalism?

With the Trump administration’s focus on surveillance (extreme vetting) and domestic oversight, especially in areas such as education, I’m inclined to see this as neoliberalism 2.0 vs. traditional American conservatism. The reason I feel his administration represents a kind of neoliberalism is because Trump’s voter base—a mostly white America—balked at the thought of non-whites receiving social benefits1. We’ve seen it in all major urban centers, my home town of Detroit no less: when racially identifiable populations (blacks, Hispanics, those from the Global South, etc.) became a bit too optimistic about their access to middle-class amenities, the white electorate intervened. Thomas Sugrue writes,

“whites, through the combined advantages of race and residence, were able to hoard political and economic resources—jobs, public services, education, and other goods—to their own advantage at the expense of the urban [predominantly black] poor ( brackets mine).”

Similarly, Sugrue says,

“cuts in municipal employment threatened Detroit’s precarious black middle class. While city jobs were seldom lucrative, they were stable, offering good health benefits and modest pensions and medical insurance for retirees.”2

This is very similar to the 1970’s and 1980’s when Ronald Reagan (with Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Koh in Europe) rose to power, fueled by white dissatisfaction in what they perceived to be a “caretaker state”, which had, in their eyes, become far too occupied with affairs of non-whites. Additionally, there are more similarities between Trump and his administration and the neoliberals before him. First is the relation between the state and capitalist enterprises. David Theo Goldberg relates in his article, Racisms without Racism,

“The neoliberal state accordingly has troubled itself with securing private interests from the projected contamination and threat of those deemed for various reasons not to belong, those considered to have little or no social standing, and those whose welfare is calculated to cost too much economically or politically. Call this, by contrast, the traffic-cop state.”3

Given that Trump’s presidency was mostly won on a disenfranchised white electorate, it stands clearer to me to view Trump’s administration as neoliberal. This fits quite well as neoliberal administrations (Reagan to name but one) also seek to establish themselves not only as the administrations of law and order domestically but also “to secure [themselves] from perceived threats from without, almost always racially shaped”4. In the case of the Trump administration, it makes ample use of Islamophobia to, if not racialize Muslims, resurrect Samuel Huntington’s “class of civilizations” political theory, so as to make an “Other” by which his administration can define itself against.

Sources

1. Goldberg, David Theo. “Racisms without Racism.” PMLA 123.5 (2008): 1712-716. JSTOR. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

2. Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U Press, 1996. Pg., xxxvii. Read the intro here.

3. Goldberg, “Racisms without Racism.”

4. Goldberg, “Racisms without Racism.”

Calling For a Ban On Terrorists Is Just That: A Call

The Trump administration talks about “Make America Great Again” and keeping America safe. And while I’m all for the latter (the former1 is a more nuanced conversation), this sabre rattling may only serve to call the sharks to us. This is another reason Trump needs to transition from campaigning to strategizing. Or perhaps that is all he is capable of.

In response to this kind of bravado, however, ISIS and the like will undoubtedly take this as a challenge, doubtless redoubling their efforts to penetrate America (which at this point it seems a tragic likelihood, though May God forbid it!) and wreak havoc and carnage: When one throws down a gauntlet, one must expect it to be picked up. And tragically, if such an attack were to take place, American Muslims would most certainly be the scapegoats, though it is clear as day that (American) Muslims do not craft counter-terrorism policies let alone hold sway over international terrorist groups. These are dangerous times. May God protect us all and inspire the leaders of this country to act and behave in ways which secures our safety.

1. We must determine what the metric is for [A] being great (i.e., is it more than simply when whites held not only economic and political power, but also had control over the bodies, movements and freedom of non-whites?) and [B] why isn’t it pretty good now?