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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Webb: Trade, power grab, racism, and other loose ends

Trade, power grab, racism, and other loose ends

Sam Webb

1. Dan Rodrick, Harvard professor, has been studying the global economy and its unfairness for some time. Most of his academic life, in fact. In this analysishe comments on Trump's protectionist measures, announced last week. He doesn't suggest that the sky is going to fall in as these measures wend their way through the global economy, but he does argue that they are no way to address the undeniable inequities in the current global trade regime. If anything, they will, he avers, make that urgent task more, not less, difficult.

At about the same time, I read an interview of Leo Gerard, the president of the United Steel Workers Union. What bothered me wasn't Gerard's defense of Trump's tariffs. I expected that. What I found bothersome is that he had nothing — not a word — to say about the potential negative impacts on other sections of the working class here and elsewhere, resulting from Trump's actions.

Nor did he offer a comment on the peculiar situation of the union's alignment with a president that is authoritarian and backward in every way. We should expect more from a leader of the labor movement in these difficult times.

2. What we saw last week is the usurpation of power and decision making by a lone individual in the White House. Worse still, this individual is narcissistic and impulsive to the extreme, authoritarian to the core, and singularly bereft of any humanity. Meanwhile, the Republican majority in Congress act as enablers of this rogue president. This danger, unprecedented in my experience, is the ground floor of authoritarian rule. This would be discouraging to any sane person if it were not for a whole array of state institutions, social constituencies, and the media that are resisting Trump's power grab. Still, it's fair to ask: are we doing enough?

3. Trump's said a lot of ugly things in his speech at a rally in W.PA. over the weekend, but the ugliest, but not necessarily the one receiving the most coverage, was his dismissal of Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, as a "low-I.Q. individual." Bear in mind that this was delivered in a predominantly white region, where such racist rhetorical volleys resonate among a considerable section of white voters. No one should think that Trump's base is strictly animated by its economic discontent. Trump, obviously, doesn't believe so. And yet, the notion persists that it is enough for Democrats to present an economic alternative that addresses wage and income inequality to turn the tables in November.

4. Any analysis that occludes the rise of right wing extremism in the mid-1970s and its persistence into this century doesn't help us understand either the past or the present, including the Trump phenomenon. Moreover, it leaves its proponents (and those they influence) flatfooted strategically and tactically. And yet, this blind spot continues to inform the thinking of some progressives and radicals.

5. I hope Mueller does his job – and it appears that he is — and the rest of us do ours in the voting booth in November. Both are necessary to escape this extraordinarily poisonous, perilous, and unprecedented situation in which we — and the world's people — find ourselves in. If we had any doubts about this, Trump's behavior and the newest revelations over the past two weeks should have dissipated them.

6. I just finished watching, "7 Seconds," on Netflix. What a compelling story and performance! The production and its actors deserve an award of some kind.

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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