The One Way to Resist Trump’s Shock Politics and Win Back the World We Really Want

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, it’s becoming clear that Donald Trump has not delivered on the promises that got him elected. Some still hope that he will “make America great again.” But the key promises that got him elected were these:

  • Make America safe.
  • Create jobs and get more people working.
  • Replace Obamacare with a better health plan.

There is no evidence that he has delivered on these promises or that he intends to do so. What he has delivered on is his promise to enrich the CEOs of corporate America, starting with himself and his family.

I’m reading Naomi Klein’s new book, No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. More than anyone I know, she helps us understand the Trump phenomenon, to place it in its proper historical context, and more importantly to show how to keep Trump’s brand of disaster politics from sucking the air out of our collective lungs.

When I read her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism it brought clarity to much of the chaos in the world that I felt unable to understand or make sense of. It became clear, for instance, that Hurricane Katrina was less a national disaster, than a Corporate opportunity to enrich itself. Following Katrina, New Orleans’s residents, many of them poor, were scattered throughout the country. Rather than seeing their communities rebuilt, they saw them being replaced. The rich got richer and the poor got removed.

This kind of “shock therapy” offers a simple, yet effective means for the 1% to get richer at the expense of the 99%. It’s as simple as 1,2,3.

  1. Create a crisis or series of crises (or be prepared to take advantage of any natural disasters that occur).
  2. While people are still reeling from the shock, step in take control.
  3. Take whatever is valuable from the public domain and give it to those who have private power.

Repeat, again and again (Until people recognize what is going on and change our collective response.)

When I think about this kind of “shock therapy,” I think back to the year I spent visiting my father at Camarillo State Mental Hospital. He had become increasingly irritable, angry, and depressed because he couldn’t find work as an actor and playwright in Hollywood. This was during the time of the “red scare” and McCarthy hearings where those on the political left were blacklisted and were unable to work in their chosen field. In despair, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo for treatment.

Over a period of a year he was given electroshock treatments, supposedly to treat his depression. He never received any therapy that might have gotten to the root of his despair or to see the connection between his depression and what was going on in the work world. It took more than twenty years for the country to come to its senses and recognize that the danger to the country didn’t come from the creative artists on the progressive left, but from those who would restrict our freedoms, fan the flames of fear, and attack those who stand up for the 99%.

I watched my father get worse and worse, until he finally didn’t know who I was when I came to visit him. The treatment would have killed him, I’m sure, or ruined his brain as we saw depicted in the book and movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But my father fought back and finally escaped from those who wanted to control him. The fight goes on.

Donald Trump has sped up the collective shock treatments we all experience. Crises now happen every day and new ones are reported every time we turn on the news. We don’t even have to wait for the next news cycle, our brains are flooded with the next crazy tweet that arouses our fear. We are so overwhelmed attending to the next crisis, that lose the will to fight back. Meanwhile our country is being given away to the rich and venal.

“With every alleged ethics violation, with every brazen lie, with every deranged tweet,” says Naomi Klein, “this administration leaves the public sphere more broken and degraded.”

And what is the public sphere? It’s our collective wealth and wisdom. This is a time where those in power would have us divide the world into the “haves” and “have nots,” and then try and make us believe that the haves, have what they have because they are hard-working and deserve everything they get. They also want us to believe that the have nots, have not because they are lazy freeloaders trying to take the hard-earned money from the have’s. It’s time we spit out that the poison we are being fed.

So, how do we take back our country? For starters, we have to stop traumatizing ourselves by following the latest Trump craziness. His game is to keep our attention focused on him. He is a narcissist after all. And also to create one crisis after another until we’re so overwhelmed and numb that we just want to pretend it’s all a reality T.V. show that has nothing to do with our real lives.

What’s the one thing we can do to turn things around? Klein says that we need to “Jam the Trump Brand.” The Trump brand is “I’m the Boss” and you all are my celebrity apprentices. As the boss, he gets to fire anyone he doesn’t like and shame and blame anyone who opposes him. He wants us to believe there are only two choices in the world: “Become a winner like him or become a loser like the 99% who are not like him.” If you are a loser, the Trump brand has a four-word suggestion for what you can do: “Eat, shit, and die.” If we don’t go along, he is happy to give us a series of “shock treatments,” for our own good of course.

But the reality of the Trump brand is there’s nothing there but hot air. He is the personification of the emperor who is naked, while telling everyone he’s dressed for success. When we stop watching the show, buying his products, or staying in his hotels and towers (and boycotting those who do), his power will evaporate. Of course, it won’t be so easy to jam the Trump brand, but Naomi Klein offers important guidance. I highly recommend her book for all those who are ready for a real change.

As always, I look forward to your comments. Whether you agree or disagree I want to hear from you. And let’s remember we are all in this world together, so we need to be kind and respectful to each other, whether we agree or disagree. Stay tuned to and learn about my new book coming out next year From Madness to Manhood: In Search of My Lost Father and Myself.

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  1. Jed

    So it seems some people are fixated on every step the president takes, I believe if you focus on the politics of the country and are impacted by every word you will not be happy. I believe to be fair the goals of the admin. are not his alone, many support his view and many do not, any president’s ability to pass legislation depends on many factors. You know this so to say the pres. has not done what he said he would seems unfair to any president 5 months after his inauguration. You do know that the president’s supporters are still his supporters, they will stay with him regardless because it is their hatred of Washington that motivates them not what the president does or says.

    • Bill,
      Thanks for your comments. I agree we shouldn’t focus all our attention on every little word or misstep that President Trump makes. I’m more concerned about the appointments he has made and the decisions he has implemented that benefit the super-rich at the expense of the average American. He said he would “drain the swamp” of those who get rich at the expense of the American worker, but from my perspective he is making the problem worse, not better. I hope he makes things better for everyone, that becomes the President for all the people, that he creates a health-care system that is better than Obama care, serves more people, and that he creates real jobs in the emerging alternative energy arena.

  2. Frank Hummer says:

    I think Trump has made great progress so far. I would think it would be clear that the “shock politics” described here is what the liberals and democrats have been attempting to pull off for at least a few decades. There are just a lot of purported observations cited in this article that are simply not in evidence.

    • I agree that Republicans aren’t the only ones who have used crises to push through policies that help corporations at the expense of the majority. Democrats have done their share of damage. I’m not sure which observations I’ve made that “are simply not in evidence.” I look forward to changes that would be beneficial for 100% of Americans. One of the things I liked about Naomi Klein’s book was that she detailed the reasons she thought Hillary Clinton (as well as Bill Clinton) helped create policies that helped corporations more than the people at large. She wasn’t simply saying Trump is to blame.

  3. Jed,
    This may be a way to deal with the result (Trump) and I don’t believe that it will resolve the bigger problem. How did we wind up in this mess in the first place? Possibly two of the worst Presidential candidates in history to run for office at the same time. I’m an outsider, looking over the fence from up north, and when the US sneezes Canada catches a cold.

    I believe that if you want to fix anything you need to fix the cause. I also believe that the the root cause of most of the problems we have in our current society, can be traced back to the breakdown of the family unit and the absence of fathers and very few good male role models. Every year we have more and more young men & women entering the work force and business, that haven’t been mentored and taught by good men.

    We need to focus our attention on educating our young men and women on how to have SUCCESSFUL long-term committed relationships and how be good mothers and fathers. The divorce/separation rate is killing our society and we are raising young people who are not equipped to be the leaders that our world needs. Until we fix this we will continue to have Donald Trumps and Hillary Clintons as leaders.
    There is no “quick fix”, only short term gain with long term pain. We need to plan for our grandchildren’s future.

    Step One: teach our men and women to accept, appreciate, understand, embrace and be thankful for the differences between us. A lot of he current relationship model that is being taught doesn’t work and its destroying our families and our children. When we start to do a better job as parents, with a family unit the works, you’ll start to see many positive changes in our society, our politics and the people that lead us in the world. Until then, if we keep doing what we’re doing we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

    • Bob,
      Thanks for your comments. There are a number of root causes about our present problems. Certainly the family issues you mention are important and I agree we need to appreciate and embrace important sex and gender differences as well as similarities and fatherhood is crucial. My new book, From Madness to Manhood: In Search of My Lost Father and Myself (out next year), looks at these issues in some depth. Naomi Klein looks at some of the larger societal issues including our imbalanced economic system that favors the very rich, environmental concerns that are often neglected when they conflict with powerful corporations that make a lot of money pushing policies (including the denial of global warming and the ultimate causes, many of which are tied to our use of fossil fuels), and a policy that focuses our fears on Mexicans, Muslims, and other minorities, rather than on the broader economic and environmental issues facing the world.

  4. Tom Harvey says:

    The resistance is worthless and not working because if doesn’t offer an alternative. It is just a series of whines. You don’t like what is proposed, show us your plan. Also, most of the hot air is due to the fake news promoted by MSM and especially CNN. Naomi Klein’s book Shock Capitalism had some merit but it doesn’t apply to Trump. The crisis was here long before Trump.

    • Tom,
      You’re right. Just saying “No” to things we don’t like doesn’t get us to where we want to go. And you’re absolutely right that using shock tactics to take power was not something invented by Trump. Its been used by many. One of the things that Klein points out in her recent book, No is Not Enough, is that there have to be things we say “yes” to and that we’re willing to come together and support. One plan, that has been proposed for Canada is called, The Leap Manifesto.
      It begins: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.
      These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.
      Check it out and let me know what you think.

  5. Here’s where you can find out more about the Leap Manifesto.

  6. Art George says:

    Jed: You advocate correctly for policy that focuses on the broader economic and environmental issues facing the world. Naomi Klein, and you, raise an interesting observation about the use of a “shock doctrine” to keep people endlessly off-center, and it becomes important for us not to react to every tweet or wrong decision so that we quickly become exhausted and give up. Rather, like with aikido or judo, we can flow with each attack and, over time, turn it about.

    However, you, and Ms. Klein, unfortunately default into the same “us vs. them” dichotomy/division by which the one-percent is seen as the enemy; the conclusions of you and Ms. Klein thus become kind of an anti-capitalist rant, by which privatized entrepreneurship is vilified, and your conclusions rather add to the polarization that is tearing this country apart. To be sure, we must be on guard against our economic exploitation (and we are at risk of that with Trumpcare “reforms,” rollback on environmental protections, and profiteering of endless war.) But I’m not sure that the fact that business made money off of Hurricane Katrina, or that people were relocated when sections of New Orleans were wiped out, frames every natural disaster as a “corporate opportunity,” or that a corporate opportunity is necessarily “bad.” The risk is that we thus engage in finger-pointing and name-calling just as Mr. Trump does, and there is thus no movement away from polarization. The question for us is how to resolve this polarization, not to perpetuate it. Nevertheless, sincerely, thank you for your heart-felt and concern and your engagement in struggling toward positive results.

    • Art, your points are well-taken. It is easy to cross the line from talking about the issues that we need to address and making “them” the bad guys. I’m more concerned about the system that separates the more encompassing needs of people for clean air, water, a living wage, etc. from the short-term profits that drive so many corporate decisions. I actually have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Trump and others who put so much of their energy into winning, which is often an attempt to cover the pain of growing up in an abusive family. In some ways, we’ve all been infected with a virus where we have separated ourselves from the Earth. As a result we are all wounded to a greater or lesser degree. Healing ourselves is a prerequisite to healing our relationship to those we see as the enemy. I appreciate your willingness to raise issues that are different than my own, without polarizing us. Hope I can learn from you and improve those skills in the future.