The Personal has Always Been Political for Rich People

The personal is political for Donald Trump, even though he is certainly no feminist. The president, who was a young adult at the time this women’s liberation slogan was popular — to point out that what happens in a woman’s private life was part of a larger political problem of male supremacy — may have unintentionally absorbed the words, but never understood their meaning.

Ironically, while the slogan can express an important feminist truth, “the personal is political” also seems an apt characterization of a Republican 21st century, neoliberal, Ayn Randian and evangelical Protestant tinged belief system in which everything is personal, including politics, the economy, culture, morals, religion etc. Right-wing hero Maggie Thatcher captured the sentiment well with her quote: “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.”

Why do religious bigots care so much about a woman’s right to choose an abortion or gay marriage? Because they see even the choices of other people as a personal affront to their morals.

Trump, with his actions and words that have set the impeachment process in motion, demonstrates he truly does not understand the difference between his personal interests and the political role a head of state is supposed to play.

Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has paid even passing attention to his career; the Trump brand has always been about being a celebrity. And to be one of those, to self-consciously promote yourself over decades, to constantly insert yourself into the “news” through the use of publicists and marketers both requires and reinforces the narcissism that so clearly affects the POTUS. After 40 years of building his brand before becoming president, why would he abandon what has gotten him where he wanted to go?

The Trump triumph in the 2016 election can be seen as a sort of culmination of celebrity culture. To the outside world The Donald is, was and always will be a caricature of the Ugly American — a Frankenstein-like creation made from recently harvested parts of a used car salesman, game show host, TV preacher, military man much like the colonel played by Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now and an ex-child movie star who has long grown out of his charm but not really grown up. Yet he, more or less, won the election. And apparently tens of millions of people old enough to vote still support him.

Makes people across the planet wonder who else could be elected. Or makes them hopeful that if Donald Trump is the best that the system currently has to offer then this form of capitalism must be near its end.

The impeachment process is a sign that some very important people do worry that the president could bring down the entire neoliberal world order. One suspects this is more about image than policy. Certainly most of Trump’s policies have been great for the billionaires and multi-millionaires who own enough politicians to get their way, damn the consequences to the majority of the world’s people. And it’s not as if the rich and powerful really object to using the government’s power to promote private interests. They have always believed that their personal interests are political. And they’ve been pretty damn successful at it. To give just a few examples from a very long list:

· In 1947 the U.S. government passed the Taft-Hartley Act to weaken the power of unions because that was in the personal interest of factory owners and other capitalists.

· In 1953 the CIA overthrew an elected government in Iran because that was in the personal interest of the owners of major oil companies.

· In 1954 the CIA overthrew an elected government in Guatemala because that was in the personal interest of the owners of the United Fruit company.

· In 1961 the CIA organized an invasion of Cuba because that was in the personal interest of some major organized crime families.

· In 2017 the U.S. government passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because that was in the personal interest of rich people in general.

What Trump doesn’t get is that the president is supposed to represent the collective self-interest of rich people, not just his or those of his financial backers. Real politicians learn this early in their careers, but he was never a real politician. Presidents are not supposed to disgrace the wealthy and powerful, but Trump clearly embarrasses a certain segment of the American ruling class.

Perhaps the majority of the wealthy and important have gained what they wanted from his tax cuts and judge him now to be a liability, a danger to their system of command and control. Perhaps the thought of President Trump in charge during a widely expected serious recession has spooked them into supporting impeachment.

But will he be impeached? Or win a second term? It depends. Not upon what the majority of American citizens think, because that’s not how the system works. But rather it depends on what the majority of the wealthy and important judge to be in their self-interest. Because the personal for them always becomes political and they have money to buy the politicians.

Gary Engler is a Canadian writer, a former journalist at the Vancouver Sun and B.C. Media Union elected representative. Read other articles by Gary.