Don’t get me wrong—Donald J. Trump is a noxious gasbag, a flouter of the Constitution, and president of the United States. But he’s not the problem; he’s the symptom.
Before Cambridge Analytica was plying its “psychographic” wizardry on Trump’s behalf, it did so for Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas and would-be U.S. president, and Ken Cuccinelli, the would-be governor of Virginia.
Before Trump spoke of “my African American there” at a rally or tweeted out false statistics about black crime, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “You lie!” at a sitting U.S. president as he addressed a joint session of Congress. That president, of course, was Barack Obama, the nation’s first black commander-in-chief. You might recall that the source of Wilson’s ire was the prospect of free health care that he said Obama would deliver to undocumented immigrants, despite the president’s assertions to the contrary. The base loved Wilson’s antics. Sound familiar?
Every movement for global domination needs a figurehead, and few politicians possess the audacity to front so nakedly for the billionaire class as Donald J. Trump, the mega-billionaire wannabe. Cambridge Analytica was bankrolled by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, and led in its 2014 midterm election efforts by Stephen K. Bannon, who went on to become the CEO of the Trump campaign. The Mercers also sank $10 million into Breitbart News, of which Bannon was chief executive, until he messed with the Mercers’ formula for hegemoniacal domination of global politics by getting himself quoted in a sensational book, saying mean things about the figurehead’s family.
Long before there were Mercers doing their part to drive the rabid-hater wing of GOP politics, there were the Koch brothers, whose efforts the Mercers also helped to bankroll via the brothers’ sprawling donor network. Not that the brothers, who each enjoy an estimated net worth of some $48 billion, according to Forbes, ever got out of the politics-driving business; in fact, they’re stronger than ever. They’re taking care of the GOP political infrastructure while the Mercers tend to the care and feeding of the figurehead, as well as all of that psychographically derived, stolen-from-Facebook-users data about how to create the most destructive messaging: “deep state,” “Drain the swamp!” and maybe even “Lock her up!” (the imperative made famous by Trump’s felonious 24-day national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a favorite of the Mercers).
Without the Mercers and Bannon and Cambridge Analytica, it’s possible that the Russian trolls who drove both voter-persuasion and voter-suppression efforts via Facebook wouldn’t have known which messages to push. But without the Koch brothers, Trump would have had no ground game for getting out the vote. The Kochs may have made a big deal about how they couldn’t abide Trump, but with Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group they founded, sending voters to the polls for Republicans in congressional races, Trump enjoyed a robust get-out-the-vote effort that redounded to his benefit. It didn’t hurt that he picked Mike Pence as his running-mate—a candidate who owed his political career to the Koch brothers. Once elected, Trump populated his cabinet and the ranks of his staff with Koch network donors and beneficiaries: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, CIA Director (and soon-to-be Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo, to name a few.
And before there was Steve Bannon (who, with Breitbart, famously built “the platform for the alt right”), there were Lee Atwater and Floyd Brown, who weaponized racial tensions in George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign against then-Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. There was Karl Rove, who used voter-data hoo-doo and animus toward gay people to elect and re-elect George W. Bush.
It’s the same as it ever was, only more so. That’s because the hate formula is working so well for the super-rich. Now vanquished from the White House, Bannon is hoping to hitch his alt-right wagon to the ascendant right-wing stars mustering in Europe, ready to find a way to use the anti-migrant sentiments overtaking the continent to execute more plunder for those who will pay him high dollar.
When Donald Trump is gone, there will be another politician willing to sell out the American people and our national commons to those who possess obscene levels of wealth. Our job is to stop that politician, and all who support him or her.
Don’t get me wrong—Donald Trump has got to go. He must be pushed from office by all legal means. It would be nice if he lands in jail. But it can’t end there.
Until America gets right with itself, assesses its outplaced veneration of wealth and all who possess it, there will be another Trump. And another. And another.