Saturday, February 13, 2016

Between Two Berns, Or The Trumanders Effect/Donnybern Syndrome

Call them Trumanders or Donnybern, call them a dream come true, or a nightmare, call them anything you like, one thing remains clear: what seemed fantastical six months ago now looms as reality in the making. Two kinds of populisms, one that drifts too far to the left, the other too far to the right, seem to end up meeting in the middle, confusing too many voters who genuinely seem to be caught between two berns. To some the choice might be about identifying the one who represents the greater good, to others, the matter might boil down to choosing the one who represents the lesser but necessary evil. A battle pitting Donny Boy against the Bern represents the kind of populist showdown that the country has not witnessed for decades, if ever. Meanwhile the world will be burning in the background.

Both men (Trump and Sanders) are polarizing and angry, anti-establishment angry, and both propose big fantastical ideas: build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it, and offer free tuition and get Wall Street to pay for it. How? Neither of them can say how. This means that should either of them become president, he will have plenty of difficulties dealing with Congress. Moreover, their views on foreign affairs (and on the ME in particular their views, as the Washington Post has noted, are “strikingly similar,”) can only generate difficulties when dealing with the Pentagon or any of America’ NATO allies, and are bound to be off-putting to many leaders from around the globe. As such, both men are bound to fail as president, their intentions and the desires of their followers notwithstanding.


Be that as it may, our way to this situation was paved by a return to the politics of amorality as a way for doing business. For amorality has always been conducive to illiberalism, even when initially championed by liberals. At its heart, amorality is a betrayal of liberal values. It’s that betrayal that will define the legacy of Barak Obama and the realists for all their attempts to cling to the moral high ground – an endeavor that is quite troubling to begin with for people who have championed the politics of amorality. It’s as though the realists want to say: we are moral exactly because our politics vis-à-vis others is amoral. Only when you believe that American lives and interests matter more than the lives and interests of other peoples can one accept falling on such logic. But such logic reflects an attachment to tribal mentality and attitudes, not liberal values. People who are willing to treat the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and dislocation of millions as an acceptable price for doing business, in this case, giving up Syria for the sake of appeasing Iran, are anything but liberals.