Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A New Chapter in an Old Game: The Imperial Globalists vs The National Populists

As anyone who has seen my blog as of late can clearly tell, I've got quite the affinity for politics. Considering that it's an election year in the United States and the US is the center of the world's financial and geopolitical system, the entire world looks to the United States yet again. In the formation of this post, I've split it up into 5 sections:
1. Introduction
2. Historical Rotation of Issues on Domestic Policy
3. Political Axis Along International Policy
4. Demographics and Cultural Issues
5. Conclusion

1. Introduction:
In the middle of a global financial crisis of the like we haven't seen in ~80-90 years, the 2016 American election determines the pivot yet again. Yet again, the entire world is at stake.

As I've written before, the American Republic was essentially set up by the capital interests, primarily finance capital, as a way to fulfill basic geopolitical constraints. I also have spoken about how the right to vote alongside free elections came about as a way to diffuse populist pressure against an entrenched oligarchy. Throughout American history, we've seen this battle between the oligarchy and the populist backlash repeatedly. To put simply, this is a very old game.

In the 2016 Presidential election, we're seeing the same sort of battle occur yet again. On one side, you've got a populist (Donald Trump) who's trying to run as more of a Jacksonian while we head towards November. On the other side, you've got a puppet of a corrupt oligarchy propped up by liberal elites and established financial interests (Hillary Clinton).

2. Historical Rotation of Issues on Domestic Policy:
Historically, it's often been the ones in favor of protection that were usually favored by the oligarchy, but that was also in a time when the US was still a developing country. In order to develop firms and industries built on capital inputs, it became necessary to protect such domestic industries from more developed countries where capital inputs were cheaper. So, not surprisingly, the capital interests and development interests would lobby for their interests in the political system.

However, the US is today the most developed, the most capital-rich, the most technologically advanced, and the most innovative economy across the entire globe. So the idea of needing to protect American industry as a way to promote capital inputs in firms from more capital-rich countries is absurd because there don't exist countries more capital-rich, more technologically advanced, and more innovative countries in the rest of the world. On the other hand, the liberalization of trade and capital flows allows capital interests in the US to secure their supply-chains at a much cheaper cost than restrictions on trade or capital flows. Such liberalization also helps firms arbitrage price/wage differentials between countries, which allows for the financial system to get piles and piles of profits in seemingly hidden ways.

Of course, there are costs to the liberalization of trade and capital flows whose impacts are borne very locally by a very specific group of people. In the US, the group most adversely affected by trade/capital liberalization has been the white working class along with the old industrial regions more generally. On top of firms going overseas for cheaper labor or for arbitraging price differentials or for whatever reason, there's also been massive amounts of immigration into the US over the past 20-25 years or so (including both skilled and unskilled labor). Such labor has depressed the wages of the native-born population while also bringing in people from other parts of the world who are of a higher class than them. So they see the classes above them growing in size while they also see more entrants competing with them directly. Naturally, when times get difficult, there will be some kind of a backlash.

What I'm essentially saying is that three key issues (trade, immigration, and banking) have become the key difference between both sides of the political axis. One side (National Populists) seeks to increase protection, decrease immigration, and go after the entrenched financial interests. The other side (Imperial Globalists) seeks to maintain relatively liberal policies regarding trade/capital flows, immigration, and use entrenched financial interests as a part of their base.

3. Political Axis on International Policy:
Now that we've discussed how the two sides have aligned across threats of domestic policy, we'll point out how this translates to international/foreign policy. The National Populists favor what effectively amounts to retrenchment to focus on domestic concerns in order to help out those people who've been left behind in the past 40-50 years. The Imperial Globalists favor aggressively going after our interests abroad while using every bit of leverage in our financial system as a tool to do so. The National Populists are concerned about the impacts of those policies on domestic workers, especially nativist/unskilled labor more generally, the impact of those policies on the American trade deficit, on immigration policies that may dilute their political support, and the financial system is viewed as the primary stallward of the "Globalists".

So essentially, you've got a populist base on one side that's saying we need to retrench geopolitically in order to look after domestic goals--which is why I call them the National Populists. On the other side, you've got a base built on a coalition of minority groups, younger people, and urban/suburban moderates who favor imperial policies (of some kind or another) to look out for global American interests. So the latter side is what I call the "Imperial Globalists".

Unsurprisingly, the narrative used by the GOP base is that they must "Defeat the Globalists". On the other side, the narrative being spun is to defeat the demagogue being supported by nativist populists. The former favors retrenchment, the abandonment of imperial goals, and domestic development. The Imperial Globalists favor a furthering of imperial goals, maintenance of empire (if not outright expansion), and a policy of reducing possible costs of imperial policy (like a trade deficit) by very indirect and modest means which'd fix the more obvious parts of the problem without dealing with the primary concerns of the National Populist base.

4. Demographics and Cultural Issues:
Not surprisingly, the split between Hillary supporters and Trump supporters are largely split along demographic lines. Those groups hardest hit by globalization are--as I've detailed above--the white working class and largely native men in the American population. When we add in cultural issues like political correctness or affirmative action, these issues are perceived to be issues primarily affecting men--especially white males (note that most of my white friends actually benefited from affirmative action while people like me who went to difficult schools in relatively upscale suburbs were screwed). So unsurprisingly, Trump's primary base is among whites without a college degree, men without a college degree, and disgruntled white men who're upset at the corruption in DC and feel disenfranchied.

It's important to note that many aren't just upset from increasing immigration that's depressing wages, but also they're also upset at risk of losing jobs from automation as well. Also notice that more immigrants who end up becoming citizens implies that the native population of voters will have their power in government diluted. So naturally, those whose political interests are on the opposite side of most of the immigrants will vote on the opposite side. Again, this shouldn't be a surprise.

It's also interesting to note that on most of the polls we've seen so far, Trump seems to be largely outperforming (or at least not underperforming) Romney among Hispanics. Now, this could be a polling error that simply underscores the Hispanic community--which means that these polling numbers are skewed towards Trump. If it's not a polling error, what these polls mean is that the Hispanics who're being negatively affected by immigration or trade or foreign wars or by cultural issues or whatever.

The interesting thing to notice is that Trump is behind Hillary in the polls more generally although he's outperforming Romney among Hispanics and other minorities (in some cases, even blacks) because he's underperforming Romney among moderate women and college-educated whites. So the demographic split isn't just among white vs non-white because the polling tells us that the demographic splits are far more complex. Of course, it does seem like the white vs non-white split is the most significant but that doesn't mean there's more complexity underneath it.

5. Conclusion:
Simply put, the 2016 Presidential election is no longer about left vs right as we've known it. Instead, it's about an imperial policy of projecting American strength and using the financial system to do so in order to serve trade network expansion across both region and across scale (this is the point of  TPP) on one side, The response from the other side has been a call to ultra-nationalism and retrenchment focused on development.

The 2016 election is about a debate between using the financial system as a tool for imperial domination and domestic connectedness during a stage of political decentralization more generally on the part of the Imperial Globalists. On the side of the National Populists, it's about reducing the concentration of financial power among the elites as a tool to "take our country back" (this is the phrase used by the Trumpkins) and return to "power to the people", even though it's ironic that most of the people dislike Trump.

The 2016 election is about the cultural divides in the United States that create rifts within the US internally. It involves a battle between the cities and the countryside. It also involves racial and religious elements that turn the entire election into a battle of social issues. These social issues are merely just information being transmitted among the greater internal societal issues of the US more generally.