This is a confused and scary time. I mean, more than usual. There are many theories flying around out there. Following are the things I think about, often statements by various experts and pundits.
Trump IS the Third Party we keep trying to start. He only used the Republican machinery as a platform, but doesn’t fit into either of our binary political philosophies because he represents a true paradigm shift, one that happened without us realizing, but which is entrenched and strong. It is advertising/marketing based. He simply sold us himself. Now we have buyer’s remorse. Especially the Republicans.
We have left the Enlightenment and entered the Marketing world.
Trump is not a rich man. His wealth is a fantasy based on selling his name, which is a major source of his income. His investments depend upon wealth and leisure (casinos, luxury hotels, and golf courses) and admiration of their prestige, which somehow persists in spite of the failures of his individual businesses. As he sinks deeper into his dementia, his name becomes more valueless. Now we hear stories about people taking the name off buildings to avoid stigma and possibly physical attack as people become literally dis-illusioned. He will die impoverished, because his wealth is all moonbeams. Investigators who have penetrated his secrecy confirm this.
The core of the shift to Trumpish values is also the core of the middle class: shop-owners, importers, inventors, and manufacturers who managed to break the tyranny of those who “own” land and those who are employed to do the work of it, which is the feudal system. Trump’s idea of how rich people live is laughably nouveau riche, unsophisticated, crass and ugly. Victorian, African potentate, a child’s idea of palaces.
War is bad for trade. War is avoided by making written rules, treaties, agreements, and so on. This gives enormous importance to writing, which leads to lawyers and judges because so much writing is clumsy, impenetrable, or outmoded. That includes our founding documents, which grew out of the founding documents of the British Empire. Which came in part from the great importance attributed to the Holy Bible, as though it were written by a deity. In fact, the Bible is a collection of ancient fragments, the "New" part of it curated in 325 AD by the Council of Nicaea, a committee of old men invested in institutions. This means it is a masterpiece of ambiguity which can be used to suit the purposes of institutions.
One could say that the church led the way into mercantilism when it began to sell indulgences and flatter kings in order to acquire land. The law preventing marriage was not about sex — it was to prevent clergy from using their power to create dynasties of descendants. (Just as Trump is trying to do.) The feudal system IMHO is biological, land-based, and rooted in human fertility. (Which connects to the feverish protection of human embryos — not infants.) It's a default.
So, to review, by moving to the middle class that thrives between national-dimension privileged power and persisting abject wage-slave peonage, we use writing to evade war because war is bad for business. This means a lot of people need to learn to read and write, and then the majority of people need to honor documents. (We are not meeting these needs.) When business becomes paralyzed by the kudzu of venture capitalism (interest rates, borrowing as the norm, criminalization of debts, stock market derivatives) then war of some kind becomes inevitable as a way of clearing the deck.
The covert Third Party of the United States and most of the other European countries is simply Business. What doesn’t sell, doesn’t matter. All this scolding about tariffs is an attempt to restore what ecologies once provided: limits, boundaries, things that can be bought for little money in one place and then sold for a lot of money elsewhere. All this sounds rational and sensible to most people. If the leadership stays within the assumption, they can rule. But demand shifts and so does supply.
The trouble with the Third Party of Mercantilism is that it is not facing the Malthusian fact that there are simply too many people. Not just too many people in one country rather than another, which causes people to migrate, but a population beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. It becomes a little more clear all the time that this explosion of humans is going to lead to devastation when pollution, infection, and famine of various kinds end fertility. (It’s not just a matter of amounts of food but also foods that are loaded with molecules like sugar.) Proportions within populations also matter. The mass elimination of females in China means there are unmarried soldiers leaning against the wall, waiting for something to happen. Becoming more willing to MAKE something happen. This is not intentional but it is probably inevitable, a consequence almost mechanical.
When Steve Bannnon, Trump’s covert self, says he wants to destroy the standing order, he is saying he is willing to bring on the apocalypse because think of the spending! Think of the money in rebuilding! (A major part of the USA’s gross national product is always responding to catastrophes like New Orleans.) Think of the chance to get on the Security Council and learn all the nation's vital secrets!
“Lenin,” he [Bannon] answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Sounds like Osama bin Laden to me. Or maybe Sampson pulling down the temple. No one pays attention. Picture Bannon leaning on the counter by the light of neon advertising while the bartender considers whether he ought to cut him off. It’s not hard. We all know morose old men who feel passed by, who wear jeans to the Oval Office and don’t bother to shave — as though they were still in college.
Most don’t find a power puppet to market. Narcissism becomes relevant. It’s only a concept, of course, and has somewhat drifted from the original Freudian/Greek myth of the beautiful boy who loves his water-reflected image so much that he falls in and drowns. (That’s the state of the Democrats these days.) When I was working on the concept in the early 2000’s, it was much simpler than it is now. Building on the original idea of being self-centered, we’ve expanded to “grandiose narcissism”, “toxic narcissism,” “malevolent narcissism.” I haven’t heard much about “benign narcissism”. But there is now talk about “inverted narcissism” which is about people obsessed with having been damaged by narcissists. Everyone is building sub-categories out of the original category named for one pretty boy.
But that’s another post.