Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 20, 2015

Is Donald Trump our Vladimir Putin?

Filed under: Donald Trump — louisproyect @ 7:53 pm


Yesterday Washington Post editorial writer David Ignatius compared Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin:

He promises to restore his country’s greatness, without offering a specific plan. He uses crude, vulgar expressions that make him sound like an ordinary guy, even though he’s a billionaire. He’s a narcissist who craves media attention. And for all his obvious shortcomings, he’s very popular.

Whom am I referring to? Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course. But the parallels with a certain American politician known as the “The Donald” are obvious.

Donald Trump is in some respects an American version of Putin. Like the Russian leader, he seeks to reverse his country’s losses and return its former glory. He promises a restoration of power and prestige without trifling about the details.

“We have no victories,” Trump complained to NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “As a country, we don’t have victories anymore. And it’s very sad.”

Trump’s official slogan is “Make America Great Again!” It’s a line borrowed from Ronald Reagan’s acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican convention, when the Gipper promised a “crusade to make America great again.” But really, this kind of talk is the mainstay of politicians around the world who campaign on a platform of national restoration. Their message is as much psychological as political.

This does raise some interesting questions even though Ignatius is obviously overly enamored of these facile analogies, having already written an editorial in April 2014 stating that Putin is borrowing from Reagan’s playbook by intervening in Ukraine. This is not to speak of the message put forward in his novel “Body of Lies” that the CIA has been overly constrained by legality and oversight, telling Ken Silverstein in a Harper’s interview: “CIA officials put up with a degree of public abuse that would be unimaginable in the case of military officers.” Given what we know about torture and renditions, this makes him just as scary as Putin if not more so.

But there is something to all this. Putin emerged as a popular leader by playing the nationalist card. As opposed to Yeltsin who put down the red carpet for foreign investors buying up Russian assets at bargain basement prices, he made it clear that he had no use for Thomas Friedman type “globalization” panaceas. He has also more recently become the nemesis of the European Union, blaming it for scheming against Russian interests and throwing his support behind ultraright parties like the French National Party that are also opposed to the EU on a nationalist basis.

Despite the Republican Party’s long standing agreement with the Democrats that trade agreements like NAFTA are good for their class interests, Trump has attacked Obama’s latest free trade gambit on the basis that it does not defend American interests aggressively enough as CNN reported:

Donald Trump has lashed out against President Obama’s plans to create a free trade area across the Pacific.

The outspoken businessman, who is known to start brawls on Twitter, sent out a series of tweets explaining his opposition.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an attack on America’s business. It does not stop Japan’s currency manipulation. This is a bad deal,” he said.

The U.S. government has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) since 2009 with 11 other nations, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Chile, Canada and Mexico.

It hopes to wipe out trade tariffs to bring down the cost of importing and exporting, which would help make U.S. businesses more competitive overseas. It would also make it easier for businesses to invest in other countries.

The U.S. government estimates a TPP agreement would add $223 billion per year to the global economy by 2025.

But Trump believes the deal would hurt U.S. businesses, particularly manufacturers, and put people out of work.

That’s in contrast to Hilary Clinton who backed her husband’s NAFTA to the hilt and who has spoken out of both sides of her mouth on TPP. Meanwhile Jeb Bush, who is likely the Republican candidate for 2016, has attacked Clinton for waffling. Unlike Trump, he is gung-ho on TPP.

Meanwhile Trump’s rabid nativism does resonate with Putin’s pals in Western Europe, ranging from Marine Le Pen to Nigel Farage.

Undoubtedly David Ignatius was unnerved by what Donald Trump told Bill O’Reilly on June 16th: “Putin has no respect for our president whatsoever. He’s got a tremendous popularity in Russia, they love what he’s doing, they love what he represents. I was over in Moscow two years ago and I will tell you — you can get along with those people and get along with them well. You can make deals with those people. Obama can’t. I would be willing to bet I would have a great relationship with Putin. It’s about leadership.”

I doubt that Ignatius is fully capable of understanding the romance that some Americans are developing with Donald Trump, which is some ways is like that from a generation ago when there was great affection—at least from white people—for Ronald Reagan, another man on horseback, or for that matter the feeling that Russians had for Vladimir Putin until the economy started going sour. There’s something about these macho guys that makes insecure men and women all weak in the knees, after all.

Someone tapped into the Reagan, Putin and Trump mystique—all at once—is probably the best qualified to speak about it, namely Paul Craig Roberts who was in Reagan’s Treasury Department and who nowadays carries Putin’s water just as tirelessly as Stephen F. Cohen. In an article titled “Trump for President?” on his blog, Roberts fuses the iconography of the Kremlin and Atlantic City most eloquently:

There is no known politician in America who measures up to Vladimir Putin’s ankle, or to the knee of China’s leaders, or to the waist of Ecuador’s, Bolivia’s, Venezuela’s, Argentina’s, Brazil’s, or to the chests of India’s and South Africa’s.

In Europe, the UK, Australia, and Canada, the natural leaders are also frozen out of the corrupt system.

In the US, “leadership” positions depend on financial support from the ruling economic interests. American presidents and politicians represent about six powerful private interest groups and no one else.

After Celente went to press, Donald Trump announced to much mirth. A “con man” they say, but what else is the President of the United States? Do you think you weren’t conned by Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama? What universe do you live in?

In actual fact, Trump might be our best candidate to date. By all accounts, he is very rich. Thus, he doesn’t need the office in order to become rich by selling out America to interest groups.

By all accounts, Trump has a healthy ego. Thus, he could be capable of standing up to the powerful interest groups that generally determine the governance of the American serfs.

Well, okay, I think I will stick with Jill Stein.


  1. People want change, and Trump(and Sanders for that matter) sounds different and seems like he will enact it.This has nothing to do with the weakness of ppl but the crushing realities of the political system we live in. Stein comes across as a good person, and in a just world she would win, but she will never get air time or be in a debate so Trump et al are clung to.

    Comment by Paul Goode — August 20, 2015 @ 8:22 pm

  2. I really think Paul Craig Roberts, Mike Whitney, and a few other Counterpunch regulars who have acute Putinitis should go straight into the dustbin of history without passing Go or collecting any money.

    Roberts’s weakness for Trump should be understood as a clear sign of what’s wrong with the whole pro-Putin disease on what used to be thought of as the Left. What can these people be thinking? Putin, Assad, and the late Qaddafi as the People’s Glorious Heroes? Christ Jesus.

    As for Ronald Rump, all I can think of is how heartily we all laughed at the idea that Ronald Reagan would ever get to be president. From that perspective, the fucking bastard is inevitable. And God damn the Democrats for creating the vacuum that is powering this debacle. But I can’t believe that Rump in office would be anything like as effective as Putin is in Russia–even though that may be a good deal less than Putin’s Western sycophants seem to assume. For that matter, it’s hard to see him as being as effective as Reagan.

    All the same, what an awful age to face dying in.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — August 20, 2015 @ 9:14 pm

  3. So America is lurching over in its fatty-wheelchair for some Soda, but it doesn’t want the two big brands (OMG it is so bored with them) and the whole shelf of lame store brands don’t entice it. And then lurks down the aisle something deeply uncanny (and very, very sinister), a pure avatar of the spectacle. He has some new crack for sale, and he even takes food stamps…and OMG he is from TV!

    He will make the Sale.

    The spectacle has taken over everything. Now reality television will assimilate the presidency into a pure entertainment product. This ontological shift will usher in a new order of being… perhaps this is the singularity…in any case alienation will be reified by the inversion of digitally encrypted exchange value and Donald Trump will have the nuclear suitcase.

    He is a character straight out a Philip K Dick novel.

    And so now are we…

    You get the Radical Subject that you deserve.

    Comment by Akira — August 20, 2015 @ 10:17 pm

  4. “Donald Trump is in some respects an American version of Putin. Like the Russian leader, he seeks to reverse his country’s losses and return its former glory. He promises a restoration of power and prestige without trifling about the details.”

    Being the actual president of the country actually forces Putin to go into the details and explain them. If he didn’t you would get an inertia at the centre of Russian government, as everyone would be waiting around for details.

    What Putin tapped into was the feeling that Chicago school economics or thievery of the masses to give it its particular historical name in relation to post Soviet Russia, had utterly failed and impoverished the country, alcoholism became widespread and wasn’t just restricted to the Chicago school president of choice, Yeltsin. Diseases and abject poverty also became widespread and Putin modeled himself as almost the opposite of Yeltsin, serious, sober and athletic. So it would be unfair to portray the Russian people as being nationalist, they were responding to a social crisis. And I guess this is where the similarities with Donald Trump should begin…

    Comment by Simon Provertier — August 21, 2015 @ 9:13 am

  5. Putin nationalized the energy industries, which was good. But he failed to use that money to diversify the economy and this is devastating Russia right now. He endorses the flat tax, has a bromance with the Orthodox Church, stirs up hostility to gays, and speaks fondly of the Tsars and Stalin. It may feel good that he pokes a stick in the American eye every now and then, but overall his vision of society is reactionary to the core.

    Comment by jeff — August 21, 2015 @ 10:15 am

  6. Bill Maher compared Trump to Reagan 2 weeks ago on his show.

    Comment by Aaron — August 21, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

  7. “I really think Paul Craig Roberts, Mike Whitney, and a few other Counterpunch regulars who have acute Putinitis should go straight into the dustbin of history without passing Go or collecting any money.”

    Two things: I don’t think that St. Claire posts Roberts at Counterpunch anymore, and, in any event, Roberts is not the left, and if you have read him over the years, it isn’t that surprising the Roberts would like him, especially given that both Trump and Roberts and anti-immigration.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 22, 2015 @ 1:47 pm

  8. PCR is still published on CP as of his most recent article on 8/24/15, albeit he shared the byline.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 24, 2015 @ 6:33 pm

  9. “again”
    The “establishment” Republicans and Democrats have been trumped by Trump. He hit all the hot buttons when he announced his candidacy for president. He talked about things as if he was at your kitchen table. In essence, he told us the World is not Flat like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times says it is. He says we need to make American great again. The word “again” says there are economic models in the past that are better than the models we have now. Millions of workers have lost their jobs and thousands if not millions of businesses had to close down due to free trade economics. A new working poor class replaced a production workers middle class. Many in the working poor class and especially those who work in retail need government assistance and charity to survive. The money spent at the retail levels quickly fans out to where the products are made which is usually somewhere outside of the U.S.

    Free trade economics has turned into a nightmare. The free market is reserved for only a few to enjoy.
    It is a money on money economy. It is about making money on money instead of making things. Free trade economics divorces investments from production. Factories are moved anywhere in the world for the sake of cheaper labor markets. Investment communities thrive by workers getting fired instead of hired in our country.

    The value of workers and labor had been degrade and deflated. The trade deficit which has broken records since 1992 devoured any chance of enjoying balance trade. This represents trillions of dollars lost in value forever. Just think what all this money could have accomplished not only for our country bur for the whole world. We could have had a dozen Marshall Plans like the one that restored economies in Europe and Asia after World War 2. Instead the greatest industrial power in the world was shredded into pieces for the sake of more profits for a very few.

    And no one wants to admit free trade economics is the major cause behind our economic and social crisis with President Obama, the next man up for the globalist free traders, having to bail out the process when he took over. He put the same people responsible for the mess back in charge of this failed system and even called even more of the same. It is economic lunacy.

    Enters Trump and his alter ego Ben Carson. They may be our last hope for restoring what was once an economy where many enjoyed a decent return for the fruits of their labor. We can us the term “again” with hope that the odd men out like Trump and/or Carson can regain what was lost. Workers will no longer have to feel like they are gladiators in a global economic arena fighting for their economic lives.

    We can again continue to make if easier to be good and resolve many of our social and law breaking issues.
    http://tapsearch.com/ray-tapajna-rational-economics http://tapsearcher.wordpress.com http://economicparity.wordpress.com http://ray-tapajna-tapsearcher.page.tl

    Comment by Ray Tapajna — September 26, 2015 @ 6:13 pm

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