The Politics of Despair
There is currently a great deal of dissatisfaction, even despair, evident among the people of the United States with our government, our political parties, and our politicians. There are several good reasons for this despair but too often one that is overlooked is that this despair has been created by our governing classes as a way of fortifying their power and control. By not responding to the wishes or the needs of the people, our governing elites create despair among the people, which, in turn, leads the people away from politics and especially away from political activism. Despairing of any significant changes, the people relapse into their customary condition of passivity, as this seems the only “realistic” option, while our elites continue their “activism,” that is, serving their own and their supporters’ interests.
This is why the Democrats are pushing for Trump’s impeachment even though the chances of Trump being convicted by the Senate in an impeachment trial are between zero and none. By pretending to be doing something significant politically, viz., removing a sitting president, the Democrats, when they fail – as they undoubtedly will in the Senate – will have fortified popular despair with the existing political situation. By failing to remove Trump, the Democrats will thus succeed in fortifying the people’s intense dissatisfaction with politics. What looks like failure is actually success, from the vantage point of our ruling elites. Most people will turn away from politics, thinking “What’s the point of being politically active?”
And it’s important, even crucial, to keep someone like Bernie Sanders out of the presidency because, otherwise, people would get the idea that political activism isn’t futile. And then where will our ruling political class be? Political activism is, willy nilly, a threat to the current crop of politically powerful persons and, so, it must be stanched, repressed, or rendered hopelessly “idealistic.” Thus, we see Obama warning against going “too far left,” because if that happens and succeeds people will get the idea that political activism is not futile, is not spitting into the wind, is in fact realistic. I mean, heck, it worked in the former Soviet Union, didn’t it? And they were Communists!
Endless wars also help fortify our elites’ agenda of creating a politics of despair. These wars don’t end, aren’t won or lost, and need not be. They feed popular dissatisfaction with the government, with politics, and with human beings’ capacities to control their environments. And if body counts are kept under control and the use of WMDs is also controlled, then these allegedly “useless” wars are very useful for maintaining the status quo and the predominant political classes.
Overall, a politics of failure serves a politics of despair very well, Machiavelli taught that fear and government go together very well, to which we may add that failure and government also go together very well. The failure of 9/11, for example, led to a fortification of the government that was inconceivable had the government not failed to prevent these attacks. Failure in US wars in Southeast Asia led eventually to more wars, a greater militarization of American society, and ever-larger “defense” budgets. Repeatedly, political failure leads to the fortification of government and, simultaneously, to the fortification of a politics of despair. Failure leads to more government and more government, when it fails, leads to more despair.
So don’t be surprised when our government fails. Those who hold and exercise our governmental powers want it to fail; they do and don’t do things so it fails [cf. the the occupation of Iraq or the war of 19 years in Afghanistan], because in that way they undermine political activism, create a politics of despair, and preserve their own power. And don’t be surprised when Trump survives impeachment, because that is the plan. For the Democrats, as Bob Dylan once sang: “There is no success like failure….” And they will emerge from their “failure” arguing that they need more power so…..well, so they can “fail” once again.