Donald Trump began his inaugural address of January 20, 2017 with a succinct and true description of the abandonment of the people and the nation by the political establishment and the corporate elite, and with a stirring proclamation that, from this day forward, the government will be controlled by the people. He declared:
Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another -- but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People. For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered -- but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes -- starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country. What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
The people resent bureaucracy, because they experience it as an authoritarian force that is imposed from above, negating individuality, liberty and creativity. Bureaucracy, however, is necessary for the efficient attainment of organizational goals, and as a result, the modern world has become increasingly bureaucratized. All social institutions today, with the exception of the family, are ruled by bureaucratic structures, with their functional division of labor directed from above. The people experience bureaucracy as an inescapable fact of life, in schools and colleges and in places of work. The people are forced to accept the established bureaucratic rules, as a condition for getting ahead or even for surviving. Since 1980, the global elite has launched an ideological attack on the state, thus channeling popular resentment of bureaucracy toward government bureaucracy in particular.
Therefore, Trump endears himself to the people when he attacks the EPA (see “Trump, corporations, and the environment” 2/27/2017), or when he ignores the established bureaucratic rules. The latter phenomenon was very much in evidence in the Trump Executive Order of January 27, temporarily prohibiting people from seven Islamic-majority countries from entering the United States. The fury of the liberal establishment over the Order was fueled in part by the fact that the Trump administration ignored the established procedures, which involve submitting a preliminary draft to relevant ministries and divisions, so that the life-time bureaucrats can point to potential problems, thus leading to its reformulation. It is a process that often leads to a watering down of the proposal, and for this reason, sidestepping in can be interpreted as necessary decisive action
Defending the interests of the people is a good thing. Indeed, it is necessary in today’s world, as humanity confronts a profound global crisis. But populist rhetoric that appeals to the disappointments, discontents, and resentments of the people, while not seeking to educate the people and mobilize them with respect to their true interests, is a manifestation not of popular democracy but of fascism. This will be the subject of our next two posts.