On July 16, 2018 President Donald J Trump stated, “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia who would be responsible for the election hacking. He added, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” When Mr. Trump was asked directly whether to believe Mr. Putin or his own intelligence agencies, he replied, “I have confidence in both parties.”
To most people who have been following Mr. Trump, this response is no surprise. Mr. Trump is all about “Making Trump First” not “Making America First.” After Helsinki, it could even be stated Trump is “Making Russia First” or “Making the ‘Honorable’ Mr. Putin First.” A month ago it was making “Kim Jung Un First.” Who will be next? It certainly won’t be us Americans.
None of this is surprising to me now. What is surprising? How about starting with the notion that someone like Donald Trump and his misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, misanthropic, ignorant, egotistical, and despicable personality traits could even come close to the most powerful office in the world. How? How for the sake of us all? How?
I pointed out in 2015 in my book The Supercivilization: Survival in the Era of Human Versus Human that our major threat to humanity was not some external, natural event: it was ourselves. Why? We are in an era of problem solving in which our major problems are human-based and not nature-based. In the past, when solving problems for us was an external threat to humanity (like the weather, exposure, disease, volcanic activity, etc.) we were brought together and bonded because we all benefited from their resolution. The adversarial “natural environment” that resulted in our deaths contain no supporters or beneficiaries. Our major problems today (nuclear war, terrorism, climate change) are exponentially more difficult to resolve, because powerful interests are at odds with their resolution. The solutions cause us to battle one another in which some interests win and others lose. This Third Biosociophysical Era of Humanity which I call the Era of Human Versus Human is now upon us.
Given this background, let us fast forward to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a sign that the nation-state as we know it is in decline. Why? First, Donald Trump is inept and even pathetic. He clearly has no understanding of what he is doing. He has the worst kind of personality trait: he doesn’t know when he doesn’t understand something. Even worse, he doesn’t care if he doesn’t know something as he figures he will “just wing it.” Second, even if he understands something or doesn’t understand something, he doesn’t care unless it benefits himself. Third and most importantly, Donald Trump does not care about others and he most certainly does not care about the United States of America. The USA is a means and not an ends to his ultimate journey: Make Donald Trump Great. If he cared about this country, he would resign immediately and admit he is not fit for the job.
Donald Trump, in spite of all of the above, continues to be supported by 90% of Republicans. For those in the media who have covered Washington for the past 30 years, this is inexplicable. It is incredulous. Even worse, 71% of Republicans agree with President Trump’s handling of Russia, even after Helsinki! Humanity’s individual, human interests are being slowly and methodically chipped away by those more powerful interests who directly benefit by controlling our media, controlling our agenda, and hence controlling our minds. This is the key to the argument that the nation-state as we know it is dying.
My book is dedicated to exploring in greater detail why this is occurring now and not at some other time. Why now? No one in the media seems to understand this. I have a theory that I brought forward in 2015 predicting the rise of demagoguery. We as Americans no longer identify as Americans first. We identify as consumers, investors, and producers. Sadly, some of us even identify primarily by race or geographical origin. The nation-state, which most historians regard as having its birthday in 1648 via the Treaty of Westphalia, was designed to facilitate our ability to function socially and economically in a post-feudal world. We were in a more isolated world as, well, and we called this national sovereignty (supreme power rested in each nation itself). By geographically separating ourselves and allowing unlimited power without interceding by other foreign states, we could live together with limited disruption. It was primarily geographic in its foundation because our ability to exchange ideas and trade goods and services was limited. The nation-state, in its founding a few hundred years ago, is an institution in which people of regional geographical interest with similar cultural beliefs promote and facilitate their way of life without external interference.
As our world has become exponentially more interconnected, our need to identify as American has come to an end. Americans today identify with Starbucks, McDonalds, Toyota, Boeing, and Apple. We are subjected to hours every day of corporate propaganda yet we barely get a few hours in our lifetimes of instruction about the importance of our Constitution. We forget the importance of our Constitution and that all these great things we have created exist only because of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We have forgotten this and yes, now, in addition to identifying with producers of goods and services we also identify with ideology on how these goods and services should be distributed. This ideology is not merely about being a Republican or Democrat. It has to do with what I call paradigm creation, paradigm shift, paradigm manipulation, and inertia. We think we know what we want because of tradition and we no longer think critically about our choices. We find it far easier to accept our reality then to question it and change it.
Our axis of identification has to do with money now, not national sovereignty. I have fallen into that trap too. I do not see myself merely as a doctor, American or agnostic. I see myself first as upper middle class and only equate success with money. Marx was right in many (not all) ways. We have veiled classes in America and we used to take pride in this country: we take pride in being a classless society. We were classless because we were a “new country” founded by people like Jefferson and Madison who despised inherited wealth (Marx would call the aristocracy). Class was present in Europe and we were determined to make a country that was without inherited wealth and allowed people equal chance at social mobility on a level playing field. That ideology occurred through Martin Luther King’s time as he held comfort in expressing the importance of character and not genes, skin color, or inherited wealth as our yardstick for success. We had a bond that culturally glued us together: our identification with American liberalism or as some say exceptionalism.
Alexis de Tocqueville studied us Americans in the early 19th century (Democracy in America) and described all the great things that made this melting pot special. He pointed out how our classlessness made us special and our identity as Americans first and not as members of a social class. He argues that Americans were so unique because we regulated egotism through civil law that held individualism in check and created a culture of vibrant civil society. Americans, in other words, put America first before themselves. He saw that as the future of humanity and America was the vanguard.
Today, America has lost its specialness and Donald Trump is the figurehead for our failures. He is the perfect candidate that Marx couldn’t have better chosen to prove his point: a person who could be totally a figurehead and could be manipulated by the wealthiest in society. Republicans are not stupid. Neither are Democrats. What has happened is that the support that Trump is getting is from people who believe their only hope at maintaining their wealth (wealthy Republicans) is to continue to have Trump as president. They use their power to convince the less educated and sophisticated voters (usually less educated Republicans) of the value of money, not America. These 90% of Republican voters have taken a calculated gamble: they are gambling that this country can withstand Donald Trump and they would rather see this country crumble than lose their personal wealth. That is why the nation-state is dying. Our interconnectedness has become so great as a species of 7.5 billion people that the functionality of the nation-state has been lost. It is not just the United States, but all countries, have lost their ability to promote their unique legal, ethical, and cultural values. We are essentially a nationless Supercivilization now whether the Trumps of the world like it or not.
We spend so little time educating Americans about the root cause of wealth creation. Our very way of life is threatened. I have argued in my book that economics is predicated on stability and the most stable countries are the most prosperous because investors are willing to part temporarily with their money (in an investment) when laws are strong and norms are even stronger and stable. Predictability breeds prosperity. Not vice versa. We cannot and should not assume that someone like Donald Trump is trivial or can be easily manipulated to maintain our personal wealth. He is as ruthless as he is ignorant. Once our liberal democracy, as Fareed Zakaria has put it, becomes an illiberal democracy, our stability as a country is permanently undermined. Investors will gradually lose faith as cronyism (similar to what is happening in Russia today) will be the more likely outcome along with a declining GDP. We must all devote ourselves to the US Constitution, which is the foundation of our success as a country, not to strongmen like Trump or Putin who want us to believe their dangerous and illegitimate versions of history.