As Trump Builds His Oligarchy, America Goes to Sleep

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson speaks in Washington. 

As the nation lay sleeping, evidence piled up of an alliance between a hostile foreign power and an incoming Republican administration that owed much of its electoral good fortune to the apparent intervention of said hostile power. And still the nation slept.

The nation this week groggily received word that its top law-enforcement entity, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, obtained a search warrant that stands in violation of constitutional norms—less than two weeks before the presidential election—for the computer of an aide to the opponent of the Republican standard-bearer. The warrant was issued two days after, to great fanfare, the FBI director informed Congress that he was rebooting an investigation into the Democratic candidate’s use of a private email server for the conduct of government business, despite having announced months earlier that his bureau had found no evidence of criminal conduct. The nation hit snooze.

In North Carolina, the losing Republican candidate for governor stalled for days before conceding as lawmakers in the Republican-majority legislature concocted a bill that would strip the governor’s office of much of its power, just in case the newly elected Democratic governor had any illusions that he might actually govern. If the nation’s eyelids fluttered for a moment, they quickly closed.

Meanwhile, internet trolls set upon the Jews of Whitefish, Montana, blaming them for business problems purportedly encountered by the mother of a white nationalist who hailed the election of Republican Donald J. Trump to the presidency in the signature style of Nazis as they paid symbolic tribute to their führer. The rise in anti-Semitic, racist, misogynist, homophobic, and xenophobic speech and incidents filled newspapers across the country. The nation pushed away the gruel of truth, grabbed a bacon-egg-cheese biscuit from Hardee’s and went Christmas shopping. (No, not “holiday” shopping—what kind of American are you? Christmas shopping, dammit!)

In fairness to the American people, it is difficult to take in all the harm being inflicted on the republic at this moment in history, and the consequences are terrifying to contemplate. The stage has been set for a massive accrual of profits to private capitalists—both here and abroad—through the leveraging and misappropriation of the nation’s assets and resources, be they highway funds or the fossil fuels that sit beneath the lands and oceans, or the lands over which such fuel must travel to reach a market. And even those two examples represent but a glimpse of the massive grift that is to come.

As horrendous as is the white nationalist rhetoric that helped Trump enough of a constituency to tilt the electoral map in his favor—even as the emails of highly placed Democrats, apparently hacked by Russia and dumped into the media stream via WikiLeaks put the damper on Democratic turnout—the hate-peddling is the sideshow designed to distract the populace from the real act, which is the diversion of the nation’s assets in the service of financial flows between the private capitalists of the United States and the oligarchs of the world—especially those of Russia.

Among the many millionaires and billionaires appointed by Trump to his cabinet, Rex Tillerson—Trump’s pick for secretary of state—stands out for two reasons. Unlike most of Trump’s fat cats, Tillerson made his millions at the helm of a publicly traded company. Secondly, Tillerson’s closeness with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Putin’s right-hand man, Igor Sechin, who heads the state-run oil company, Rosneft. The New York Times on Wednesday detailed Tillerson’s abrupt turn from being a Russia critic to a Russia-lover once he assessed that the love might bring his shareholders an Arctic-drilling deal. (You know the Arctic, right? The place where the polar ice caps are melting as a result of climate change?)

Trump has long sought deals with Russian oligarchs for his own companies, and has famously stated his admiration for Putin, who brutally presides over an oligarchy he tightly controls. Putin’s formula for maintaining power includes the demonization of queer people and minorities, along with intimidation and repression of the media. Trump has found his model, and thanks to the political infrastructure created by private capitalists Charles and David Koch—oilmen themselves—he has access to a strong apparatus for maintaining power. It’s the same apparatus that just stripped the incoming governor of North Carolina of much of the office’s previously held powers. It’s the apparatus that is likely to keep the U.S. House of Representatives in Republican hands for a generation.

It’s all to the good of the gaggle of people who sit atop large, privately held entities and corporations, people whose actions are unaccountable to the public because shares in their businesses are not traded on exchanges.

On Monday, the Times reported that Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general tapped by Trump as his national security adviser, had met in Trump Tower several weeks ago with Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which was founded in the 1950s by former Nazis. (Strache came close to winning Austria’s presidency on December 4 as part of the wave of right-wing ascendency that is all the rage in Europe these days.) This week Strache signed a “cooperation agreement” between his party and the ruling party of Russia. Strache ran on an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim platform. Sound familiar?

Flynn has displayed his share of such hatred, of course, even tweeting during the campaign that “fear of Muslims is REASONABLE.” He’s also a private capitalist, having helmed his Flynn Intel Group, a limited liability company, and taken intelligence briefings as part of the presidential transition team even as his company engaged in business with foreign governments. He surely understands the usefulness of stoking hatred for the good of profit.

As for Trump himself, as the president-elect plants his own oligarchy, he continues to resist calls to divest himself of his global business interests while serving as the nation’s president. Today comes word that rather than place his holdings in what is traditionally known as a “blind trust,” Trump is contemplating a “half-blind trust,” one that would leave his family in charge of the store.

The nation rustles lightly, its weariness from a hellish campaign and fear over its outcome obscuring its view with heavy eyelids.

In the land of unseeing, the half-blind man is king.

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