Originally published on SCF – written June 27th 2019
The single truth that many mainstream Democrats will have a very difficult time acknowledging coming out of the June 26th Democratic Party Presidential Debate, is that Donald Trump’s positions on China and Latin America have become a Democratic Party line. Is this a mere matter of pandering to the polling data on questions like Latin America and China? Even if just that, it would be a Trump success in and of itself.
But it also raises whether Trump has indeed accomplished more – a tectonic shift, a sea-change in elite policy formation focus from Russia and the Mid-east over to China and Latin America. The ties between the DNC and China still appear too strong, and so the reality would seem to tend to rotate around a pandering to the polling data.
From China to solving the migration problem through a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Latin America and more, Trump’s nominal views on these questions found expression as dominating themes in the debate.
In the war of positions, this is a victory for Trump.
The June 26th Democratic Party Presidential Debate was astounding in its representation of a major paradigm shift in the United States.
TULSI GABBARD COMES AWAY THE WINNER
Connected to Trump as the ‘winner’, it was Tulsi Gabbard who stood out from the rest of the candidates. Interestingly, reliable polling data just out from the Drudge Report shows that Gabbard emerged as the winner of the debate on ideas and policies overall. She won some 40% of the vote, and when compared to the candidates whom the other 60% was divided, it was a landslide.
Before anyone dismisses Gabbard, it’s critical to understand that mainstream media lost most of its credibility over the lat election. This is the age of underdogs and dark horses
When the subject moved to Afghanistan and occupation, Gabbard was on confident and really on fire. This is significant because while historically Gabbard’s anti-imperialist line on occupation would be associated with (normally later broken) Democratic Party talking points, it was here that Trump defeated Clinton at the polls, when Trump won the anti-war vote in 2016.
Worth noting as well as that in the aftermath of the debate last night, Gabbard’s new social media campaign on Twitter features her name scrolling across the bottom of the screen in undeniable Trump 2016 campaign font. Coincidence? Nothing in politics is coincidental – nothing.
Gabbard destroyed Ryan on Afghanistan, and Booker’s attempt to attack Gabbard fell tremendously short and felt very artificial, saying that Gabbard’s position on LGBTQ ‘isn’t enough’, but then switching incoherently to the subject of African Americans, Jim Crow, and lynchings – a misfire and very much off-topic.
Of the ten candidates debating, four responded that China was the primary threat to the US – but this was the single-most consistent answer. Delaney, Klobuchar, Castro, and Ryan all answered this way.
This was a win for Trump’s entire line for the last thirty something years.
De Blasio stood out as the lone Russiagater, definitely representing the mindset of his New York City electorate and the coastal media establishment.
Gabbard, meanwhile, was wise to name ecological threats as this helped her maintain her position as an anti-war candidate.
The pivot to a focus on China is much less dangerous than the focus on Russia. TheUS does not really believe it can challenge China in a military sense, and their anti-Chinese rhetoric, while full of sword rattling and imperial bravado, amounts to noise and little more. There is some hope in American quarters about curtailing China’s economic strength, but the focus on China appears more as a question of a state requiring the spectre of an anthropomorphized threat in the abstract, in order to justify the existence of a state and a military budget, and to make a foreigner responsible for matters of wealth disparity and a lack of employment opportunities in the US – a prominent tactic and talking point in market-driven societies based in private property norms.
But the pivot to a focus on China was tremendous and not expected, given the relationship historically between China and the Democratic Party – a friendly one.
Until now, it’s been just the conservative corners of the alt-light in the US-centric internet who view the ‘rising Chinese threat’ as a serious concern for the US. This trope was primarily focused on the twin threat of Chinese rising military prowess and its population size, along with the US practice of outsourcing American jobs to China – a policy that saw short term consumer savings, and mid-to-long term slashes to US wages and employment. It created a trade imbalance which the US can only resolving by defaulting on and then drawing its guns to force a new deal.
Taken all together, this means that whoever Trump gets into the big race with, it will not be a question of ‘whether’ China is a threat, but how to ‘best contain’ the Chinese threat. This is a victory from ‘go’ for Trump.
Here is another major subject where Trump’s influence on the entire discourse has prevailed, though it’s a little less obvious and requires a minor bifurcation to reveal.
We are of course obliged to mention that the location of the debate in Miami Florida was strategic given its representation of Latinos in the US – traditionally Cuban and more recently Venezuelan Republicans as hardline anti-communists and cold-warriors, who see their children increasingly becoming more ‘center-left’ as they have Americanized and become ‘Latinos’ in the US. They are still at odds geopolitically with Latinos, primarily Mexican-Americans from the American southwest, who tend to be friendlier to socialist ideas and have represented the far-left of the Democratic Party on economic issues as well as anti-imperialism, even if sharing with Cuban-Americans some more socially conservative values. This communitarian axis of Latinos in the US, however, has grown and become a real force of its own.
Trump’s hardline on Cuba and Venezuela is appealing to the Florida wing of the Latino constituency (to the extent we can speak of a single constituency), and this is where the Democratic Party understands it needs to fight in order to win Florida.
There hasn’t been a Republican candidate to win the Presidency without winning Florida in many generations, and the Republican victory of Rick Scott in the state’s most expensive senatorial race against Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson in 2018 shows that Republicans are aiming to win Florida in 2020. The Democratic Party concern is palpable and well founded.
So we find the extraordinary focus on Latinos was represented in the ultimately surprising display of whole Spanish language answers from both Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker, and a few questions wholly or partly in Spanish from the moderators. The entire debate was brought to viewers not just by NBC but also by Spanish language network Telemundo.
At face value, Trump and Democrats seem to be 6’s and 7’s over immigration. But when we really look at what the real deal is, we find yet another alignment of the Democrat’s position to that of Trump’s. How can this be?
To understand this is to understand the overall trajectory now that the US empire is all but finished. Its historical aim now is to be able to disentangle from the Mid-East, a prominent Trump position which used to be Obama’s until it wasn’t, and on the Democratic side today is only being carried forward by Tulsi Gabbard. The so-called neo-isolationism of the US isn’t so much that, as it is a return to the Monroe Doctrine. This author has written about this several years before Trump took office, in the article ‘From Pax Americana to Pan Americana’. Here this author argued that the US must transform from a Sea Power into a Land Power. This isn’t isolationism, but a right-sized regional hegemon, a regional hegemon for the Americas.
Trump’s rhetoric on the immigration question and Mexico has never failed to mention that the mid-to-long term solution is not only that Mexico enforces its own borders to its south, but that the Mexican economy grows – and this requires investment.
The trade-offs are several fold. For one, the US goes back to its China position, and wants Latin American countries to agree to reduce the Chinese influence in exchange for real industrial capital investments from the United States into Latin America.
This is not to say that the Democratic Party has ignored Latin America to date, far from it. It was under Obama’s two terms that the US worked the most to reverse the Pink Tide in Latin America, and this came with a few ‘own goals’ when the ultimate consequence of the regime-change operation in Honduras was to stoke a human wave migration crisis. This was, in short, the American version of the Libya scenario.
While Trump is nominally strict on immigration, it was under Obama that the US deported the most migrants in history. This is a fact that Democrats ignore in their talking points and attacks on Trump’s ‘inhuman policy’ that tears families apart. And so in a strange departure from what might otherwise occur to us, it was Obama’s policy that was worse by the numbers for pro-migration advocates, and it’s been Trump who has openly called for investment into Latin America with a named reason being to stem the migration ‘crisis’.
And it’s this exact talking point that numerous Democratic Party candidates picked up on, and a very telling term was introduced by Julian Castro – a Marshall Plan for Latin America. Cory Booker stood beside and nodded in apparent agreement, and that the words came from the token Latino (no, not Beto), Castro was both intentional and symbolically telling.
While Bolton and Pompeo have operated under the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ term, this is so entirely distasteful for all of Latin America that it offends anyone and everyone, even the US’s own lackeys, puppets, and proxies in the region.
But this Marshall Plan for Latin America was already introduced by none other than Mexican President AMLO himself, in talks with Trump.
“Why it matters: AMLO has worked energetically since taking office to sell the White House on a “Marshall Plan” of support to address the region’s growing migrant crisis. The US commitment is a preliminary sign that he’s at least being heard…
While he campaigned as a compassionate voice on immigration, Mexico’s new left-wing leader spied the need for a grand solution. The US funding will contribute to a $30 billion aid package envisioned by AMLO…
AMLO even dangled the prospect of Chinese investment to bring Trump to the table, according to the NY Times — reasoning that the US might be more willing to pay up if it feared that China might try to expand its influence in the region by opening its wallet.”
Since them, numerous articles have popped up describing Trump’s potential ‘Marshall Plan’ for Central America.
WHAT NEXT? CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
What Tulsi Gabbard, the clear winner of the debate, will do next is to appropriate Julian Castro’s ‘Marshall Plan’ line on Mexico and Central America. It dog-whistles numerous Trump talking points in relation to Mexico, as well as taking a ‘less migration is good migration’ approach to what is no doubt a real problem, without engaging in reactionary attacks on the migrants themselves. To get ‘to the source’ of the problem, as Castro explains, requires investment into Latin America.
Gabbard will be well positioned to nominally attack Trump’s policy implementation along human rights grounds, while not being specific on anything except getting ‘to the source of the problem’.
Gabbard is the dark horse, and along with Yang (in the second night’s debate) will no doubt pull ahead of the conventionally pre-selected winners that were supposed to be Booker, Sanders, Warren and especially Biden. We will see much more focus on Gabbard now in virtual spaces, even while the mainstream media will continue to wrongly focus on Biden and Booker. Booker played his left-most game in the debate, but as prospective voters sort him on questions as far and ranging as Palestine, war, and labor (economy) – they will find him sorely lacking.
With 60% of American generally supporting Trump’s approach to the economy, these are his highest approval ratings, and ones which Americans care about and highly prioritize. Gabbard would be wise to approach the question of distribution, winners and losers of the economic boom, and focus on the 1% vs. the 99%. Doing so will help her move beyond her initial base of support as the anti-war candidate.
This will angle the populist line, and position her well not only against all other Democrats, but even against Trump himself should she win the nomination. It’s a long shot, but remember indeed: this is the age of underdogs and dark horses.