Goodbye Status Quo?

It has been difficult to write and put together cohesive thoughts after the elections in November, not because of the result but because of the reactions from social, political, and economic actors that supported the Democratic Party. In this past month I have preferred to observe the anger unfold from the sideline then to become entangled in its toxicity. Reflecting on the reactions of the past month, it is evident that the Democrats that supported Hillary Clinton and the Republicans that voted against Donald Trump were so committed to the Status Quo of the last thirty-five years that they were willing to extend the current dynamics of globalization for another four and maybe even eight years.

The neoliberal policies that were put in place by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush (1981-1993), consolidated under the Free Trade agendas engineered by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (1993-2009), and then accelerated under the Obama administration (2009-2016) were the key reason why constituents from all sectors of society came out of the trenches to elect the only candidate that in theory represented the end of the Status Quo. All public, private, and social actors that benefitted from the Status Quo of the past three decades built a coalition of constituents from the right and the left that seemed to guarantee the preservation of the system that the structures of power had created at the expense of the nation state and on behalf of the private actors that gained the most from the implementation of neoliberalism and the strategic move toward globalization.

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The left supported Democrats in power even though they had engineered Free Trade policies such as the Canadian-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that ignited the hemorrhage of American blue-collar jobs and the dismantling of labor unions. Meanwhile the right supported Republicans that were willing to weaken the power of the state on behalf of neoliberal principles, ultimately placing the power of economic policy making in the hands of the federal government and the private sector lobbyists.

Distractors such as the steady increase of our Gross National Product (GNP – Gross Domestic product plus net income from foreign investment), the collapse of Communism, the flexibility of the domestic financial sector to artificially maintain our increasing consumption patterns through new and improved systems of debt accumulation, and the positively charged propaganda fueled by mainstream media gave the American constituent a false sense of security that prevailed for three decades. But not even the ten minutes of weather, the ten minutes of sports, the five minutes of domestic news, and the one minute of international news of the typical daily local news program could no longer cover up the fact that cities, towns, and communities across the United States were disappearing as a result of neoliberalism and globalization.5310e6cf-cc7a-43f6-b460-f36ce2994a93

What was once a problem of the developing world was now a problem in our own backyard. The United States, the economic super power of the world for the past sixty years, was now seeing the emergence of pockets of the Third World inside the First World. Case in hand Detroit and its shantytowns, the Flint water crisis in Michigan, our decaying federal and state infrastructure, the dismantling of industrial towns and communities in places such as Old Town here in Maine, and the social crisis that accompanied these transformations. But the bipartisan Status Quo continued to preach in favor of their nation-building project when in reality they were dismantling the nation state in order to strengthen the global outreach of transnational corporations that were clever enough to invest in the preservation of the power structures that favored their corporate agendas.

In a globalized system where American transnational corporations are no longer loyal to the nation state but to the global system, the politician and bureaucrat found itself supportive of this same dynamic and so did the average constituent who was transformed into a consumer. It might be upsetting to some in the right and the left, but the Status Quo needed to be revised urgently because the forces of globalization were dismantling the U.S. economy from the inside.

This does not mean that the Trump administration is going to actually set a new course for the U.S. economy and resuscitate our middle and working class, but his rhetoric seems to indicate that this is his course of action. We now live in uncertain times, nothing is predictable; it is the nature of breaking away from the Status Quo. Two things are clear, nothing is going to be gained by systemically attacking the Trump administration and there are no guarantees that the Trump administration will actually move away from the Status Quo. At the end his businesses have benefited from the dynamics of globalization and so have the businesses of his cabinet members.

After the fogginess of the post-election hangover, deniers of the electoral outcome must accept that Donald Trump is the next president and that he will be making decisions in less then a month, but frustrated sectors of society continue to remove the agency away from those social actors that elected Mr. Trump. The latest move by President Obama to sanction the Russian government for tampering with the U.S. election is just the latest effort to delegitimize our Democratic system and the latest sign that the core of the Democratic Party continues to search for mechanisms to remove the agency away from the American constituent. Mainstream media in support of discrediting the future Trump administration continue to narrow in on this Glocal issue instead of reflecting on the bipartisan status quo of the last thirty-five years that cemented the foundation of neoliberalism and set forth the present dynamics of globalization. The promises and rhetoric of the new administration indicate a shift away from this Status Quo, this is what media and social actors should be focusing on.

Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes but it does not matter because we elect our president based on the electoral system. Angry and frustrated constituents demand moving away from this system but they do not realize that this is the only way to amalgamate the union of states. We tend to forget that Maine’s economy and population is not as robust and dense as California’s, and that therefore they do not contribute equally to the union. Out of anger and frustration Californians have began to consider the idea of breaking away from the union, but they do not realize that without their membership they would not be able to benefit from the fruits of the federal system.

Activists in the left have been attacking the newly elected president for its racist rhetoric and have been putting pressure on the new administration so that they are held accountable for their fiscal policies, beginning with Mr. Trump and his own tax records. But they are quick to hide the fact that they also discriminate against those that do not share their values or worldview, and that they also tamper with fiscal policies as in the case of the War Tax Resistance movement.

When it comes to Free Trade policy, they remain silent over the tentative dismantling of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) under the incoming administration, even though this was one of their key progressive cornerstone agendas in the last election. It is contradicting for the left to support the Status Quo that set loose the forces of neoliberalism and globalization that led to our current dependency on service sector jobs, while removing the agency away from the incoming administration that is actually interested, at least rhetorically, in reversing the collapse of blue collar jobs of the past thirty-five years.free_trade cartoon

Foreign policy analysts, bureaucrats, and policy makers aligned with the Status Quo have also dedicated their time to disenfranchising the incoming administration, accusing them of being ignorant and having a lack of awareness of the structural dynamics of the local and international system constructed by the powers of the Status Quo. This is a mechanism of self-preservation because they are aware that with the end of the Status Quo comes the end of their power and influence within the social, political, and economic structures of the system currently in place. A revision of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), of our relations with the United Nations (UN) or even of NAFTA means the end of their privileged careers.

If in fact the Trump administration is going to revise the Status Quo this means that his administration will be in charged of engineering a new Status Quo with new power structures, institutions, bureaucracies, private-public partnerships, and intellectuals that will cement the new social construct. This is what we should be paying attention to as constituents, and it should be the focus of our media systems. Nevertheless, we continue to be distracted by issues such as Russian hacking. I can testify that Russian hacking never influenced my vote; at the end it was the disenfranchised American working class that voted for Trump and not Russians. The Russians did not cause the implosion of both the Republican and Democratic parties; it was their commitment to the preservation of the Status Quo that ultimately forced the emergence of a populist like Donald Trump.

The question is whether or not the Trump administration will fulfill its promise of tearing down the Status Quo or if they will accelerate globalization even further? All is uncertain at this point. How will the incoming administration deal with the Syrian crisis? How will they respond to the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)? What is their Latin American policy? Are they going to build on the Japanese partnership enhanced by the Obama administration? How will they respond to China’s expansionist efforts through Foreign Direct Investment? Will a closer relationship with Russia become a reality? How will the administration engage NATO, NAFTA, and the UN? Will this administration focus more on Africa? Will he commit to his rhetoric on Israel? Or will the Trump administration center their efforts on the reconstruction of the local economy? These and numerous other questions are still unresolved; it is probably the first time in the history of the United States where an incoming administration has no clear answers or even a basic strategic plan. This could be a sign of change but it is yet to be seen.

polyp_cartoon_corporate_rule_elite_protest His cabinet selection is a clear sign that there is change coming, but it is not clear how this change in leadership will impact the nation and the international system. What is certain is that the global-local dynamics will be impacted tremendously under the new administration, whether his administration shifts its attention to the reconstruction of the local economy or if they accelerate globalization and the implementation of neoliberal policies.

My concern is how will the future policies impact Maine? A renegotiation of NAFTA would have a tremendous impact in our local economy and could possible lead to a settlement of the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute. Federal incentives and pressure on U.S. businesses to produce manufacturing products in-house would potentially represent a tremendous opportunity for our local economy. A protectionist position toward China on the other hand could impact Maine exports, and a revision of NAFTA could negatively impact our relationship with the thousands of Canadian tourists and businesses that visit or have targeted our state for their own business expansion strategies. A revision of our NATO alliance could impact our state’s trade relations with the European Union, and not reacting to the recently signed Canada-European Union trade agreement could jeopardize Maine exports to the Canadian and the EU markets. Unfortunately nothing is certain, we must just wait and see how things quickly unfold in 2017.

 

Stefano Tijerina

About Stefano Tijerina

My name is Stefano Tijerina and this blog’s objective is to connect Maine’s social, environmental, economic, cultural, and political issues to the global system, centering on how the local impacts the global and how the global impacts the local or what is known in Global Studies as the Global effect. In our present era of globalization it is crucial for the general public to understand how the new dynamics of the international system impact our lives here in Maine and how our local decisions impact the earth.