The Nouveau Riche in Power

Donald Trump behaves like any other nouveau riche that has reached positions of power as a result of the expansion of capitalism and the neoliberal geopolitical realities that shaped the international system after the Cold War. He is no different then Vladimir Putin or Silvio Berlusconi, living ostentatiously and using power to intimate those around them. Immoral, unethical and disrespectful, yet accepted and embraced by sectors of their respective society that look after these nouveau riche that are glorified and empowered by mass media eager to capitalize on their bravado in order to sell advertisement. In the case of our president, it is incredible that civil society, media and our political representatives do not expose the real nature of this individual, and instead focus their energy on his tweets and nothing but his tweets. Perhaps because our own internal economic, political, and social systems are as dirty as the man himself, willing to roll in the mud created by his tweets instead of seriously focusing on the individual. It is as troubling as Russians covering up Putin’s human atrocities or Italians covering Berlusconi’s prostitution and corruption scandals.

It is common to point out that Putin inherited his economic and political power from the corrupt structures of the Russian state and that his work in intelligence and security during the Soviet era provided him with the power and “know how” to navigate the dangerous waters of Russian politics. Everybody knows Berlusconi’s connections to mafias, to the global informal markets, and the corruption of the Italian bureaucracy, particularly in the area of telecommunications and “calcio.”[1] However, nobody questions President Trump’s involvement with casino businesses and the dirty side of real estate businesses, even though they are the epicenters of money laundering and social displacement not only in the United States but also around the world.[2] Either we do not care because in America it does not matter how you make your money as long as you make money, and lots of it, or because it is immoral to undress our president on front of the public eye once in power. Maybe it is simply because, indirectly or directly, sectors of the political and economic elite of this country are linked to the global systems of white-collar crime and prefer to keep everything under the radar. Knowing that they control most of the big channels of communication, it makes sense that we are subconsciously engulfed in Trump’s tweets instead of focusing on the real issues. At the end the masses need to be distracted at all times, it is the best tool for preserving power in democratic societies.

In any case, the secrets of political corruption at the local and global levels that facilitated his accumulation of capital in New York, Las Vegas and around the world, is probably what keeps everybody in Washington quiet. Lets not be naïve, you do not make a fortune in the world of real estate and casino businesses by being an ethical, moral and diplomatic human being. You need to be authoritarian, oppressive, and rough on the edges. Good for surviving that high stress world but not so good for the management of a nation state. Just look at what Putin has done for Russia and look at what Berlusconi did for Italy.

This is all my personal speculation, but it explains why politically we might end up spinning our wheels for the next four years. Add this to the eight years of the Obama administration where we also spun our wheels because of aggressive reliance on the executive order strategy that is slowly being debunked by the current administration. Like Russia and Italy, we begin to look more like an unstable emerging nation whose economic development is constantly truncated by the egos of their leadership.

In the past both parties moved the nation forward down the same path, tweaking it here and there, when it came to domestic policy but always firm in steering in the same direction. Yes, it was a world constructed by traditional elites but that is what this country was founded on. The Obama era took us into a different path that accelerated our commitment to globalization, threatening our sovereignty while revealing our unresolved racial and ideological tensions. Today the Trump era is steering the nation into unknown waters, a world of the egocentric nouveau riche that now plays president.

Casinos are depressing and dark, they are designed to create a false reality and their history represents a dark chapter in American history. This is the world of our president and our current reality. The fact that there are sectors of our society that are rejoicing on our current political, economic, and social dynamics speaks truths about our national moral and ethical values. Sectors of our civil society and our business and political culture are delighted to be under the leadership of the likes of Putin and Berlusconi. His links to the casino world are ignored, his inability to be truthful about his taxes is forgiven, his disenfranchisement of women, racial and religious minorities is praised, and his abuse of power is glorified.

Just like Putin and Berlusconi, our President is protected by the masses that elected him and the private institutions and interest groups that defend his brand. Just like Putin and Berlusconi, their lack of intellect and their less than exemplary public life is shadowed by the media frenzy and their abuse of power that justifies their constant disenfranchisement of sectors of civil society. I must say he is not attracted to the world of prostitution like Berlusconi, but we do know where he stands regarding women. He is also not willing to carry out genocides like Putin, but I am sure he might push the envelope in the area of human rights down the road.

What must be perplexing to American traditional elites is how did a nouveau riche climb to this position of power; because everything was fine as long as he remained an economic stakeholder but not a political figure. Probably the same question rose when Obama won the presidency, but at least in this case everybody knew that it was the result of a political card played by the Democratic Party in order to tap the minority vote. Nouveau riche are supposed to remain active in civil society, spending their money, causing scandal, and mingling around the circles of mass media and popular culture but not in the political world.

It is what it is; there is no time machine to change the course of American politics. The destiny of the super power of the world in the hands of an individual that finds it OK to have a gold bathroom and a trophy wife is more than interesting. The sad thing is that Trump is alone, he has no friends in the international system; at least Berlusconi and Putin keep each other company and feed on each other’s tacky lavish lifestyle. Just this week Berlusconi gave Putin a duvet cover for his 65th birthday that had an engraved image of the two of them, what a crazy world.

Like Putin, he does not know what he is doing. He knows how to use the tools available to him in order to secure power, but very little do they know about running a nation state with intellect and diplomacy.[3] We cannot even say the same about Berlusconi who had to crawl through the back door of Italian politics because of his lack of intellect, corrupt nature, and lack of political management skills. Nobody knows what the outcome will be this next four years but I am convinced that we will spin our wheels and slowly dismantle the political, economic, and social structures that turned this country into a super power. What he is doing and what he has done so far does not “make America great,” on the contrary it sets it down a path of uncertainty and internal chaos.

Domestic and foreign politics is all about positive PR and marketing; at the end it is a brand and an idea you are selling to the general constituency and the citizens of the world. We must be reserved about our internal skirmishes at the social and political level because revealing them to the global system shows our weaker side, we must be diplomatic at all times in order to avoid putting ourselves at risk at the negotiating table, we must be intelligent and constantly aware that what is at stake is the internal stability that makes us uniquely strong within the international system. It is this position of privilege that guaranties our freedoms, liberties, and economic security here at home. This cannot be jeopardized by the self-centeredness, authoritarian, and egocentric nature of our current “leadership.” There is no time or energy to waste on the current nonsense, we do not have the luxury of spinning our wheels; we are the center of global capitalism.

[1] The Italian word for football or what we erroneously refer to as soccer.

[2] It is the reason why casinos must report certain transactions under the Bank Secrecy Act. For more on casinos, money laundering and President Trump see; Jose Pagliery. “Trump’s Casino was a Money Laundering Concern Shortly after it opened.” CNN. May 22, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017. For more on casinos and money laundering see; Marjorie Preston. “Casinos and Money Laundering: An Industry Scorecard.” Global Gaming Business Magazine. February 26, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2017.

[3] For example the recent dilemma with the NFL players, his inability to speak out against neo-nazism, and his less then presidential behavior in Puerto Rico.

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 "Glocal" 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. These are my personal views, and they do not express those of the University of Maine System or the University of Maine.