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Why Trump’s Faux Populism Appealed to People Such as Cesar Sayoc

October 28, 2018 26 comments

The last few days have seen the terminally declining cable “news” networks get their panties into a twist over some idiot from Florida mailing them, and prominent establishment democrats, what appear to be non-functional physical facsimiles of pipe bombs. Most journalists have tried to focus on the.. well.. odd life history of the alleged perpetrator, Cesar Sayoc. Some of you might have heard media pundits put forth theories ranging from Sayoc being moderately mentally retarded to merely suffering from mental illness. Very few seem to be interested in why a character like Sayoc got involved in what can be best described as the ‘Cult of Trump’. So what pushed a 56-year old man to mail pipe bombs to famous people?

Some will point out that he had previously threatened to bomb some building, in 2002. So what stopped him from going through with that threat and why did he not try something similar for the next 15 years? More interestingly.. how did a half-white man in his mid-50s with a sketchy life story end up becoming such an enthusiastic supporter of a faux populist such as Trump? The more cynical among you might attribute this to him living in Florida, and there is some validity to that idea. However, attempts to explain his behavior through some combination of mental status, state of residence or life history miss a much larger issue. Why was the Trump’s 2016 campaign able to attract people with some rather peculiar views on how USA should be governed?

To understand what I am hinting at, here is an older article by me about how the Simpsons Show is a good marker for ongoing demise of middle-class in USA. To refresh your memory, the family depicted in that cartoon series had what was widely seen as a barely middle-class lifestyle when it first started airing in early-1990s. Today that same lifestyle, unchanged from what it was since the shows’s beginning, is seen as distinctly upper-middle class. Think about it.. is it still possible for a family to support three kids (let alone own a modest house) in 2018 if the only bread-winner is a man without college education and a blue collar-ish job? And don’t forget that it was popularly considered feasible as late as the mid-1990s?

So what happened between.. 1990 and 2016? And what does any of this have to with the rise of Trump, the ‘alt-right’ and the behavior of Cesar Sayoc since 2015. The very short version is that systemic implementation of neoliberal economic policies by corporate-funded politicians of both political parties have eviscerated the middle-class in USA. A combination of deindustrialization, outsourcing, runaway financialization and passage of laws and regulations favoring corporations, oligopolies and monopolies over everybody else has reduced what once used to the largest middle-class in developed world to a mere shadow of its former self. Moreover, the vast majority of people have still not recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis.

The downstream effects of this artificial financial death-spiral (for the majority) has created an incredible amount of anger, hatred and distrust towards the Establishment. This is why voters in republican primaries of 2016 overwhelmingly went for a faux populist such as Trump. It is also why so many black voters in certain mid-western states decided to not vote for HRC in 2016 presidential election. Long story short, the under-performance of HRC in the midwest (and hence the electoral college) can be traced back to deliberately inept handling of the global financial crisis by Obama in addition to his unstinting support for “free trade” and other neoliberal nostrums. HRC having an incredibly fake public persona did not help either.

But what does any of this have to with the radicalization of Cesar Sayoc? Well.. here is an article by Trevor Aaronson at The Intercept which explains that in some detail. The quick summary is as follows: Sayoc was one of those guys who had big dreams but constantly struggled throughout his life. It did not help that he born at the tail end of ‘baby boomer’ generation and was therefore too late to benefit from most of the economic advantages of being born in that cohort. It seems that he evidently hit rock bottom sometime between 2009-2012 when the bank foreclosed on his home, he was left with no financial assets and had to move in (once again) with his mother.

As I have mentioned in older posts, the biggest hurdle to democratic party winning elections across USA is that they offer no concrete solutions to the problems faced by most voters. It is not secret that establishment democrats are against universal healthcare, taxpayer-financed higher education, higher minimum wages, tight regulation of financial institutions and other popular progressive ideas which have been successfully implemented for decades in other developed countries. To put it another way, they had zero interest in acknowledging and addressing (let alone solving) the problems faced by people such as Sayoc. It was therefore not surprising that a faux populist, like Trump, could animate many of the people left behind by the establishment wing of both political parties. And this how you get this..

So what finally drove Sayoc to mail all those pipe bombs to famous democrats and their rich supporters? We may never know for sure, but there are some clues. Over the last two years, Sayoc increasingly lived out of his van and had many precarious low-paying jobs. The simple fact is that someone with his life history had no real hope for a better future in this increasingly dystopic country aka USA. Maybe this is why he was so willing to believe that establishment politicians and establishment media figures were his personal enemies- and to be fair, that is a quite accurate characterization of the behavior of establishment types towards somebody like him. Who knows.. maybe he saw life in prison as more secure than the one he was living.

What do you think? Comments?