Political power rests firmly upon declarations about life that are true.

A lot of negative press coverage has failed to dislodge Donald Trump from his political ascent.  How does he succeed so well in politics while other more experienced politicians fail to garner the public’s interest?  Here’s a quote from Hannah Arendt’s book published in 1958 entitled The Human Condition, “Where power is not actualized, it passes away, and history is full of examples that the greatest material riches cannot compensate for this loss.  Power is actualized only where word and deed have not parted company, where words are not empty and deeds not brutal, where words are not used to veil intentions but to disclose realities, and deeds are not used to violate and destroy but to establish relations and create new realities.”

Her discussion began by recognizing how important words and actions are to the power that resides in politics.  An establishment politician that tailors his political rhetoric to suit political views or political propaganda nested in the past can’t gain the power needed to do anything new and a politician can’t recruit new supporters without being ready to acknowledge changes and to suggest a game plan that deals with change.

The neoliberal economy isn’t providing opportunities for small capital holders, the working class, even the middle class.  When President Obama said that, “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” it didn’t sound true to the long-term unemployed that have been ignored in the frequently cited 5.5% unemployment statistic .  It worries Americans that there aren’t enough jobs and there’s fewer good jobs.  President Obama knows that there’s a lot of unemployed working age people.  When President Obama failed in his speech to pair his mention of a squeeze on labor with a plan of action, he destroyed his opportunity to suggest a way to improve a domestic economy that once had enough jobs.  Mr. Obama’s nod to those being squeezed didn’t mention particulars and his declarations denying economic decline didn’t convince anyone that opportunity or prosperity is growing in America.

Donald Trump’s secret political sauce is just saying that he sees an economy that’s falling short of its potential for greatness.  And he says that he sees an opportunity to get the economy moving again.  We all see that the economy is not providing opportunities for most Americans.  Recognizing economic problems and advocating policy changes is where Trump’s political power comes from.  You or I may not agree with some of his political positions but he gains power whenever he acknowledges economic harms and worries in the United States.  Economic insecurity grows bigger everyday because the economy is shrinking.  Policy reform could change that.  Right now, there are economic policy threats to each American’s economic security.  For example, under Dodd Frank, banks can use a “bail in” to steal deposits if there’s another financial emergency that would cause a bank failure; so much for FDIC.  And banks that are too big have monopoly effects in how they use money; this warps prices and values for goods and services.  Deregulated banks don’t protect their own solvency by keeping an adequate equity backstop compared to the risks that they take, and Wall Street gambles with derivatives instead of following a more prudent course by investing in production.

It turns out that political power comes from recognizing harms.  And political action starts with a conversation about harms.  A politician who wants more power should try to address harms that have happened because of bad policies.  He should identify which policies are bad and say why we should change them.  And he can offer suggestions about how to strengthen our economy with better policies for the benefit of more people.

Source: Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Second Edition, (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1958), 200.

All text on this blog is copyrighted to Mel Scanlan Stahl. It is subject to fair use standards.  If you should refer to my blog posts or blog pages please acknowledge me as the source.  And please leave a comment to let me know what you think about what you read here.

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Time has passed since I wrote the content above.  Since then, Donald Trump scored more delegates on Super Tuesday (Mar 1st, 2016) than any other Republican frontrunner.  I have been amazed at the intensity of attacks against Donald Trump from the Republican leadership (even though he’s their leading Republican candidate).  And I wondered why the Republican establishment would oppose his candidacy for President when he is in the lead.  To discover more, I found this article on The Economic Populist.  It explains strategic reasons that the author would vote for Donald Trump.  He sees Donald Trump as genuinely Conservative in his nationalist trade agenda (as compared to a post-nationalist neoliberal trade agenda) and in his desire to restrict immigration (a desire to protect national security).  See what you think about these arguments.

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