What is really going on in the United States?
Words by Kent Getsinger
The answer won’t be found in the news.
Bluntly, not Trump. But Trumpism.
The discussion of Trumpism is what is largely missing when the media reports on US politics.
It is not his tweets, executive orders nor his hyperbolic insinuations towards the media “bias”.
It’s something different. When discussing Trumpism the narrative changes, the focus is on the causes which are behind the individual.
Thomas Frank highlighted this distinction in his recent visit to Australia and interview with Planet America.
Frank spoke to the decades of middle class decline, attacks on working people, decline in unionism and how all of these factors have culminated into the manifestation of Trump.
It seems unsurprising really, that with structural injustice, the result is someone like Trump. Perhaps a warning for any society or nation.
But in light of Trumpism, something really is going in the United States. Something that is hardly discussed on the news.
What is glazed over, missed, ignored is the awakening at the core level of the political climate.
An awakening that realises that politics is indeed about everyday life, that politics affects every decision and everything we touch.
But there is even something more. The byline of the largest Bernie Sanders Activists Group on Facebook in 2016 was “Compassionate Revolution”. Though now a defunct page, this intention was manifest in the energy, the movement, the idea, the hope that Sanders brought changed something in addition to the focus on structural reform.
This movement is indeed about politics, but far more than partisanship and ideology. Something is changing at the core level, and many realise it, even if they can’t quite put their finger on it.
Many, many organisations have arisen that are seeking some fundamental social and/or cultural connection that has dissolved in light of Trumpism. For example, the campaign #KnockEveryDoor is an attempt to find the real, deep issues and in fact life experience of everyday people. Brand New Congress is an effort to fund everyday people, no matter their political affiliation, to run for political office.
What is unique to this underreported groundswell of energy is the awareness of collective change at a level beyond the “political” but still fused with the urgency and drive for structural reform.
There is an awareness in the United States that there needs to be a coming together, a real need that something, beyond partisanship, needs to change.
Not long ago, I attended GetUp!’s “Having Powerful Conversations” that was specifically about having a transformative space to meet someone at a level where you could debate, in proper discourse without judgement, the issue.
It may be projecting and idealising here, but only in this space is there the possibility to strip away identity politics, resonate with someone about what they believe in and find a potential to deconstruct the barriers that either or both identity politics and ideology presupposes on our judgements of others. Assuming of course, there is a willingness to do so.
This is not too dissimilar to how Charles Eisenstein asks “What it is like to be you?” and hold an eagerness, an immense and authentic curiosity to seek that answer.
This may well be a very challenging space for anyone to operate in. Fundamentally, it means confronting one’s own bias, privilege, ideology and judgements — if not a sense of how one has constructed the world around them.
Even being firm in my beliefs, this is incredibly challenging.
But this is indeed the only way in which Trumpism will be defeated. Because what we are talking about is truthfully the politics of division — a toxicity that doesn’t discriminate.
In the United States since 2016, this is what is happening. True, deep, reform at a level it has not experienced for a long time, and perhaps ever given the lessons learned from past generations.
This is the future. This is no longer the politics of division, but a real, raw groundless empathy that must be embedded with structural reform.
Having been a resident of Australia for over 7 years, it is obvious that United States culture defaults and focuses too much on the need for personal growth or change.
This time around, it has not neglected that need for real substantive change. There is oppression, yes. And we must call it that, not “being disenfranchised”. There are intentional policy decisions that have attacked working people, middle class, the poor, the working poor, everyday Americans.
There was a recent article titled Why American Life is Traumatising Americans But They Don’t Know It. Albeit a short introspection, it is nonetheless a plunge into the overbearing reality of what is accurately described as oppression.
So… what is really going on in United States?
Something pretty extraordinary. Of course, not just limited to the US, but far more worthy of the little credit it receives.
Kent Getsinger is the National Chair of Democrats Abroad Australia and Asia-Pacific Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus of Democrats Abroad.
For anyone who is here studying from the United States, there is a social meetup on:
Thursday 30th August 6–8pm
Exeter Hotel, 246 Rundle St, Adelaide CBD
US Residents welcome to register here: