Despite Trump’s vehement denials, what America does in the world counts for peace and prosperity: social stability is tied to economic opportunity! West Virginia has a secret worth telling because it exposes the power of political messaging to conceal success, create victims, and hide solutions ripe at hand. West Virginia is home to over 140 chemical and polymer manufacturers, including five of the world’s largest, Dow, Dupont, Bayer, Kureha, SABIC; it ranks sixth among states in GDP derived from chemicals, 25% of its $4.8 billion in exports are chemical and polymers. 15,000 workers earn an average of $75,000 a year! Yet all of the talk about West Virginia is about coal!
The Washington Works DuPont plant in Parkersburg, WV.
West Virginia Success And Political Misdirection
West Virginia succeeded in developing a robust research and manufacturing chemical/polymer industry by following the established/proven template for development: infrastructure (it build a chemical alliance zone that supports research, engineering, and manufacturing), economies of scale (it persuaded firms to create a business cluster), knowledge support (university programs and research centers), transportation (easy market access to raw materials, specialized services, downstream customers/consumers), skilled workforce (trained, low turnover) and regulatory assistance (tax breaks targeted at research/development). These industries have attracted firms in aerospace, biometrics, plastic coatings and specialty metals!
Yet all the talk is about coal. When its use falls every year, China closes coal-burning plants and conservative projections say its use will diminish globally to 6% by 2070.
Coal’s story tells us the importance of political messaging. The globe knows little of West Virginia’s success in chemical manufacturing as it buys from West Virginia-based firms by the billions. Its hometown coal miners see no exit from their diminishing fate. But due to messaging, coal workers invest in self-defeating narratives that work for politicians who gain from their pain!
Concepts And Models Are Messages
David Brooks column in the New York Times today continued the tradition of misdirected messaging. His misdirection is conceptual, about our “national crisis.” He cites four completing American narratives to describe and explain how we arrived in the fear pit, but each one is rife with errors! Both empirical and conceptual. (His logic ties one to the other!)
Brooks first cites exodus. (Marley’s “exodus,” not running from, but going to). For him, was the first step on the crystal stair; the second step pursued and staked out wealth. Led by rice, the colonial crop that created New England’s rum trade, supported global ship building, iron smelting in England, and fed West Indian slaves while creating vast Southern colonial and coastal wealth.
That wealth lead to a structural division, an asymmetrical structure still with us: the idea that equality is the enemy of freedom. A unique American libertarian twist (avoided by Thoreau!), it is seen in the Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling, in Articles of Secession, in today’s Republicans spin nd speeches. As with the Obamacare repeal, its believers don’t support a society structured to enhance opportunity. Its view justifies oppression and inequality by arguments that strength creates success–while ignoring the consolidation of power that restricts opportunities. It argues for transfers of wealth without expanding freedom. Wealth demands a tightly controlled social order (as per Lewis Powell’s famous 1971 memo), a contradiction its believers deny.
Brooks second tenet plays directly into this denial: it pretends disruption fails, that disruption causes concentrated power. No! Disruption works: India, Brazil, China—America–used disruption to increase freedom and opportunity through expanding social platforms; oligarchs push back with nefarious means to circumvent the democracy movement, evident today, in the push to restrict voting rights under the guise of security and order!
Brooks third tenet is a bold lie: multiculturalism is the defense of freedom against embedded white privilege (also denied!); the “into what” interrogative has not one but millions of individual answers, when freedom is exercised! The talented community is closest to the consensus reality. But many still seek to define American opportunity by the abandoned plantation model, with its concentration of power, wealth and total control.
Trumps favors the national plantation, with himself as supreme overlord.
The Balance Sheet Message
NATO represents not only America’s allies, but America’s markets. The economic returns from a stable Europe, its growth and forward thinking cannot be measured in defense payments of two percent! Again, Republicans rely on balance sheet to avoid the true measures of social good—always numbers are used to limit rights and protections, to scatter harms, to diminish the safety nets organic to prosperity.
In Trump’s case, his silence on Article 5 reflects his vision; his vision is a darkness filled with enemies and slackers, no matter whether they were friends or foes before. The tipping point approval is loyalty, wealth and power. He has a deeply rooted disdain and contempt for democracy and elections—they set limits on power. They establish conflicts when loyalty is tied to corruption and personal interests.
Internationally, Trump is loyal to those who act as kings and dictators, ruthless autocrats who imprison and kill dissenters. He seeks entry into this class as the American emperor; he sees this as the measure of true power. He will never reject Putin, who is his inner ideal.
Conversely, he sees Europe as too weak to stand alone. He scorns any peace attained without a fight. To him, Europe is unworthy and undeserving and beneath his favor. Putin is the pinnacle of his inner circle.
Trump is a sad man with limited understanding and vision, with no sense of history; a con man with no values of good will; an impulsive man who cannot think deeply or be disciplined; a needy man who pleases himself by his contentious victories built on lies; a blind man who is unable to see errors and damages, a fool who cannot learn new ways.
He will benefit from both benign neglect and active resistance.