“Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!” the chanting in the Tampa sports arena went on for over 15 minutes as reported. Of course it was the Trump circus of staged rallies-this time with 14,000 present. The “Build the Wall” slogan derived from Trump’s promise to build a great wall across the border with Mexico (he uses the Great Wall of China as an example “and they didn’t have Caterpillar”) has become a popular cultural iconic political image. At the Tampa rally the chant was used to cover the eviction of a protestor. Whenever Trump feels he needs to lift the crowd, out comes “Build that Wall”.
What is this ‘Wall’ thing all about? (My first thoughts took me to that great comic scene from Midsummer’s Nights Dream “kiss the wall’s stones”.)
Clearly it has moved on from being a literal piece of masonry and has acquired/ been invested with a stigmata of symbolic meaning making it a political metaphor to communicate, to deliver more malevolent layers of political imagery.
What Trump’s political minders have created with his early attacks on immigration –the anti-Mexican rant plus his ‘ban Muslims” shtick have defined his campaign within a nativist, neo-nationalism grabbed from the rise of the right-wing European political brands like UKIP and the National Front in France.
On the Trump side of the “Wall” is the angry frustrated politically “white” America from across the party spectrum. On the other side of the “Wall” is the Obama “black” political cohort made up from ethnic minorities, the poor, feminists, gays and now “jewish led socialists”.
What Trump has created is a quite frightening political wall that is being built community after community with his robust populist soft racist rhetoric being the bricks in the wall.
He know what walls can do-hell he’s a New York developer and understands well that affluent communities need walls to keep them away from often quite adjacent “ hood”.
He knows that walls divide and break up communities, define communities, brands communities and he is building his political brand behind this “fire wall” of “our white” America. And it’s an angry ambivalent “white” America. Some are really hurting from the loss of blue-collar advancement, pride even ambition while others flout their gross wealth yet conjoined behind that “Wall”. Why? Through that ever-ready, well-worn, neo-fascist shibboleth that it is all the fault of “the stranger, the foreigner, who is not one of us.”
This noxious politics resonates across the soft undefined walls that shape political parties in the US. He is gambling (and he is an obdurate gambler) that by breaking down the walls of party lines he can gather a coalition behind his “Wall” that can take him all the way to the White House.
The other side of his “Wall” is the popular forces gathered effectively in the Obama movement; liberals, ethnic minorities especially the black community, the poor and the young, now joined and strengthened by the ideological power of ideas derived from socialism. Will it be a liberal coalition that faces Trump led by Hillary Clinton? Will it be the more radical class coalition of the Bernie movement that will take on what is becoming a defining political choice in American political history?
In all the talk we are watching the loss of a once proud party the GOP, the Republicans, now represented by the lack-lustre Jeb Bush. Others like Cruz and Rubio represent the new-right ultra Conservative force promoted by Murdoch’s FOX News TV Channel but both fail the Trump “Wall” test.
“Build that Wall” will ring out across the Trump campaign and it will be ‘left’ to the liberal/left of centre democratic (small d) forces to expose the true meaning of that Trump metaphor and to mobilize the broad spectrum within the Democratic Party and beyond to defeat Trump’s “Wall”.
Therein lies the challenge indeed the danger. Should Bernie win the nomination will he manage to harness the widely various strands within the Democratic Party or will he be left impotent like the castrated George McGovern in 1972. Starved of party support he could only pick up 22% of the popular vote against the unpopular Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
This is not the time to panic but the Trump “Wall” movement with his showman’s panache spouting populist neo-fascism is a present danger that no one should dismiss as frivolous Pyramos & Thisby foolishness.