Election Day, November 8th, 2016
Two remarkable events unfolded simultaneously halfway around the world from each other in the world’s most powerful democracy (and its largest and youngest). In the former, Donald J. Trump was on his way to becoming the President-Elect of the United States, while in the latter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the shocking announcement that the Government of India was demonetizing all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes. As I witnessed both events unfurl at the same time, it became painfully obvious to me just how misguided any democracy is which is so deeply shaped by capital. This is because it risks ceasing to serve the very people in whose names it is meant to “trickle down” and serve.
As reports of dire hardships, even deaths, have been reported by middle and lower class citizens in the aftermath of the demonetization of the rupee notes in #India, countless instances of racist and misogynist violence have exponentially erupted throughout the United States. Many of us are left asking why the most vulnerable souls – the poor, women, people of color – of these two great democracies are most suffering. How could this have come to be, and in the same moment? Perhaps most disturbing for me at this historic moment is how particularly entrenched capital has become in our post-millennial societies over the past couple of decades. I am increasingly shell-shocked by how viscerally materialism and monetary abstractions of humanity today define our planet. Democracy and its “elections,” increasingly so, seem consigned to shady, backroom deals rather than bringing out into the light the voices and agency of disenfranchised and historically-exploited peoples.
Donald Trump's rise
Many have expressed shock over Trump’s jolting ascendency to the most powerful position on earth. But should we truly feel shock? Rather, in retrospect, it seems that we should have accepted the signs of impending upset and braced for it many years ago. As a U.S. citizen who registered to vote in the election who lives and works in northern India, it seems that both of these synchronized, tectonic shifts inaugurate a key shift in the relationship between contemporary democracy and neoliberalism. This shift arguably seems to be intensifying, with greater magnitude, around the concept of “home” where its domestic configurations orbit around the justifying rhetoric of exclusion while its international scope obsesses with the indigenous fantasy of a “homeland.”
Reaganomics and Thatcherism
Indeed, this is the dangerous trajectory which had arguably been inaugurated many years before with the transatlantic, tag-team destruction of social services promoted by Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom from the early 1980s. Reaganomics and Thatcherism were part and parcel of a transatlantic, "special relationship" between the two dominant empires of the Anglosphere that endures even today.
The very domesticity and democratic inclusion of the nation allows those in power to exercise control over those within, and at the borders (namely those who are different, by right of citizenship). This intensified policing of “home” is the most frightening turn in U.S. politics that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Thatcher’s raised everyday Britons’ alarms when she apocalyptically warned that the U.K. would be “rather swamped by people of a different culture,” and it is this very marshland of otherness that Trump promises to “drain the swamp” of in America. #Election 2016