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Seeking a Solution: Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017).

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In No Is Not Enough, journalist and activist Naomi Klein insists that daily resistance and simply saying no to the efforts of Donald Trump and his corporate cronies to enrich themselves at the expense of the planet and its inhabitants is not enough. The resistance must formulate a plan and develop a strategy to attain social, economic, and environmental justice.

It is difficult to argue with Klein’s premise that piecemeal reform and efforts to form alliances with liberal corporatist politicians have brought progressives to this crisis

Klein suggests that such a formula exists with The Leap Manifesto, drafted in Toronto during 2015 by a coalition of progressive groups seeking to save the earth by placing values of cooperation and harmony before profits and competition. It is difficult to argue with Klein’s premise that piecemeal reform and efforts to form alliances with liberal corporatist politicians have brought progressives to this crisis, and it is imperative to think big and advocate for more sweeping change in order to rescue the planet. Yet, implementing The Leap Manifesto in the United States, with its federalism and structural limitations to majority rule, will require expanding Klein’s plan for progressive change.

No Is Not Enough, however, is an excellent introduction for readers unfamiliar with Klein’s important work such as No Logo, This Changes Everything, and The Shock Doctrine. Klein traces how the emphasis upon the Trump brand is not about constructing anything or creating jobs, but rather it is an attempt to project a mood or image of affluence that consumers may choose to purchase. The buy-in may be large such as purchasing an expensive condo in a property affiliated with the Trump brand, or for those with more limited resources buying Trump tie allows one to claim a connection with the millionaire’s image of wealth.

But Trump constructs nothing as he simply lends his name or logo to a luxury hotel or clothing company. The work is subcontracted to companies who pay substandard wages and provide little in the way of safety and health benefits for their workers.

The Trump brand, however, is not directly associated with the working conditions provided by subcontractors. Thus, while Trump proclaims his allegiance to making America great again, many of the products sold in Trump Tower are not produced in the United States. Trump, Nike, Starbucks, and other corporations charge excessive prices for those consumers wishing to buy an association with the image provided by the corporate logo, while workers continue to toil away in sweatshops.

naomi klein

Klein also outlines how corporations employ shocks to the political and economic system to enhance their power and profits. Many of these shocks arise from natural disasters such as floods or hurricanes—although it is difficult to call Hurricane Katrina a natural disaster as the levees built to protect districts with high concentrations of poor and black citizens were not sufficiently strengthened and maintained.

Following the flooding, corporations were granted generous loans and labor regulations were ignored in the rebuilding with condos and more expensive housing forcing the poor out of the city just as the New Orleans public schools were replaced by a voucher system providing money to private and for-profit educational enterprises.

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In addition, the economic shock of 2008 resulted in the conclusion that America’s largest banks were too big to fail, and these banks, whose polices were responsible for the financial collapse, were bailed out at taxpayer expense, while many individuals lost their modest homes to foreclosure.

And Klein wisely fears that an authoritarian leader such as Trump may be able to use the shock of an event such as a terror attack to enhance his power. So far, the reach of the Trump administration has been limited by the countervailing power of the courts, Congress, and media; however, will these institutions be able to withstand the demands for emergency powers from Trump during the shock of a terrorist crisis?

As a safeguard against such a political shock, Klein suggests that fundamental changes are required to protect the majority from corporate control. The Leap Manifesto endorsed by Klein proposes that the political system should be based upon “respect for indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.”

Central to this vision is a respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and protection for the planet. The Leap Manifesto calls for renewable energy and communities woven together by accessible public transit. Training would be provided for workers transferring out of carbon-intensive professions such as coal mining. The idealism of The Leap Manifesto is captured in the concept that “shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits also means expanding the sectors of our economy that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts, and public-interest media.”

The manifesto goes on to encourage discussion of a national childcare program and a universal basic annual income, suggesting that these fundamental changes could be paid for through a carbon tax, end to fossil fuel subsidies, higher income taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and reductions in military spending. In conclusion, The Leap Manifesto embraces a democratic system “in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.”

The introduction of such radical change in the United States would require considerable effort and cooperation beyond the progressive groups who met in Toronto to draft The Leap Manifesto. The thirty to forty percent of hardcore Trump supporters often reside in smaller but numerous rural states, and through such institutions as the Electoral College and Senate this minority is often able to thwart the majority from more populous states. Since structural change through Constitutional amendment is problematic, the best strategy for bringing these Trump voters on board for a great leap would be to address some of their fears.

Many of these residents from rural and small town America feel vulnerable and isolated from the modern world and fear change. Demagogues appeal to these voters by encouraging the scapegoating of liberals, immigrants, racial minorities, working and professional women, and the LGBTQ community who are blamed for the decline of rural America and traditional values. Weaning them away from a dependence upon fossil fuels will require retraining of workers into more lucrative alternative energy jobs, as well as more efficient low cost energy alternatives to navigate the long travel distances for more isolated rural communities.

But perhaps the greatest crisis facing these communities is the lack of health care options for an aging population. Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have offered these Trump voters nothing but reductions in Medicaid and health care coverage. A bridge that helps these citizens to make a leap forward would be the expansion of Medicare or the provision of single-payer health care for all along with incentives for doctors and hospitals to serve rural communities who have been losing their health care facilities. Thus, the health care crisis in rural America may present an opportunity to realize the utopian vision embraced by Klein and The Leap Manifesto.

No Is Not Enough is an important contribution to progressive politics in the age of Trump. Klein is on target in proclaiming that progressives must move beyond the politics of resistance and offer the vision of a more sustainable world. For even if we survive Trump and his family, the corporate branding and shock doctrine will persist without a program to curtail and replace them. The ideas of The Leap Manifesto provide a framework for moving beyond resistance to renewing our planet and common humanity.

ron briley

Ron Briley