Žižek, Trump, and the Left

Photo: Internet.

The Slovenian “rock star” philosopher Slavoj Žižek recently stirred up social media by saying that despite being “horrified by him,” he would vote for Donald Trump if he could vote in the United States 2016 general election. The attention-seeking Žižek, who gained has gained a following among the academic left with his often counter-intuitive argumentation, has increasingly alienated many with his recent “heretical” Euro-centric statements, sometimes bordering on an apology of anti-refugee policies.

Žižek may be a guilty of many of the things his detractors charge, but: a) he never actually endorsed Trump; and b) his argument for “preferring” a Trump victory isn’t stupid, irrational, or fundamentally wrong-headed (as some of his other statements are). It’s just mistaken.

I don’t necessarily think that in every imaginable alternative scenario it would be “childish millennialism,” as some of my left-leaning liberal friends suggest, to argue that an electoral victory for the right might benefit the left in the long run. For one thing, we don’t need to see the conflict in binary terms: for anti-capitalists and other radicals, for example, Trump is an opponent, but so is Clinton; and NEITHER is (currently) our opponent on the electoral field. THEIR “opposition” on the electoral field is part of the terrain on which we operate, and which we clearly need to take into account. But our range of movement is not and should not be a function of that very limited and contingent opposition.

However, in the contemporary political moment, Žižek seems to think a Trump presidency would force radical realignments in U.S. politics that would open the door to new and better possibilities for the left. To the contrary, what a Trump presidency now will do is to empower the right-wing among Democrats and bring lesser-evilism back with a vengeance, neutralizing any real possibility of left renewal and significant independent organizing for at least a generation.

I for one am under no illusions that Trump will automatically complete a transition to fascism, or that the left is in any position to win that fight in the streets at this point. I would prefer a slower radicalization under and against Clinton (in essence a continuation, deepening, and organization of the evident leftward turn amongst young people of all ethnicities, and people of color of all age groups, that we’ve seen under Obama), if only for the fact that when the Democrats are in power they can better be seen for what they are, mining away liberal fantasies little by little.

In this sense, and only in this sense, I believe it’s preferable for the left that Clinton wins the election (as I am fairly confident she will). It is, however, a weak preference, and one on the basis of which I will not give my vote to the Democratic Party of war and capital – never mind the wild claims by Democratic operatives that this is somehow a manifestation of “privilege.” Unless, of course, they mean the privilege of living in a “safe” blue state, so that I don’t feel any urgency whatsoever to act on any lingering visceral revulsion and fear of Trump, thanks to the thoroughly anti-democratic electoral college.


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