Why must we choose between the worst president of our lifetimes and one of the most rapacious corporate enterprises in the country?
By Thomas Frank and cross-posted from The Guardian
President Trump last week resumed his campaign of critical tweets about the online retailer Amazon, which he accuses of paying too little in taxes and of getting too good a deal from the United States Postal Service, which delivers many of its packages. Along the way he also asserted that the company used the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, to lobby for Amazon’s interests. The price of Amazon shares fell on the news.
In threatening a single business because of some personal quarrel with its CEO – apparently in order to squeeze friendlier coverage out of a newspaper that the CEO happens to own – Donald Trump has clearly violated the basic rules of democratic government. But it is also important to remember that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Amazon has been the subject of critical reporting for a number of years; anyone who reads the Guardian or the New York Times knows about the company’s alarming labour practices and its imperial economic ambitions.
Yet some critics of the president took his tweets as a signal to rally round Amazonand its chief executive. They joked about how jealous Trump must be of Bezos’s billions. They fantasised about how Bezos might contrive to humiliate the president by buying still more media properties. They clucked over Trump’s stupidity on the matter of the postal service. They snickered at his inability to understand modern internet enterprises.
Given the chance to remind the public of American liberalism’s instinctive tendency to defend cyber-oligarchs like Bezos against the claims of those it sees as uncomprehending luddites, Team Liberal jumped at it.
Along the way, they gave us a vivid reminder of why modern liberalism keeps generating – and losing to – unbelievably awful antagonists such as Trump. Put it this way: yes, Trump hates Amazon, and its chief executive, and his newspaper the Washington Post. But Trump’s blustering animosity doesn’t make Amazon an admirable company. Nor does it make the Washington Post a temple of objectivity, untainted by the capital’s culture of influence-peddling…