Mar-A-Lago or How to Save an Empire in Decline

by Larry Goldbetter

August 25, 2022

The August 8 raid by the FBI on Donald Trump’s residence and playground in Mar-a-Lago certainly got everyone’s attention, especially Trump’s. And while the legal battle is playing out over Trump’s taking boxloads of Top Secret and Classified files to his basement (and what was in his safe?), this really reflects something much deeper than the specific criminal acts that are alleged. It could more accurately be described as “The Empire Strikes Back!”

The increasing political divide in the US, reflected on almost any issue from immigration to abortion rights to vaccines, reflects the debate going on in the political class over how to save the US empire. As US imperialism faces ever greater challenges internationally, this debate takes on a more urgent, and sometimes violent, nature. The US empire is slipping away and there is a fierce struggle going on over how to save it. Basically, we are witnessing what goes on inside the loser’s locker-room, with each side blaming the other, and all of them being at least partially right!

The establishment, both Democrat and Republican, want to try to maintain their alliances, strengthen and expand NATO, and “pivot to Asia,” to confront the growing challenge they face from China. The far-right opposition is more “Fortress America,” that is, let Europe take care of itself and withdraw from many international treaties and alliances, as Trump did during his administration, with the Paris Climate treaty and the Iran nuclear agreement. The two sides disagree over how to relate to Russia, the establishment viewing it as a threat, the far-right as an ally. Two things they agree on are that China is the big emerging threat, and that no request from the Pentagon for more weapons should be denied. Even the “social-democrats,” Bernie Sanders and AOC, have voted for every weapons authorization for Ukraine.

To try and gauge the decline of US imperialism, just look at the Middle East, an area that twenty years ago was contested, but that was dominated by the US. Today, the area is quite changed. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2001 by the Bush administration, you have the failed states of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. The US military is still formidable and capable of doing a lot of damage. But wars are not won by who has the most destructive weapons. Ultimately, the US lost in Iraq and could not defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. What can we expect as they shift their sights to China?

Also, the pandemic was a body blow to the US, politically and economically, the equivalent to losing a war, with more than one million dead, untold millions injured, and the economy badly shaken. Even now, 18 months into the Biden administration, a thousand people die from COVID every day. And while economic indicators show that millions of jobs have been added to the economy and the unemployment rate is low, more people have dropped out of the workforce and are no longer counted in these figures, especially young Black and Hispanic workers and youth.

With the election of Barak Obama in 2008 and the financial crisis that rocked the US and much of the world, things took a turn for the worse. Trump, a long -time racist ideologue (and political donor to the Democrats when he was based in New York), waged a relentless 8-year racist campaign against the first Black President of the US, accusing him of everything from being a Muslim terrorist to being born outside the US and ineligible for the presidency. These accusations allowed Trump to galvanize a mass racist base into a fascist movement. Obama and Biden bailed out Wall St. billionaires and the US auto industry, while millions of workers lost their homes to foreclosure, affecting Black and brown families at twice the rate of white families. But many white workers, living in segregated areas, blamed Obama and welcomed Trump as they had Reagan in the 1980s.

With an energized base, most mainstream Republicans fell in line and embraced the racist frenzy, even going so far as to prevent the twice-elected Obama from naming a Supreme Court Justice with still a year to go in his presidency.

Once in the White House, the billionaire racist con man and grifter tried running the country like his family business, surrounding himself with close friends and family and making personal profit his top priority. To maintain his mass base, he gave the green light to violent white supremacist groups, from the Nazis who held a torch parade in Charlottesville, to the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and many smaller, armed fascist militias. He embraced other fascists internationally, from Putin to Bolsonaro to Orban, while weakening US ties to NATO and even questioning whether NATO should continue at all.

Now the Biden administration is trying to secure the establishment at home and put things back together with allies abroad. But the US is not the same place it was even when Biden was Obama’s vice president, let alone when he was a senator. His dreams of bipartisan cooperation have been shattered as Congress continues to be locked in hand-to-hand combat on any question other than spending more on weapons.

The mass violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, to stop the certification of Biden’s election, was the most open, violent expression of this ruling class dogfight to save the empire. And while Trump may have been concerned only with remaining in office, the thousands who stormed the Capital and the politicians who supported them not only had financial backing but also a larger strategic goal for the direction of the country.

This fight is far from over. Hundreds have been arrested and many sent to prison for their involvement in Jan. 6. I doubt that Trump will ever see the inside of a jail, as the establishment seems more concerned with just keeping him out of the White House.

This struggle will likely deepen as the growing threat of war is added to the mix. No empire has ever left the stage of history peacefully. With the buildup of tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the increased provocations and military exercises over Taiwan, workers and youth may soon be asked to sacrifice for this empire. If we’re going to have to fight, it should be for our future, not the empire’s.

Larry Goldbetter is president of the National Writers Union (NWU). This article first appeared on an Argentine site, LaPoliticaOnline, at

3 thoughts on “Mar-A-Lago or How to Save an Empire in Decline”

  1. Biden’s handlers never intended on engaging in bipartisan politics. The populist revolt against the Uni-Party, which resulted in the election of Trump, poses an ongoing, existential threat to the oligarchs. They attempt to quash it through the most divisive, hateful rhetoric since the Civil War.

    It’s a mistake to assume that the elites, who for the past 30 years have gotten rich off selling out America to China and globalism, have any real intent of confronting their sugar daddy. They are happy to hand over the reins to new management so long as they still profit.

    One way or the other, there will be at least one global empire. I’d much rather it be ours than the CCP’s.


    1. One common mistake is to assume that we have to choose sides in conflicts between the bosses of the world. Be it Saddam Hussein vs the US, Ukraine vs Russia, China vs the US, Democrat vs Republican capitalists – all are the enemies of we workers. When its the bad guys vs the bad guys, we don’t have to pick one as good or the lesser evil. Our job is to organize a fight by workers everywhere for a whole new system run by and for us.


    2. The US empire is “ours?” It’s not mine. Nor does it belong to hundreds of millions of others oppressed and exploited by it. Can’t we set our sights higher than to choose among exploiters and oppressors?

      Always beware when we or others say or think “we,” “us,” and “ours.” They are the most political words in the English language. We should always question their use and seek some justification for identifying with a nation or “race.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: