The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States is many things – feels like many things. Firstly it’s a disaster, in philosophical/symbolic/moral terms as well as with regard to what passes for American Policy, both within and outside the country.
There, that’s my colours nailed; my duff liberalism exposed. Maybe you know the rest, in the way I know I’m right – we’re right – to make our case against. Maybe it’s not wise to rub my certainties up against yours or his, or hers? But given I’m too shocked and angry to waste energy on fencing around, here – with no apologies – is my case against.
The Trump campaign was a shameless appeal to the dumb machismo at the core of America (and, frighteningly, possibly everywhere else) which made it okay to holler prejudice as opposed to make arguments about policy. Racism and misogyny in particular have been validated – made sound, acceptable and poison-free – through both a shockingly calculated Republican narrative and via Trump’s refreshingly non-groomed mouthings-off. *Coughs, strikingly*.
They won by glorifying in the stupidity and prejudice of a whole lot of people; not (please note) just the allegedly dumb and downtrodden working or non-working classes, who a) blame immigrants for everything b) hate politicians. In the same way that Farage in the UK tapped into something despite being a patently inadequate human, Trump – surely part dangerous clown, part ardent lap-dancing club regular? – won out by smearing innuendo and worse across anything that felt like an issue. In doing so, he lurched all of us, everywhere further away from civilisation.
Yes, civilisation. A word I think we should maybe look to claim back from pro-Western morons and well-meaning anthropologists alike.
(We know that the idea of that c-word has been hi-jacked and traduced too often but maybe we need it as a weapon against the tyranny of cynicism and xenophobia; and maybe if we can find a way to use it in the absolutely non-geographically or culturally specific sense then we can get past the problem? Because we need to defend ideals and it should be possible to describe aspirations which are plainly good and true and common whatever your – or their, origins, yes?) But we digress; let’s get to the bulletpoint; Trump is not a good man.
We don’t even need to have clarity on the various charges against him: Trump is not a good man because he doesn’t so much court trashy-but-serious enmities as wallow in them. Everything is about the other – who can’t be trusted or tolerated. This and the idea that government is necessarily bad.
We can point to ‘difficult times’ as a factor in this evil. Economies stretched, jobs threatened. Perfectly natural for people to be protectionist, right? Wrong. It is wrong to be hostile, or ungenerous – not natural. We are no longer tribal beasts. For all the evidence to the contrary it is incumbent upon us to be better than that, to oppose (in this case) the pornography that is Trumpdom and elsewhere the pornography that is religious zealotry or fanaticism.
Sure the Democrats might have picked a less divisive candidate and certainly one less steeped in the baggage of the Political Class. Hilary Clinton – brilliant and committed though she may be – was arguably a softish target for those disaffected and disconnected by that link between money and family, politics and power. Who knows where a more ordinary candidate might have gotten to?
This whole question infers a kind of intelligence and appreciation from the Great American Public that simply may not be there. The Yanks have voted by instinct, with their guts. There’s been a vacuum where the political debate might have been. Hilary was beaten partly, no doubt, by personal dislike and sexism against her but mainly by rottenness – fear and loathing for The Other. A different Democrat may have been subsumed beneath the same, amoral shitstorm.
So do we capitulate to this? Do we mither about the role of Social Media in the criminal dumbness of things but then accept that t’internet, rather than facilitating an explosion in knowledge, has merely handed things on a plate to those who can bawl or troll loudest? Do we wonder how the hell this election can happen when kids are taught about good citizenship and World Wars and what adherents to the great religions of the world actually study? Do we, at any level, accept that sexism, racism and homophobia are acceptable – never mind legitimate levers towards the destiny of civilised nations? NO WE DON’T.
We need to think a bit, for sure, longer-term about how people can be so uneducated that Trumpdom’s choices become attractive… when they are repulsive. We need to be smarter and more engaged at a political level – here I mean everything from discussing things with friends and family to making minor stands or major stands on local or national issues. In short, those of us who fall under the banner of humanist(?) progressives(?) need to stand up – be counted.
Donald Trump is indecent and malicious and creepy. He is President. His list of campaign promises (some of which I accept are likely to melt away in the reality of responsibility) reads like some weird fascist agenda. Really. (He will build a wall; he will kick foreigners out; he will make the nation great again.) This is beyond divisive, beyond inflammatory. This is beyond the pale.
If the presence of the North Atlantic Ocean comforts us Brits, or anything about this extraordinary and concerning American Dream makes us Brits feel in any way superior then we better look out. There’s nowhere to hide from this. The Global Village is real – even when played out in cyberspace.
Not only do we rely on the U.S. to patrol the planet militarily, but on philosophical/symbolic/cultural matters, we have shared arteries. We have our own politics but they are mediated around western possibilities.
Traditionally, this has meant relative freedom, relative tolerance. America has raced ahead in the negative re-calibration of all that; meaning it’s just a little easier, a little more do-able, for some noisy or dangerously insular or aggressive or nationalistic hoodlum (or billionaire) to jump up on a tank or a pedestal and shoot his mouth off… and get hollers of support.
He might do this and claim to be fighting back against the Political Class – for you, the Forgotten Ones. He probably will tell you he’s out to save your job, keep those others off/out/away. He might look like a bloke you could share a pint with. Just be careful.