Take a deep breath.
Ok, so the worst has finally happened. Of all the possible electoral outcomes for 2016, this was a holy trinity of disasters. First Brexit. Then Colombia. And now President Trump. This was the big one, and it couldn’t have gone worse. 2016 feels a lot like 1933.
We’re going to have to get used to these words.
So yeah, take another deep breath…
Ok, so, how bad is it?
This is a bleak day for progressives everywhere. I feel sorry for everyone in the US, obviously, waking up this morning to a racist, sexist, xenophobic, tax-evading, sexual predator President brought to you by Tango. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the republicans control both Houses, and have an open pick for the Supreme Court. The usual checks and balances that negated the impact of Obama’s Presidency will not exist for Trump. He has 18 months of doing pretty much whatever the hell he wants. Protect your pussies, ladies.
Obviously, no one really knows what President Trump will do once in office. Build that wall? Deport 11 million illegal immigrants? Scrap the Affordable Health Care Act? Force women to attend the “funeral” of their foetus when they have an abortion? Put American Muslims in special camps? Create a flat tax for billionaires?
All of these were alluded to by Trump during his campaign, so god knows what the next four years will bring on the domestic front. The only certainty is that it will be ugly and painful.
Internationally, the picture isn’t any rosier. And who knows how he will behave in that sphere. Dissolve NATO? Allow nuclear proliferation? Allow Putin to invade Georgia (either one, tbh)? If I was a Baltic state, or Ukraine, I would be stocking up on weapons and defence systems. Things are about to turn nasty.
You know things are bad when his victory is warmly received by Putin, ISIS, Khamenei, Nigel Farage and Marine LePen. How this will affect the post WWII order is impossible to forecast, but it will alter it radically. In a world of nuclear and chemical weapons, this is a frightening prospect.
There but for the grace of god go all of us.
It’s now or never, Marty McFly
If predicting what Trump will do is nigh impossible, understanding how he won is pretty easy.
We’ve spoken ad infinitum about the failure of our current economic system. About the inequality that it creates, about its fundamental unfairness, and about its monetisation of human beings and relationship. It is a system that is rotten. Politicians on both sides have completely failed to address this unbalance, putting their faith in the markets that have failed ordinary workers for 30 years now.
The politicians, the media, and the leaders of corporations are all to blame for this.
Once again, if the “markets” only care about returns to shareholders, they should be in no position to have any say on policies. If corporations think they exist as separate from society as a whole, if they refuse to understand that they have a responsibility to society too, the links that bind us start to break down. I’m not saying Apple caused this result, but if their profits had been fairly taxed and redistributed, it’s not unreasonable to think that poverty would’ve had a smaller impact on this election. But they don’t care about society. They care about returns to shareholders, to the exclusion of everything else. If they don’t have a stake in society, if no private company does, why should anyone else?
The politicians acted as slaves to the markets. They didn’t care about ordinary people, they were locked in an ideological prison that stated that wealth had to gush upwards. They saw the government’s role as facilitating this. It’s a whole system that locked them in. And that’s the good guys. The bad ones just fanned the flames of racism and xenophobia.
The media acted as cheerleaders for this whole nonsense, turning this election into a reality TV contest. “The President”, brought to you by E! and CNN. Unsurprisingly, the candidate with the most experience won.
And if there’s one thing to learn from history and physics, it is that what is unsustainable won’t be sustained. The collective failures of our politician opened the door to demagogues, populists, racists, and war-mongers. As it has done throughout History.
Hillary was a flawed candidate, but her biggest failure was probably to offer fine-tuning, when people wanted to smash the whole edifice down. Only now, I think, are the higher echelons of politics realising the anger and disaffection that runs through Western societies.
Hillary couldn’t have been more establishment. She embodied the last 30 years of the Washington-Wall Street axis of greed. She was part of a grand political dynasty. She was a twentieth century centrist crystallising all the frustrations of the electorate. NAFTA? Hillary. 1994 Crime Bill? Hillary. Wall Street excess? Hillary. Financial crisis? Hillary. ISIS? Hillary. What made her the most qualified candidate in history also made her the most unqualified candidate for this cycle.
They wanted a sledgehammer, she offered them a spirit level.
The parallels with the darkest phase of the twentieth century are eerie. That is not to say that economic and political crises are always followed by fascism. Sometimes decent people take power, like Trudeau in Canada, Syrizia in Greece, or Podemos in Spain. But more often than not, it’s the fascists demagogues who take power. History is, unfortunately, littered with such examples.
So yeah, time for another deep breath.
She didn’t say no
The world is a complex place. It makes no sense for the anti-establishment candidate to be a New York billionaire. You shouldn’t be able to win an election by antagonising women, African-Americans, latinos, progressives, Muslims, and immigrants. Demographics screams that it shouldn’t be possible to win an a election on the back of uneducated white males. But it happened. Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.
It is also counter-intuitive to think that President Trump will address any of the problems that poor uneducated white American males suffer from. Just like those unemployed white males in Middlesbrough will suffer even more post-Brexit, those poor white Americans will suffer under Trump.
But then again, people rarely do what’s best for them. They drink, and smoke, and gamble, and cheat, and lie, and then wonder why things are wrong.
People don’t do what’s right for them. They do what makes them feel better.
This explains Trump, in a nutshell.
Trump made those inbred rednecks feel important. He made them feel better. He spoke a language they understood. The parallels with Brexit are obvious.
There is a lesson for society here. A painful, exceedingly expensive lesson, but an important one nonetheless. We are all in this together. Poor, inbred, uneducated whites in rural areas, and over-educated, middle class, urban progressives. A system that fails the former will eventually fail the latter. That’s the problem with democracy, and society in general. We are still social animals. We need to force people out of their echo chamber and back into the real world.
There is another lesson too. That education is incredible important. The markets and the economy will not solve everything. The contract in a democracy is that you have a strong state that offers quality education to all its citizens. That you have strong institutions that work for the common good. That policy doesn’t leave ordinary people on the scrapheap of international trade deals. That politics shouldn’t prioritise bond-holders over house-owners. The markets have been running the show for so long, it’s almost like politicians forgot who actually casts the votes.
We wrote before about how Brexit and Trump would prove to be acid tests of our democracies. We have failed on both fronts. Lessons need to be learnt. Or re-learnt.
Time for another deep breath.
However. This isn’t the complete picture. Just like Brexit did include 48% of people that voted to remain, pretty much half of America rejected Trump. And these people will continue to work hard to ensure that the values we care about endure. Just like Obama didn’t suddenly turn the world into a happy magical place, Trump won’t ruin everything straight away. And as unlikely as it’s looking right now, we might well get a Michelle Obama Presidency in 2020. Or a Bernie Sanders Junior one. Stranger things have happened. This is the country that elected Obama after W.
Capable of the worst, but also capable of the best.
As Brexiters are fond of saying, this is democracy. Democracy has its downsides, one of which is that psychopaths like Trump can get elected by spewing hate-filled garbage on the population, propelled by a ratings-obsessed media who gave him all the free air time in the world. It sucks, but on the plus side, it means we’ll only have Trump for 4 years, rather than a lifetime.
We progressives have a tendency to think that History is in our favour. That we ride the winds of positive change, from slavery to feudalism through to democracy, and emancipation. But if it was that easy, all of our problems would’ve been solved a long time ago. History and progress are capricious, and for every step forward, we usually take half a step back. Or, in this case, 200,000 steps back. But as bad as things seem right now, they will eventually improve.
I think there are two ways a Trump Presidency can unfold, barring anything mental like an assassination or an impeachment (both of which could happen). The first one is that Trump could turn out to be a coked-up Reagan. That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that Trump becomes a coked-up Mussolini.
I’m genuinely unsure which way it will go.
When I was a kid at school in history class, I always wondered how the world allowed the two world wars to take place. How the Germans allowed Hitler to come to power. How we allowed the slaughter of millions of innocents on an industrial scale, and the break down of moral, ethics, and human values. Perhaps because the world hadn’t seen a Hitler before.
But we’ve seen a Trump before. We’ve all met Trumps. At work, at home, on the bus, while queuing for a doughnut, we’ve all met these macho violent psychopaths that believe the world revolves around them.
And America has been through worst crises. It survived slavery. It survived a civil war. It survived 8 years of Reagan and 8 years of W. It survived 20 years of Fox News.
So let’s take a deep breath.
And let’s start fighting back.
Otherwise, it won’t be long before we’re all scavenging for dead rats in a post apocalyptic wasteland.
Progressives of the world, the stakes have never been higher. We can’t count on our politicians to make the world a better place.
We’re going to have to do it ourselves. Get organised. Join or create a political party. Donate to charity. Write a blog. Create a movement. Join rallies. March against racism. Whatever it is you believe in, or care about, time to turn those thoughts into actions.
Because if you don’t take care of politics… politics will take care of you.