THE MORNING AFTER

libertyThe famous still from ‘Planet of the Apes’ that accompanied yesterday’s post should really have been reserved for today. Confronted by the sight of the decaying Statue of Liberty rotting away on a beach, Charlton Heston’s astronaut character Taylor realises he hasn’t landed on some alien planet where man’s evolution occurred in reverse, but has been flung into the far future and is home – albeit a post-nuclear apocalypse home. Falling to his knees, he pounds away at the sand in despairing rage. ‘You finally really did it!’ he cries; ‘You maniacs! God damn you all to Hell!’ He didn’t add ‘You put Donald Trump in the White House!’ Who would? Who can even really believe this has happened? Donald Trump? Donald f***ing Trump? Yup.

Let me make it clear that I didn’t think Hillary Clinton was perfect by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, her absence of perfection on so many levels enabled Donald Trump to inflict a humiliating defeat upon the most qualified candidate for the Presidency America has probably ever seen. Had she won, however, it would have been an achievement solely based on her gender. History would have been made, though we shouldn’t forget that history was also made in 2008. Being America’s first female President would have been a big deal, as being America’s first black President was eight years ago. But had Hillary Clinton cruised along on that achievement alone – as Obama has often seemed to cruise along on his – the achievement would have paled very quickly.

When Obama came to office, the western world had just experienced its most severe economic collapse since 1929; though the climate has improved slightly since then, there remain vast areas of America that have yet to receive any signs of an upturn in their fortunes, and this was the climate prime for exploitation by Trump. Frustration with this state of affairs has manifested itself in many ugly ways in the US over the last twelve months, and having a black man in the White House doesn’t appear to have made a bit of difference to racial tensions whatsoever; if anything, they’re worse now than at any time since the Civil Rights movement half-a-century ago.

Barack Obama was swept into power on a tide of unrealisable optimism; hopes rested heavily on his shoulders after eight years of George II and the two unpopular wars he dragged the nation into, and Obama’s colour – coming from a country with such troubled history in that department – was an undoubted selling point that suggested America could finally shake off the toxic legacy of slavery and segregation. There was faith in the future again. When Americans got there, however, the limited extent of the President’s ability to enact the changes he and the country desired when confronted by a Republican-dominated Congress determined to thwart him at every opportunity seemed to highlight the impotence of the American political system. And that should serve as a timely warning to his successor and his myriad mad ideas. The Republicans may have retained control of Congress, but most of them don’t even regard Trump as a genuine Republican; one could argue that has been his ace.

Bernie Sanders was the anti-Trump candidate far more than Hillary Clinton was; the bullish billionaire tapped into the same blue-collar discontent Sanders could have appealed to. Two outsiders versus each other instead of one outsider versus the advocate of the system so detested by great swathes of the electorate would have been a far superior contest, and one I have a feeling Sanders could have won. A proud socialist against a shameless capitalist, both latecomers to the parties they represented – that would have dealt a fatal blow to the professional party machine more than a thousand Brexit’s.

Instead, we now have a President loathed by all but his fanatical supporters, a man whose very presence in the White House is the most telling example of an American political system that can be bought if you have enough bucks in the bank. The old cliché that every American child can grow up to be President in a way that every child can’t grow up to be a king has belatedly been exposed as the myth it always was. If your father is an extremely wealthy man, you’re certainly in with a shout. And JFK would have concurred with that truism.

Kennedy represented more than he ever delivered, and that probably would have been the case even if he had never travelled to Dallas in November 1963; he represented something so positive in the collective imagination, something youthful, regenerative, glamorous, new – a break with the grey old men who governed the nations of the western world, a man who appeared to be in tune with the spirit of the fresh decade he came to power in; and despite the unsavoury stories that have emerged in the fifty-plus years since his murder, that image continues to possess an irresistible allure. By contrast, it’s hard to think of any President in US political history – and I include Nixon and Dubya – who radiates so much negativity as Donald Trump. And yet, conversely, he represents a similarly radical break. This is a rejection of the American party system as well as the final rejection of the Obama era. Yet for all the expected talk of ‘uniting America’, it’s hard to see how somebody so divisive can unite after having alienated so many members of the electorate before even being declared the winner.

Trump’s combative personality and arrogant, unapologetic coarseness is seen by many Americans as a sign of his unvarnished honesty; what you see is what you get. He’s viewed as ‘one of the guys’, somebody you could share a few cans with as you watch the ball-game. He’d be the kind of guy you could go hunting with. Alien as that may seem to European sensibilities, in America it counts for a lot. But Trump’s tasteless braggadocio could be regarded as the same spiel a prize-fighter spews forth during the weigh-in alongside his opponent; having won the fight, his acceptance speech after Clinton conceded was remarkably subdued.

If the election of Donald Trump is the end of the world as we know it, I doubt many would dispute the world as we know it is a pretty bloody awful place, anyway. But it’s the world as we don’t know it that we now face; and God only knows what that’s going to be like.

© The Editor

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12 thoughts on “THE MORNING AFTER

  1. As in Brexit, in Trump we have to deal with what has happened on a suck it and see basis, step by step. At least Americans can throw him out in four years time, whereas Brexit seems irreversible (hence why it should be handled cautiously).

    But a small part of me can’t help going “tee hee hee”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trump? Horrible, narcissist, probably a psychopath. Thus the mirror image of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Both Clinton’s strike me as people who are willing to do and say anything to obtain and hold on to power. So, it’s a competition to choose the least odious. As a sociological phenomenon, it’s fascination. But whatever ill it may bring, it was perhaps worth it just to hear the screams of despair that have echoes out from the BBC…..that is quite funny.

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  3. Just like Brexit-night, throughout the coverage you could almost hear the Beeboids choking on each positive score for Trump – it was almost worth it just for that delight.

    What happens next is the great mystery – despite a Republican Senate and House, it’s unlikely that Trump will carry through on some/most of his more outrageous plans, but that’s normal for all presidencies. All Obama ver achieved was to improve his golf-handicap. The 2020 US election will be even more interesting if it’s Trump Term Two against Mrs Obama (ticking two PC boxes in one candidate) – remember where you read it first.

    Whether we personally agree with Trump’s election or with Brexit, there is a bigger message now being delivered to all the political establishments of Western democracies – through both these opportunities, the previously-ignored voter classes have discovered their voice and the fact that they can actually make a difference. How that new status plays out over the coming years may have far wider consequences than just Trump or Brexit – those events were just milestones on a radical new exercise in voter-action.

    After a few years of that, the establishment may grow to have serious regrets about their previous decades of deaf arrogance.

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  4. Well, of the two equally off-beam candidates in this election, one of them had to win. That was sort-of predictable, wasn’t it?

    In the case of Obama, there was so much hope pinned on his presidency: most of the world believed in his message of ‘change’. Yet the destructive, pointless, carnage in the Middle East not only continued but was escalated. Guantanamo was never closed. And whistle-blowers were more fiercely prosecuted than ever before.

    Of course, any US president has to live with the make-up of the House of Representatives and Senate, which can thwart his election promises. Trump will have a Republican-controlled House and Senate. Even so, there’s no way that President Trump can “bring jobs back to America” — not in significant enough quantities, anyway. What is going to happen when his supporters living in the rust belts discover that?

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  5. on a wider note, there does seem to be “revolution” in the air. I watched a show on Sky on the eve of the election, at about 8 pm. There was a perfectly sensible presenter, and a Republican commentator/pollster and a Democrat pollster/analyst. The Reppublican chap looked a bit weary, a fed shame faced and I sensed that (a) he was not a particular fan of Trump, but loathed the Clintons, and (b) he had been brow beaten into accepting defeat – which was the orthodoxy preached by “MSM”. The Democrat/Clinton representative was rather different. He was about 30-40, young looking, rather chiselled, and very well suited. My instincts (which were kicking in powerfully, and when they do that they tend to be right) was that this man lived in Washington or New York, was probably tea total or all but, jogged and did yoga, and was very fussy about his organic food. I also sensed he was gay. As to the latter I am not in the slightest bothered personally, but there is a point to my observation. This gentleman was extremely confident, strident, even militant. He had that touch of Savanarola about him. The position, he asserted, was quite clear. Clinton would win, and win big. There was no question about it. Trump was being annihilated. He repeated this mantra over and over.
    I wonder what he is thinking this morning.
    My point, I suppose, is that he summed up the Clinton campaign, and to a degree the left all over Europe. That phrase “Metropolitan Elite” is bandies about – but there, in a sense, you had it. The Democrats have become the party of sectional interests: that word “Diverse” popped up in Clinton’s acceptance of the result speech I noticed. So it speaks to you and for you if you are living in Manhattan or San Fransisco, you are gay or trans or whatever, you are an African American, particularly an African American woman, or you attend the IVY League and approve of all of the above but have never actually lived in downtown Detroit.
    In a phrase, detached from vast numbers of “ordinary” Americans who are mildly or wildly racist and fow whom none of those things matter a jot.
    A final word went to the “Latino” at the Trump victory rally, who I heard interviewed. He was very pro Trump. He had invested a great deal of time and money in coming to America, becoming a US Citizen, and doing so legally, he said. he didn’t see why people should do so illegally and mess things up for him. Interesting point.

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    1. Very astute. It’s not only that ‘middle American man’ has been ignored by the political establishment for decades, all those other groups, whether they be black, gay, feminists, disabled etc., have had their own vociferous and well-resourced lobby-groups shouting their causes from the rooftops. The politcos gave too much heed to this mass of minorities in their urge to silence the noise but, in so doing, chose to forget the large majority of ordinary Joes, those white, working, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who number in their many millions but who never had a similar pressure group to push their case.

      Then suddenly, just as with Brexit, along comes Trump, who deliberately alienates all those ‘supported minorities’ and, in so doing, captures the unspoken hurt of the masses, which then magically turns into votes big-time. At last, someone is listening, so Average Joe signals his relief.

      This doesn’t mean that Average Joe hates blacks or gays or the disabled etc., he just wants a fair crack of the whip after decades of seeing undue influence being gained by the rest, due to the misjudgements of the political elite. Mainstream Man is now fully centre-stage for a change – it remains to be seen for how long and to what effect.

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      1. Just a point to Mudplugger and gildas: gay, black and female people count among the ignored, if they are poor. The middle and upper class representatives of those groups may be well represented in what you call the “elites”, but for those of those groups on council estates, who are unemployed, who are sick and disabled, they experience the same senses of rage and frustration as any other Average Joes (who may be white and male or not).

        Also, pressure groups were formed to represent the voices of gays, blacks and women BECAUSE the power structures of the past have been overwhelmingly white and male (sexual proclivities unknown) and was an attempt to distribute power outwards to different groups.

        Unfortunately, that power became restricted to, and remains with, the haves, be they black, female, straight, white, male or gay. The have nots include all the same diverse groups. Divide and rule is the rule of those at the top. We really should not play their game.

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      2. I agree with you – the pressure groups have eventually become an end in themselves, rather than the means from which they originated. But the white, straight, male, tax-paying worker has had no pressure groups at all apparently fighting his corner, hence the belated backlash.

        Personally, I’m delighted that so many disadvantaged individuals have now achieved such progress in how they are regarded and treated by the rest of society, but the issue is one of disproportionality. Fewer than 2% of the UK population are recorded as gay, but you wouldn’t think that from the coverage and noise their ‘agents’ achieve: similarly fewer than 20% of the population are black/brown, but see how the BBC is currently promoting its Black British season – they’ll never do a flattering bullshitting season based on the white, straight worker, will they ?
        That’s the paradox that Trump cracked open – the challenge for the political system now is to recalibrate itself more to reflect those previously-silent masses, rather than just the testy tantrums of the noise-generators, because they now know very clearly that votes, and their own jobs, are at stake.

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      3. Hmmm.. I would only differ with you that “the issue is one of disproportionality”. I believe the true issue ir recognising commonality.

        Ever since the turd that fell out of John Prescott’s mouth that was “we are all middle class now”, the elephant in the room has been class.

        The “working class” has effectively been destroyed – either shunted into low paying administrative/service industry work that needs tax credit top ups and help with housing costs, or left unemployed, or sick, or disabled – all of them effectively a “benefits class”, which is easily demonised and disenfranchised.

        That class is no longer an issue is such bullshit, and all of us who are not in the priveleged tiers should recognise we have more in common than that which separates us, BBC patronising special seasons notwithstanding.

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      4. Again, I agree. But what the special interest groups have been doing is emphasise only ‘difference’ rather than recognising our commonality.
        As a solvent, white, straight male, I have more in common with a black, lesbian, single-parent, disabled benefits-claimant than I do with the upper echelons of the ‘establishment’ and long may that remain the case, but her ‘agents’ are responsible for making it seem that we are further apart by emphasising her differences. (My agents don’t exist.)
        It may be argued, of course, that those agents don’t really want her ‘problems’ ever to be solved because, if they were, there would be no further role for the agents themselves, so they would rather continue to emit more heat than light in order to perpetuate their own self-inflated positions – you may fill in the name of almost any such agency or pressure group here, it fits so many of them.

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  6. I agree with many of the comments above. Of course, my analysis is rather crude, but I think the general point that the Democrats – or the Washington establishment – tend to focus on pressure groups or sectional interests s well made. And yes, many of these can be, obviously, poor and not part of the elite. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but I always found in my erstwhile dealings with London’s “right on” media and communications and “management consultant” elite, that the very “liberal” views of these people were always more than matched by one thing: the absolute love of and belief that they are entitled to, very large amounts of money.

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