Out walking with a friend the day after the US Presidential Election, a huge boom could be heard in the distance, probably from some industrial machinery. ‘Sounds like Trump’s already pressed the red button,’ I quipped. Had I been in company less prone to laughing at the world and prone to taking every external event as a personal insult, my friend could well have burst into tears. Thankfully, I tend not to have friends like that, though there’s no shortage of such reactions at the moment. It’s fair to say the response both online and on streets to Donald Trump’s triumph in the early hours of Wednesday morning has bordered on hysteria. For those who have a different cause to promote on social media with their customary blend of bullying and blackmail every week, the result was a Godsend.
Oblivious to the climate they created that has facilitated the rise of a Trump figure, the humourless, sanctimonious and self-righteous elements within the left have expressed their outrage in numerous predictable ways. The teenybopper worship of Obama that conveniently overlooks his role as a sponsor of random drone slaughter has resurfaced on both sides of the Atlantic in the last 48 hours as means of coping with events, though some have gone a little further. Reminiscent of the Guardian’s condescending ‘Letter to America’ that lectured the US electorate on why they shouldn’t vote for George Bush in 2004, someone has even apparently petitioned Parliament here to rerun the whole horror show until ‘we’ get the result ‘we’ want. Perhaps they’ve given up on demanding a second EU Referendum now that something even more contrary to their immovable worldview has grabbed centre-stage?
From the unbalanced screeching on this week’s ‘Question Time’, which implied Clinton lost because she has a vagina, to the Millennials waving placards outside Trump Tower, the apocalyptic outcome was precisely what the doctor ordered – just as fundamentalist Christians in the US Bible Belt actively pray for Armageddon, the Day of Judgement that can’t come soon enough. Not only does it demonstrate a frightening inflexibility and absolute refusal to accept that people without a university education and wealthy parents to fund it are capable of putting a cross on a ballot paper, but it imbues the office of the Presidency with the kind of assumed clout it hasn’t had for decades.
For all Donald Trump’s mad crowd-pleasing promises during the campaign, having won the keys to power he will probably struggle to implement even the most modest of improvements to the lives of US citizens. When America chose to make Head of State and Head of Government the same person, the aim was to distinguish between the British system of King on one hand and Prime Minister on the other; but the role of the President appears to have leaned more and more towards being a constitutional monarch in all-but name in recent years. The well-oiled corporate security machine that runs the USA requires a face to front it, whether black, white or orange, so the changing of the guard every four years is solely staged because people like the comfortable familiarity of a personality nominally in charge of a system that doesn’t actually need him.
The divisive bitterness that characterised the campaign, both between the opposing candidates and within the two parties over the far-from overwhelming endorsement the eventual nominees received, will not now suddenly evaporate just because all votes have been counted. As we have seen here in the months following Brexit, losers don’t always accept defeat with good grace; and one only has to cast one’s mind back to the 2000 Presidential Election and the ‘hanging chads’ controversy to remember how these things can drag on. It’s a sad fact, but the reaction of certain sections of the left to this result serves to highlight their inability to come up with a plausible alternative; in a sense, stamping their feet and screaming ‘Not my President’ is a wilful denial of their own failure. If Trump’s not your President, who is?
As was pointed out in the comments that accompanied the previous post, the conscious neglect of so many sections of society over the last 20-25 years and singling out ‘prioritised minorities’ as special cases rather than bracketing them in the economic demographic most actually share with the supposed white working-class heterosexual enemy has played directly into the hands of the divide-and-rule right, who are secure in their position as long as plebs of all colour, creed, gender and sexuality are busy fighting each other rather than joining forces to channel their anger in the direction of the real powers-that-be in either Washington or Westminster. The more the left blame the ills of the world on a catalogue of ‘isms’ instead of getting their act together and genuinely speaking to everyone who has suffered from the policies of governments, regardless of skin colour or bedtime choices, the more actual change for the benefit of everybody will remain an idealistic and unrealisable pipedream.
LEONARD COHEN (1934-2016)
A week wouldn’t be a proper week this year without yet another notable name to add to 2016’s roll-call of the deceased. Today it’s the turn of Leonard Cohen, a poet who turned to music because he was fortunate to find himself in an age when the poetic arsenal acquired an acoustic guitar. However critically and, at times, commercially successful he became as a singer (and at a relatively late age compared to the other bedsit troubadours at the end of the 60s), it was the strength of his songs, and often what other musicians went on to do with them, that will remain his real legacy.
Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ is one of the outstanding performances on record of the last thirty years, yet Cohen himself was shrewd enough to progress from the minimalist simplicity of his breakthrough albums and embrace numerous varied musical genres that continued to mark him out as a refreshingly restless spirit in the same vein as his fellow Canadians, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. His fairly limited vocal range wasn’t to everyone’s taste, yet he seems to have stayed on the ‘cool’ cult list throughout his fifty years as a recording artist, which can’t be said of many of his contemporaries.
Cohen’s grounding in an artistic landscape that encompassed far more than merely rifling through ‘Classic Rock Albums You Have to Hear before You Die’ for inspiration gave him a wider breadth and depth of vision as an artist than is commonly the case today. The level of literary and religious references that pepper his lyrics show he was an erudite individual of intelligence and substance, something that would disqualify him from entering the musical arena in the twenty-first century, let alone finding an audience willing to delve deeper for their entertainment. He came from an altogether different era, but even an era devoid of his kind of talent can still access it now he’s gone; and that’s something, I guess.
© The Editor