For the first few seconds I thought – that was a crazy dream! Trump? President?
It was 1.18am – I’d gone to sleep around 10. Now I was awake. I didn’t want to but I was drawn to Twitter, then Facebook. Where I read two things that crystallise my thinking and two other things that also help:
First this – from Clare Curran MP
“Tonight is America’s Brexit. I did not wish for Trump to be President. But I absolutely accept that people have voted him in. This is democracy. Those who voted for Trump are not bad people and should not be vilified. So many people are frightened, confused and angered by the world and by this thing called politics that for most people is so removed from their lives and their ability to have influence. Tonight’s outcome in the US, following the UK Brexit vote in June to exit the European Union is a huge wake-up call for all those who are elected and all those who work in public service and are therefore considered the “political class”.
I am personally confronted by tonight’s US election result. I believe all politicians should be.”
– to which I responded “Codswallop, Clare”, partly because that was my overwhelming emotional response to her sentiments, and partly because I had also read this post:
“That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.
In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “
So I recommended to Clare Curran and her fellow appeasers that they read Remnick’s article, which is glorious. I wrote:
“Codswallop Clare. You’re normalising a tragedy here. If Trump voters were frightened, confused and angry, they were made that way by a man who had no compunction to lie, to bully and to enable their most uncivilised impulses. This wasn’t Brexit – this was a deliberate decision by a persuasive narcissist to say whatever worked, no matter how true, no matter what the cost. Trump made a mob. It’s not just what you call the political classes who are at risk from this – it’s people anywhere who think for a living and try to make sense of the world as it really is. Read this http://www.newyorker.com/…/an-american-tragedy-donald…and remember Hitler was elected too – and normalised at first.”
So that felt good. My moral compass returned.
I realised how fortunate I was to have read Sapiens and watched Hypernormalisation and Before the Flood in the last few weeks, so I had an alternative frame of reference for this debacle. What would I have thought otherwise? That we needed to give Trump a chance to prove himself? I think we know exactly who he is.
Here’s something that New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote. [The last thing I’d read of his had asserted that people from his native Michigan would never elect Trump – so yeah – at least he’s back in the arena.]
He said this well though – and I agree:
Trump does not represent the future. He only barely represents its present. His party controls all three branches in large part because its voters are overrepresented in the House, the Senate, and the Electoral College. He represents a rage against the direction of America they have no way of stopping [my bold]. Even a complete halt to all of illegal immigration and a total deportation of every undocumented immigrant will not prevent the growth of nonwhites into an eventual majority. Republicans are increasingly focused on voter suppression and other anti-democratic measures to allow their shrinking cohort to rule. Trump is the perfect champion of their project.
What of the future?
The final comment I read before returning to the land of dreams, was from Philip, one of my Facebook friends, who wrote:
I really don’t know what the future holds. Or maybe I just don’t want to.
What has happened is that the range of possible futures we might have envisaged just shifted and also expanded – just as it did after 9/11. It was already quite a wide range. It’s again big enough to include nuclear annihilation, internment camps, the end of the American Empire and habitat-destroying climate change.
The success of Trump’s deliberate falsification strategy will embolden more would-be oligarchs and demagogues to try mass manipulation. It will deeply challenge people who strive to see the world as it really is – and communicate that reality to others.
That’s why I’m putting this ‘Sunday’ newsletter out today. The Emperor has no clothes and I don’t want to begin imagining that he does.
How to De-Normalise Trump
Here’s a few simple recommendations:
- Don’t start any sentence about Trump with the words: “At least he . . .“
- Don’t wait for 100 days to elapse before making up your mind. No honeymoons for this guy.
- Subscribe to, support or join any organisation that offers some oversight of the US government’s activities and treatment of its citizens – and of your own country for that matter.
- Face reality yourself – get out of your own bubble. There may be no ultimate truth to be known, and clearly some of our information-gathering tools have huge limitations [I’m looking at you opinion polls] But it’s more important than ever to question why you see the world as you do and to make your biases explicit.
- Scrupulously observe other people’s rights to quietly live their lives, but call out codswallop wherever you see it, because it festers in dark places.
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