Tue, Nov 8, 2016
Fintan O’Toole – not always correct but always interesting. I probably have a soft spot for him as he came to our school many years ago to do an article on why girls were less supported than boys in our educational system. His book “Ship of Fools” (2009) and “Enough is Enough” (2010) were certainly an entertaining view of why the Irish economy had collapsed. “A History of Ireland in 100 Objects” (2013 compilation of articles about artifacts) and “Irish Times Book of 1916” (2006) were also quirky and interesting bits of literature. I’ll have to see what Miriam Lord’s take on the election results is and maybe add them at future date! They’ll probably be mor “Ireland” related!
Fintan’s article following the selection of Trump as the next USA President, while a bit sensational does give voice to the fears of many. Here are parts of the article (the goya picture I googled and included as I knew nothing about it):
Take down the Stars and Stripes. And raise in its stead the new flag of the United States: an all-white banner with, at its centre, a big fist with the middle finger raised.
The US as we have known it, in all its gilt and glory, has become a giant insult: to women and people of colour, to its continental neighbours and its allies, to its traditions of enlightenment and scientific rationality, to a planet threatened by the climate change he denies, above all to its own intelligence.
The sleep of reason, as Goya put it in the title of a famous etching, brings forth monsters. Who would have thought that the monster would be Donald Trump, such a risible opportunist, a loud-mouthed self-promoter who was as surprised as anyone else to find himself with a serious chance of power and who must this morning be secretly terrified of his own unlikely triumph?
To ask whether this can be real is not a mere expression of immediate shock. For there is a serious sense in which Trump is genuinely unreal. His signature policies – the ones that have swept him to the world’s most powerful office – are pure fantasy or, if they are to be made actual, will require a tearing up of the US constitution.
Mexico will not pay for his impossible wall. His threat of bans or “extreme vetting” for Muslims targets people on religious grounds and undermines one of the founding principles of the US, the separation of church and state. His promise to begin rounding up and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants immediately on taking office will require the creation of a police state and the suspension of normal democratic protections.
The point about all of these policies is that, if Trump is not to become a joke even to his own followers, he has to push these crazy impossibilities over the line from reality TV entertainment to documentary actuality.
This is a New Frontier indeed. Americans used to glory in the thought that there were no limits to their possibilities. Now, that is a very dark thought. Donald Trump inherits a country in which the bounds of possibility have been expanded to include a takeover by a clumsy demagogue, spouting hatred and vulgarity, promising to overturn some of the most basic elements of its constitution and threatening to jail his opponent.
Trump will double down on the hatred
What makes it more thinkable is that Trump will be forced, not to attempt sweet reconciliation, but to double down on the hatred. Why? Because his actual policies, the ones that will be driven by the professional Republican pols in the Congress they will continue to control, and the lobbyists who fund them, will be the policies of the very oligarchy Trump’s supporters have revolted against: tax cuts for the super-wealthy, with attacks on welfare and a further marginalisation of the lost communities who adopted Trump as their saviour.
The core of Trump’s appeal is the belief that he is going to magically bring back the heavy industries and the good union jobs that went with them. To which we can only say: good luck with that. Even if Trump tears up the trade deals he and his followers blame for their plight, how long will it take to recreate the industrial base of the Rust Belt? And given that the biggest cause of the loss of industrial jobs is automation, is Trump going to stop computerised machinery replacing muscle?
But we know what happens when authoritarians are failing, when the waves do not obey the commands of King Donald to retreat. They turn up the hatred and double down on the nationalist rhetoric. They need someone else to blame, some conspiracy that is preventing the great leader from producing the milk and honey.
And Trump has his hate figures all lined up: the mainstream media, the Muslims, the Mexicans. If he runs out, he can and will invent more: educated people (who failed to understand his appeal), scientists (who do not realise that climate change is a fiction invented by the Chinese), feminists (who made such a ridiculous fuss about his misogynistic boasting).
He will fail spectacularly
The more Trump fails – and he will fail spectacularly – the more he will turn up the dial on the blame game.
Will he get away with it? It has to be borne in mind that the Trump movement is already a triumph of perception over reality. It is important, even while we are still in shock, that we get a fix on the Trump phenomenon. It has too often been characterized as a backlash by people who are impoverished, who are competing with immigrants and minorities and who have lost their jobs because of globalisation.
In fact Trumpism is a virtual phenomenon – it is not about actual immigrants or minorities and not really even about an actual experience of trade competition. It’s about these things as tokens of something else – the fear of losing status. And history shows us that this fear is both toxic and potent. President Trump is the creation of the same demographic that gave Europe its far-right authoritarian movements with such disastrous consequences for the world. This does not mean that we are facing an American fascism. (MY COMMENT -TODAY IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF KRISTALLNACHT) But it does mean that Trump will not be able to rule without stoking and manipulating fear. And fear is a highly combustible fuel. It burns up reason, tolerance and sanity.
Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. …..in an era of massive anti-Establishment feeling on both right and left, Clinton, the ultimate Establishment figure who used her public profile to enrich herself, was disastrously out of kilter with the public mood. Even her good qualities could be made to look bad – “experienced” translating as “insider”, resilience looking like the dogged pursuit of power, a command of policy detail feeding the image of a robotic politician, dignity in the face of provocation caricatured as coldness.
Learning the lessons
“America is already great” was not a good reply to Trump’s promise to “make America great again”. America is not all that great right now and Americans know it.
There was always going to be a revolt. America’s tragedy is that it is not a revolt of the poor demanding justice. It is a revolt of a white, male middle America terrified (with good reason) of losing the privileges that once came with being white, male and middle class.
And there will have to be a counter-revolution. There is still another America, an America that will wake up today feeling that it has lost its country. Amid the ruins of the American dream, they will have to wake up to another reality: that the republic they thought they inhabited is not theirs and that, if they want to live in it, they will have to rediscover its most basic value of equality.