Well, the day has come. I’ll be watching the inauguration on the telly with a couple of friends and fortified, hopefully to blessed oblivion, by a bottle or two (or three) of cheap French wine.
Who could have foreseen it? Yes, the crisis of unregulated global capitalism, possibly its ultimate one – a number of us predicted that, going right back to the blessed Karl. But not a crisis with someone like the Donald, and his cabinet of gross capitalists, as its main political beneficiaries. That’s an irony too far.
Historically there’s no close precedent – unless it’s Caligula’s horse. Reagan isn’t one: an extreme free trader, which Trump isn’t, and with a great deal of political experience before becoming President. I suppose ‘showmanship’ is the main similarity between them, and the thing that makes this a characteristically American phenomenon: BT Barnum, Hollywood, et al.
Another big difference is the extent and persistence of opposition to Trump both in the US – amongst the sizeable majority who voted against him, we must remember – and everywhere else in the world outside Russia. (Putin’s support for him is understandable, I think, not only or mainly because they’re both reactionaries and ‘dictators’, but because Trump says he wants to bring an end to the often paranoid and always dangerous hostility between their two countries which has blighted international politics for the past 70 years.) In Britain you can find hardly anyone who has a good word to say about Trump, at least publicly, apart from the ridiculous Farage and Gove. On a discussion programme on TV last night no-one in the audience raised a hand in his support. Anti-Trumpism is not only the dominant discourse in the UK, but a near-universal one.
Will this make any difference to his presidency? You would have thought it ought to – to make him pause before grabbing the nation’s pussy – but there’s been little sign of this so far. His inauguration speech will have been penned by others, I guess, and so coated with a statesmanlike veneer. If on the other hand it’s anything like his campaign speeches – ‘me me me’, mocking ‘losers’, thin-skinned, and with all those rhetorical gestures: the outspread arms, jutting jaw, pointy fingers, ‘believe me’s’ and so on – we should probably dive for cover straight away. Or, if we’re more sanguine, wait a while for him to plunge down in flames before long, through impeachment – there must be some financial as well as sexual scandals to be unearthed – or (God forbid) assassination at the hands of a gun owner: the true ‘American way’.
The atmospherics here across the waters were chilling for this citizen observer. Hulking, fist raised, cataloging campaign points, the bully boy in action–the particular word stressed and restated.. “American carnage” indeed.
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