Well, what a relief! We celebrated last night with a bottle of champagne. It wasn’t quite the delirious occasion that Obama’s first victory was (I was in Kentucky then); but that turned out to be a little disappointing in the end – not entirely his fault – and in the meantime we’ve had the nightmare of four years of Trumpism to measure any success against. And whatever our doubts about how transformative a Biden-Harris administration can be, we should be allowed our little moment of naïve optimism in the meantime. When the effects of the champagne wear off, we can return to the struggle. Or rather, the Americans can.
Except it’s not just their victory, is it? Apart from almost the whole world seeming to rejoice in the result – my own predominant image of the USA, which I know well, has changed overnight, from den of iniquity to shining city on the hill (almost) – it also has practical resonances for us. For America was not alone in its ‘Trumpism’, although the populist nationalism that he represented took different forms in different countries. In Britain of course it was ‘Brexit’, represented by the clown Boris and the snake Nigel; both of whom – Nigel especially – have been cosying up to Trump in recent years. He had his admirers in Turkey, Hungary, Israel and even Sweden too. In all those countries (except Sweden) a version of Trumpism has been the dominant power in politics. Rupert Murdoch – the owner of Fox News, the main propaganda agency of Trumpism in America – has his fingers in many other national political pies, including of course Britain’s. How this will affect them is hard to predict as yet. Farage will lose the £10,000 he wagered on a Trump victory. (What odds did he get, I wonder?) Murdoch is apparently rowing back on his support for Trump – as of course the vile old opportunist always does when he sees one of his stocks going down. (He did the same with the British Tories in 1997.) Fox News earned the ire of Trump by confirming his defeat in Arizona early. Bibi Netanyahu was apparently the last international statesperson to congratulate Biden formally on his victory, and most Israeli commentators expect the latter to take a different line on, for example, Israeli settlements and Palestine. Boris Johnson has sailed too close to Trump’s slipstream – Biden has referred to him as the ‘British Trump’ – to make it easy for him to tack over to the new dispensation. A Brexit-compensating trade deal with America is widely thought to be less likely than it was under Trump in view of the part-Irish Biden’s openly expressed concern for its impact on the Good Friday agreement. I wouldn’t like to speculate on the election’s relevance for Turkey and Hungary. I just don’t know enough about them.
I don’t know enough about America, either, despite longish periods living there, to feel qualified to add to the commentary on the effect and significance of these events there, beyond what American critics have already provided in abundance. All I can contribute is a bit of context. First of all is the observation (again) that Trumpism is – was – not only an American phenomenon, but part of an international reaction, based on genuine but only partially formulated and understood grievances, fuelled by ignorance and stupidity and exploited by unscrupulous elites. Secondly I’d suggest that underneath all this lies – here comes the ideology – the inexorable historical self-destructive decline of capitalism, just as our old friend Marx foretold, although in forms he could not possibly have predicted. (Trump personified late, corrupt capitalism to a T.) Whether Biden’s glorious victory can slow or reverse this trend remains to be seen. I fervently hope so; but not with any great confidence. Even if the Donald can be dragged kicking and screaming out of the White House next January, Trumpism’s not going to disappear, is it? In the meantime, thank you so much America, for reviving your foreign friends’ hopes; for a while at least.
I find it odd that the official blog site of the London Review of Books has nothing about the aftermath of the most important election in living memory.
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“Even if the Donald can be dragged kicking and screaming out of the White House next January, Trumpism’s not going to disappear, is it?”
The particular political elements of Trumpism will not disappear: white nationalism, anti-intellectualism, climate change denial, low taxes for the rich, etc. However, the Trump cult is underpinned by the sui generis figure of Trump himself; and I suspect that when he is gone, he will not be adequately replaced. Though many will try. No-one was able to take over from Mao after he expired; and the Mao cult withered very quickly; ditto for Hitler and Stalin. It is hard to see Trump’s successor as leader of the Republican Party drawing 70 million to the polls.
Trump was a long time in the making, and the social milieu from which he emerged has disintegrated. I think and hope that the old saying, ‘They don’t make them like that any more,’ applies to Trump.
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