There were those who thought we’d go out with a bang. There were those who thought it would stop, not with a bang but a whimper – but no-one before the year two-nought-sixteen ever thought the end of the world was going to be funny. That all being said, all conceivable credit must go to Mr Donald J. Trump. Not Huey-Long, McCarthy, Nixon, Andrew Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest – no-one in the long catalogue of the illegal or consciously homicidal in American politics has succeeded in ever being both brazen and popular at the same time.
For American pundits and well-foundationed opinion journalists, it has been a never ceasing source of wonder, worthy of comment, that he can say anything and still be popular. As of this moment, Trump has promised to bring back waterboarding (because ‘even if it doesn’t work, they deserve it’), has caricatured every minority on the face of the earth (with the exception of the KKK), “warned of” national violence if he is denied the Republican nomination and on the 26th March refused to rule out going to war with China. But the successes of a man who has swept across the GOP field like wildfire, whilst being burned in effigy from Puebla to Monterrey, is not a miracle but instead speaks to something fundamental in the 21st century American experience.
That all being said, all conceivable credit must go to Mr Donald J. Trump. Not Huey-Long, McCarthy, Nixon, Andrew Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest – no-one in the long catalogue of the illegal or consciously homicidal in American politics has succeeded in ever being both brazen and popular at the same time.
America may be at this point in time reasonably described as ‘Two Nations under God’. The difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties is not the difference between two opposing platforms, but between two distinct debates. Nowhere is this more evident than in the CNN, ABC, MSNBC and Fox party debates themselves. Two antithetical world views exist in each party. Democratic candidates were asked by news reporters about their stance of global warming one week, and the same network [CNN] failed to correct or factcheck Carly Fiorina’s misleading description of a video she falsely claimed showed Planned Parenthood doctors harvesting the ‘still-beating’ organs of a ‘fully formed foetus’, the next. Compelling stuff if it were true, but it’s not. At this time it is the accepted GOP consensus that because ‘it’s really cold outside’, climate change is fiction, and none of the current contenders for the Republican nomination consider it to be a threat to America.
This hits home hard, because on the 22nd March a 52 page study, written by 19 of the worlds leading climate scientists, including James Hansen formerly of NASA, who first brought the world’s attention to the dangers of global warming in 1988, was published. While editorial pressure forced the phrase ‘highly dangerous’ to be dropped from the article’s title, in amongst warnings of unprecedented storms capable of hurling boulders from the seabed onto ‘coastal ridges’ (and suchlike sober compound-nouns that scientists like to employ when describing Armageddon) the article concluded that a mere 2 degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial temperatures would result in: ‘Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms’. To style the Republican Party as fiddling while Rome burns doesn’t quite cut it.
At this time it is the accepted GOP consensus that because ‘it’s really cold outside’, climate change is fiction, and none of the current contenders for the Republican nomination consider it to be a threat to America.
What is shocking and, tragically, modern to the post Tea-Party GOP is the reaction en-masse against discernible scientific fact. President George W. Bush, fondly remembered for his slippery relationship with oil and foreign places, nevertheless signed an executive order that [necessitated voluntary] gasoline reduction by 20% over 10 years. Did nothing, never meant to do nothing, but Bush’s cabinet recognised that global warming was a hot topic political issue that deserved to have lip service paid to it.
Trump and Clinton, the front runners and prospective nominees, are both trying to bridge the vault between their political base and the desirable centre. This has always been so, of course. In America’s two party system the future nominee must appear to be a messianic scion for their party, before turning out to be a very reasonable, sober firm-hand-on-the-tiller for the country. But the problem most previous politicians have faced is a gulf in ideology rather than a fundamental disparity in understanding. The way each is approaching the problem is as different as the candidates themselves. Trump’s answer, and this is the root of the comedy, has been to fight fire with fire. The pink-skinned, silver-tongued Prince for ‘the poorly educated’ has succeeded in cutting up Republican politicians & pundits alike on the Right hand side. If Hilary Clinton is the well-formed, parcel-packaged product of nigh five hundred years of Machiavellian policy with a dash of Realpolitik and a doctorate in the sad necessity of hard choices, think of Trump instead as Richard III. A bloated aristocrat – masquerading as a strongman – determined to upstage all competitors, seize the spotlight, simply by advertising his premeditated crimes.
But the problem most previous politicians have faced is a gulf in ideology rather than a fundamental disparity in understanding. The way each is approaching the problem is as different as the candidates themselves. Trump’s answer, and this is the root of the comedy, has been to fight fire with fire.
A lot has been said of Trump’s insincerity and there is more than a little truth in these perceptions. Many of the candidate’s public policies are the exact obverse of the egomaniac’s private beliefs. Now ‘very pro-life’, he has publicly stated he was ‘very pro-choice’. During a recent interview Trump called Hilary Clinton ‘the worst Secretary of State in the history of our nation’, yet he has historically praised the job she did as ‘terrific’. He called, from the stump, for the GOP to ‘toughen up’ on Obamacare, calling it ‘a total lie’ and ‘total and complete disaster’ despite previously claiming ‘I’m a liberal on healthcare’ and ‘we have to take care of people who are sick’.
For the Republican establishment, this is all anathema. Citizens United was designed to put Democracy out of its misery, and repeated blows from the anodyne or irrational media [no names] were designed to keep the American population riled up, or dumbed down depending on your poison. But the genie’s out the bottle and Trump’s chased, stuffed and mounted the democratic dragon. The effect of eight years of climate denial, heavily politicised news reporting and racial bias reminiscent of the Richmond Enquirer’s, is that half the voting population of America think that the existential threat to the country is Mexico. Or Isis. Or ‘Ebola on the backs of Isis’ which ‘could come through our [Southern] border’ and I promise you I didn’t make that stuff up.
The conclusion? One definition of Democracy is that you get the President that you deserve.