Friday, 8 April 2016

Why I'm backing Donald Trump

Joking! Joking. Almost, anyway.

In some sort of extended corollary of Godwin's Law, every blogger eventually gets drawn in to the phenomenon that is Donald Trump: surely the most extraordinary event in America, if not the world, this year. But once we've overcome the incredulous outrage he generates, or at least put it to one side: what does the phenomenon mean?

That he represents a kind of backwash to Obama's America is becoming a commonplace, and no less true for that. A formerly dominant slice of American culture - white, male, relatively uneducated, relatively rural - which has been seeing both its social privileges and its economic position steadily eroded for two or three generations, has been nursing various kinds of legitimate and illegitimate anger for much of that time but has not managed to find satisfactory ways of expressing it. There have been constructive ways of doing so, and real political victories along the way, but none that have changed that underlying trajectory. Obama's election does seem to have turbocharged that anger - both by making government seem alien in a way it had not seemed to white Americans before,and by emphasising that the opposing coalition really could win. And he won by beating two of the most constructive, moderate and appealing figures Republican politics could offer, McCain and Romney - who lost partly because they had had to contort themselves out of that moderation in order to secure their party's nomination.

So it sort of makes sense that this burgeoning, nameless rage should now finally express itself in an irrational howl. It's time for a section of white America's id to be heard, and Mr Trump's remarkable skill has been to be its ventriloquist. No one else could do it this way, but in any other year he would have made no progress at all.

Most of the non-Trump world is focusing on immediate and practical questions like, how to stop him, and how, if at all, the Republican Party can rebuild itself after this eruption. But it's not generally good to respond to seismic political change by wishing it will go away and normal service will resume.

I think the key question is how to get America through this moment without suffering long-term harm - and preferably, to allow Trump to act as a sort of scapegoat or sin-eater, who can concentrate the poison of American politics in his person and take it into the wilderness with him. 

So, while I appreciate why so many Republicans want to block him at the convention (and it now looks like they may succeed), I sort of hope they fail. If he is blocked the long-term damage may be severe: a large section of the Republican Party will feel that its democratic will has been thwarted, and that if only its candidate had run it would have triumphed. It will not be reconciled to the new order. Not even if, highly implausibly, a Republican candidate who emerges from that train-wreck of a process goes on to win. This is obviously a problem for the Republican party, but it's also a problem for the republic as a whole.

Whereas a Trump candidacy which is really, thoroughly, soundly walloped in the general election could achieve what nothing else could: getting through to that agonised, disempowered chunk of the American electorate that, for good or for ill, the old days are OVER. If as stumbling and flawed an embodiment of America's ego as Hillary Clinton can beat the most fluent and articulate embodiment of its id, that should not be an experiment that anyone will want to repeat. And indeed, I would bet that in retrospect, the Trump candidacy will seem grotesque and shameful to many of those who will deny that they were ever caught up in it. With luck, Trump's electorate could start demanding that politicians of both parties actually address their problems.

It is just the tiny, tiny risk that a Trump candidacy might not end in defeat that gives me pause.

1 comment:

  1. "The only achievements of the American neoconservatives are to destroy in war crimes millions of peoples in eight countries and to send the remnant populations fleeing into Europe as refugees, thus undermining the American puppet governments there, and to set back the chances of world peace and American leadership by creating a powerful strategic alliance between Russia and China.

    This boils down to extraordinary failure. It is time to hold the neoconservatives accountable, not elect another puppet for them to manipulate."