Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Reasons to be cheerful, part 99

Post the US election: another instalment of what appears to be becoming a regular service. Since my immediate instinct is to regard this as, without exaggeration, the most frightening public event of my entire life, I am having to dig deep. Still, if you want a dose of optimism, here's the best I can currently do.

1. It won't be as bad as we fear - and I can prove it. Those of us in the liberal elite have proved, over the past two or more years, that we are entirely unable to predict any political processes of any kind. And this one could scarcely turn out worse than we fear. Ergo, it will be better. QED.

2. I am, just about, old enough to remember the last time there was this much fear after a US presidential election: 1980, when there was a widely held view that the Americans had elected a crazy warmonger who was going to kill us all. I am not trying to defend every aspect of Ronald Reagan's policies, which were at times both callous and reckless, but it is fair to say that he turned out better than we feared. Yes, I know he had vastly more political experience, and policy coherence, than Mr Trump. I'm doing my best here.

3. It was a clean result. No hanging chads, no birtherism: no-one is going to be contesting the legitimacy of the outcome as such. There's a little piece of the civilised world's fabric that won't be further damaged.

4. America still hates dynasties and turn-takers. Not since 1988 have the voters chosen the presidential candidate who thought it was their time. Remember a year ago when the smart money said we'd be looking at a Bush v. Clinton re-run? It's now up to the Democrats to produce some real presidential candidates for next time.

5. Demography isn't destiny. To be clear: I am, ahem, discouraged that a candidate who was so blatantly indulgent towards white supremacists and who seemed to embody racist assumptions so effortlessly could have won. (Although this is hardly a first in American history.) But I am not a great deal more encouraged by the Democratic campaign which seemed to focus on mobilising identity groups rather than offering a vision for the country. You can't just build up blocks of voters and take them for granted on the basis that your opponent is repulsive. From what I am hearing, Trump won a larger share of Hispanic voters than Romney did. If that's true, I am kind of mystified but also kind of cheered by it. Democrats can't simply, as they sometimes seem inclined to, wait for the old white folks to die and the Hispanics to have kids, and let the victories roll in.

6. After eight years of opposition and obstructionism from Republicans, it will be good for them, at least, to have to try to work out how to govern again. Either they will complete the self-destruct process as a party that they've been engaged on, in which case the mid-terms in 2018 will have consequences for them. Or they will find a way of making it work, in which case the US will have second functioning political party back.

7. Syriza. Brexit. The SNP. Podesta (the Spanish political party, not the Clinton staffer). M5S in Italy. Bernie. Corbyn. Thaksin Shinawatra, if you want to push it. Now Trump. ... At the risk of jumping to conclusions, could it be that voters are trying to tell us something? Yes, I know that the question is what. But surely now, at last, it is impossible to continue believing that merely defending a late 20th century politico-economic status quo is good enough?

Of course, if you happen to come up with anything which is better and which will actually work, do let the rest of us know.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks--this is great. The only thing I can add (some months later, admittedly) is that most people who cast ballots voted against Trump. He received just under 63 million votes (roughly 46%) nationwide, Clinton just under 66 million, and 7 million voted for a candidate other than Trump or Clinton. Because of the Electoral College, the popular vote isn't consequential in a practical sense but for those concerned that this is the beginning of a new era of darkness in the American soul, it is worth remembering that the new president lost the popular vote 54-46, which is a significant margin. Fewer people voted for Trump than for Mitt Romney, for heaven's sake.