Not actually rendered speechless at this end – but aghast at this political event as at no other, not even Brexit.
A good reason for this: it is the most catastrophic political event to hit western polities since World War II and we have seen nothing like it. Catastrophic already in that it confirms the hollowing out and destruction of not one but two parties that have been cornerstones of American democracy for so long, it portends the imminent destruction or disabling of the institutions on the Hill, both Senate and Congress, and the marginalisation – to the point of irrelevance or puppetry – of NGOs and institutions of civil society, including unions, that could provide advocacy and protection for many sections of the population.
In America, where social democracy rarely had more than a foot in the door, that foot is now wholly amputated, not just the toe that had a precarious hold. But the institutions of liberal democracy too, essential to the juggling of sectional interests, are condemned to operate as puppets or be bypassed and discarded altogether.
So: goodbye any remnants or hints of social democracy. So much for liberal democracy too. Hello instead to the Trumpocracy.
We can see already something of what the Trumpocracy is and will amount to, when it matures, from its origins, gestation and birth. It has not been, in spite of Trump’s triumphant claims, anything as choate as a movement that has brought it about. In a way we should be grateful about that. Movements are what Mussolini and Hitler shaped, directed and managed. Right up to the declaration of the results last night, Trump and his followers assembled in New York couldn’t be sure how many were following them or from where. But what Trump hoped and, being a gigantic narcissist, believed most of the time, was that there was probably a majority of Americans of both genders (wrong on women!), all races and even classes out there sufficiently pissed off to respond to his messages of bile and revenge and promises of restitution of fatter (more tax-free) pay packets and greater opportunities to make a buck without government noseymen interfering with how you did it.
Lo and behold, he was right. It’s no consolation for me this morning that I’ve been saying long enough that I thought his opponents, pollsters and the commentariat were underestimating the possibility – at least the real threat of – support that was wider, deeper and more diverse than they were prepared to admit or even imagine. But so it has proved.
One result is that Trump flies off the page of the comic strip as SuperTrump, the progenitor of Trumpocracy, who seeded it in almost blind hope and aspiration (a blindness matched by his followers) and who will now direct and harvest its consequences by a combination of diktat, bombast, generous rewards for acquiescence and bullying and brutal marginalisation where none of the nicer ways of doing things are effective enough. Control of the Senate and House will not require anything as formally well-organised as a party apparatus any more than the cultivation and eruption of his “movement” required all that much by way of organisation on the ground. It will be enough to have key people in control of pivotal positions and procedures on the Hill.
As for the Trumpocrats out there, eager for first fruits: here’s what. Initially incomes can benefit in a number of ways, enough for the folks to feel a whole lost better off. Tax cuts and scrapping regulations on how a guy or a gal makes a buck will see to that, funded by repeal of Obamacare and other expensive trappings that right-thinking Americans of all ethnic groups feel go to ne-er-do-weels. Businesses large and small can be charmed by the same means – and in the case of larger enterprises, compensaton can be provided for a trend already in place to repatriate many jobs in the interests of shortening, and lessening the costs of, supply chains. Plus it will be just great to be able to create lots and lots of new jobs overnight – albeit at unregulated rates in what becomes more and more of a gig economy. As for those, as many as there may be, who complain at the pain (actually lower incomes and greater insecurity in their cases) the answer will be clear and popular among the many who will initially be better off. Stop whingeing, man up especially if you are a woman, stop your buts and get off your butts, prove yourself worthy of inclusion in this latest iteration of a Great America. Signed Donald J Tump Self-Made SuperHero.
None of this, of course, will reverse trends in the USA towards accretion of both wealth and power among the 1 per cent at the expense of the majority of the population. It will change lines of patronage, cronyism and the rest – it won’t erase them and may deepen them in ways that will prove indelible for decades to come. It will alter the interpretations of justice and social justice in particular, and not in any good ways, especially once he gets to work on the membership of the Supreme Court. It will disrupt and undermine international economics, trade and politics immensely: global trade deals goodbye, hello protectionism.
Because of its origins, gestation, birth and progenitor and its immediate effects, Trump is the Name of the Game – Trumpocracy – and gets to call the shots. But I hinted that we can at least be a little grateful that he has not emerged as the Leader of a well-organised movement. What happens not so much if but when many of the voters who supported him become disillusioned in, say, two to three years time? Well, if there are those who have the temerity to show their displeasure and disaffection out on the streets, they can probably be quelled in ways that will satisfy the self-righteous vindictiveness of those who do remain of the faith. The Strong Man may continue to appeal. But disillusion of kinds likely to occur has ways of seeping and spreading.
Where do those scattered, disorganised clumps of disaffected voters turn? Unfortunately, there is no apparent answer to that question. Why not? Because it is the same question that bright Americans, whether Democrats or Republicans, have so signally failed to ask and answer this time round: “What effective and durable political answer is there to the kind of bile, nonsense – and by then neo-cronyism – Trumpocrats serve up?” Given the wreckage of the Party system (our starting conditions as of now) it’s going to be a big ask to get that answer defined and honed to appeal to the (again) inchoate configurations of the disaffected. Which is why we can’t take great cheer from the fact that ultimately Trumpocracy is predicated on stirring such groups into convergent action and, after a few years of this regime, that may not be a trick that can be pulled twice. Given where we have got to, it is hard to see quite what, by way of a more benign message, would work instead. But there’s a niche there for hope. I think.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0