Make America Hate Again

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It almost feels like shooting a racist in a barrel, taking aim at Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate for president 2016. He’s a boorish, entitled, non-thinking, vain, preening, loud-mouthed, bullying, hectoring, ill-informed, historically and politically illiterate, ungracious, repetitive, spiritually ugly, self-serving, self-centred, self-aggrandising, self-loving, self-mythologising, showboating, grandstanding, oafish, blinkered, simplistic, dishonest, misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, disablist, xenophobic, misanthropic, reactionary, vicious, voluminous, hate-filled, hate-spewing, inciteful, insightless, uncaring, myopic, deluded, lowest-common-denominator, divisive, simplistic, dangerous, inflammatory, rude, galling, pumped-up, far-right, destructive, deluded, deluding, uncouth, untrustworthy, rogue bad-haired Onanist who used to be on TV, and is now never off the TV. He also used to be a joke. Not any more. He’s now a threat. To – potentially – all of us. He is, after all, a man whose foreign policy is to “bomb the shit out of ISIS”, thinks that the violence he explicitly incites from his bully pulpit is “nothing to do with him” and who actually inferred he had a large penis in a televised debate. And he looks like Donald Trump.

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As you may know, I’m a keen follower of US politics, especially every four years, and if I had a vote, I’d lean to the Democrats. No surprise there. In my bones I know I’d be for Bernie Sanders, the Jeremy Corbyn of the American left. And yet, with Trump in the seemingly unstoppable ascendancy, I think that Hillary Clinton may be commonsense’s only hope. (Although one CNN poll found that Sanders would stand a better chance of beating Trump than Clinton.) It’s literally not up to me. I can only push my nose up against the glass and watch, helpless, as a polarised electorate, alienated from dynastic DC party politics at both ends, decide the fate of a divided nation after, let’s face it, eight pretty disappointing years of emollient talk and executive cool but too little great change from Obama, kneecapped as a Democrat President so often is by a Republican Congress. You win, you lose.

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Enter the reality TV star, so rich (“part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich”) he doesn’t need private donors, already a caricature of himself and thus beyond satire, and apparently on the side of the ordinary working- and middle-class voters who’ve lost their jobs due to the globalised free market waived in by libertarian, deregulating Republican administrations (and allowed to flourish by liberal, not-nearly-regulating-enough Democratic ones). He makes a powerful case to the disenfranchised of those United States: he’s going to stop corporations from upping sticks to China and Mexico if and when he’s President, before building a wall around the place, to stop Muslims coming in, and business going out. It’s a binary way of looking at the world, like Trump is a giant baby mesmerised by the pretty shapes a revolving nightlight projects on the nursery wall, and it’s more than gaining traction with the economically vulnerable. It’s also turning white America against the America of colour (as if the rednecks need any encouragement).

Divide and rule is nothing new. Donald Trump seems so ill-read and ill-versed in history and geopolitics, it’s a terrifying thought that he could ever hold any office outside of an office he already owns. (He’s the kind of American who believes that nothing can’t be bought, including democratic power.) It used to be tee-hee-hee amusing that daft old downhome George W Bush couldn’t name any other world leaders and basically wanted to play golf while he settled some Oedipal family score by being President, but Trump wouldn’t even feel the need to name any other world leaders and would surely wear his ignorance as a badge of honour (he’s “very rich”, you see, that’s the “beauty” of him, so he doesn’t need to memorise names of foreigners because he has no donors to dance for). It would earn him approval points among his desired, non-passport-holding demographic if he started a call-and-response that went: “Who’s stupid and PROUD of it?” “WE are!”

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I’ll say it again, I hardly feel as if I am going out on a limb expressing bemusement, bewilderment and fear at the thought of Trump wielding any kind of jurisdiction outside of a reality TV show, but it’s an unedifying sight either way watching his endless victory speeches and seeing the hatred and violence in the eyes of his supporters. (Some of them have violence in their fists and elbows, too; give these people enough rope and strange fruit will be swinging from a tree.) It seems quaint now that we worried about Nigel Farage in this country – who, on paper, rode the same bandwagon here, appealing to the more purple-faced on the right – as he now feels a bit like a single-issue figure of fun again. One hopes in one’s heart that Trump will fail in his bid to do something that he only really wants to do to see if he can do it. In any event, he would quickly tire of the minutiae of the job by about, ooh, half-ten the morning after he enters the White House. Bored now, what’s next?

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America can be a scary country, with its guns, and its flag, and its belief in God, but for every rally it holds in the name of reductive ethnic stereotyping and baseball-cap fascism, a bunch of protesters will challenge that poisonously antithetical orthodoxy, even risking a remorseless thump in the head for enacting their unalienable right to do so. I’ve just watched the third part of CNN’s fascinating newsreel-based documentary series The Seventies on Sky Arts, headed Peace With Honour, which covered the last, glory-free five years of the Vietnam war, and it made you proud to see so many ordinary Americans, from students to veterans, protesting Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia and other outrages, literally risking life and limb in the process. Let us think of the United States as a nation of questioning, constitutional dissent. What Trump is whipping up is not dissent, it is fear. The only questions he asks are ones to which he has a pre-prepared answer. “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?”

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Simon Heffer has written a good piece from on the ground in the New Statesman about the Trump effect, and he rightly points the finger at Obama for the shortfall between his “elevated rhetoric” and the “lower reality”. He also noted that America is “an unhappy nation.” The cards are stacked in favour of a no-nonsense (or so the disillusioned think) demagogue who promises to fix the problem. He also reminds us that Trump “is not a politician … [he] has never served in the military or held political office.” He’s the sort of golf-club bore most of us would edge away from in a bar, but we’re not everybody in America. Desperate times – and for millions they are fucking desperate – require desperate candidates.

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4 thoughts on “Make America Hate Again

  1. I’m feeling like the reality of his potential candidacy is finally sinking it and I’m shifting from being bemused to terrified. Not just at Trump, but at the reaction in this country; ‘That Donald Trump isn’t a nice guy – he wants to build a massive wall’ seems to be about the level of understanding if my peer group is anything to go by.

    I, like you, am a keen follower of US politics and I know just how much rhetoric and hyperbole is thrown around even when we are in the 6 month period just after an inauguration when the last election is over and we’re not quite ready to talk about the next one yet.

    In the UK, Labour is focusing too much on 2020. We are only in 2016. We have four more years of Tory rule and we need to think about more than winning a general election. We need to look at what is happening now.

    The situation in the US is even worse – there is a constant cycle of election coverage on bias news channels. That we have so many debates before the actual election itself, the process itself is what is killing democracy and enabling Trump. People are tired of the same old same old and Trump offers them an alternative, a loud shouty man who says offensive things and is funny to look at. He also has a catch-phrase which has become common parlance – although I think that we might need to change the second half to a six letter word should he get the keys to the oval office.

    There is nothing to Trump, no substance and that is why the attacks don’t hurt him. There is nothing to attack. It’s like trying to punch a hologram. Your hand will go straight through and you’ll just end up hitting the wall behind and breaking your wrist whilst he carries on as if nothing has happened.

    He is so offensive, so abrasive, his language so violent, his entire image so ridiculous that it is beyond satire. Any kind of sustained attack (like that of John Oliver) will be dismissed by his supporters as a ‘left wing conspiracy’ because he has taken on demigod status. The ultimate representation of capitalist success in the Capitalist Capital of the world. Namely; a man who got a large inheritance which he then invested in a series of failed businesses but still made enough money to make himself look fair richer than he is thereby becoming a figurehead for the worst parts of the American dream. All the debauchery and debasement of Fear and Loathing but on a massive stage in front of a large and adoring audience.

    People are desperate for someone to whom they can look up with adoration and admiration. Someone who projects the notion that everyone can make it if only they work hard enough. Fulfilling a deluded fantasy about how the world and economics works.

    It’s the same reason why people are historically drawn to religious leaders, psychics, to motivation speakers – anyone who offers them a better life, who promises that all of us are equally entitled to salvation/ eternal happiness/ a shitload of cash and that all we need to do is give them our support and do what they tell us and it will all be ours.

    As a species we are fundamentally selfish – even if we don’t realise it.

  2. Imagine we pull out of Europe and Boris Johnson becomes PM and Donald Trump becomes president. This second sentence is just here to urge everyone to read the first one again.

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