So, the newly elected president of the US of A has given his first TV interview, vowing to deport 3 million ‘criminal’ migrants, while also taking to Twitter to lambast the New York Times for their BAD (his capitals, not mine) coverage of him.
was what Tim Barber of Canada 2020, a Canadian liberal thinktank, said in April after Donald Trump became the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination. “Surely he can’t win the nomination”, people said at the time and then: “surely, he can’t win.”
If things were really scary back then, they are positively terrifying now.
A totalitarian phony and deceitful dilettante has managed to get elected to the US presidency.
A man who is not exactly known for being rational or moderate will soon be handed the nuclear codes. Or, as Barack Obama put it before the election:
If somebody starts tweeting at three in the morning because SNL made fun of you, then you can’t handle the nuclear codes.
This is indeed, as Carsten Luther puts it in German newspaper DIE ZEIT,
an epochal disaster that won’t just change his vast country and its democracy for many years to come. The entire world will feel the effects of this aberration.
Trump’s Cabinet (of horrors)
When not appearing on television, repeating his pledge to build a wall – or at least a fence – on the border with Mexico, the president elect appears to be holed up in his tower, working out his strategy and which jobs to give to whom.
Two top jobs have already been filled; White House Chief of Staff went to Reince Preibus, a “fixture in Washington and Wisconsin politics since the mid-2000s” who “throughout Trump’s chaotic and divisive campaign…served as his diplomat to senior Republicans and donors” – so far so good.
The other appointment tells a different and much darker story: Steve Bannon, head of the Trump campaign, has been named “chief strategist and senior counselor”. Bannon, “a former Goldman Sachs executive… has in recent years headed Breitbart News, which has been accused by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of antisemitism, and whose stories regularly traffic in racist and sexist stereotypes and conspiracy theories.”
Then there is vice president Mike Pence, “a prominent conservative figure in battles over marriage equality and equal rights in the last decade” – and not in a good way. Quote Pence in a speech opposing gay marriage:
societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.
Newsflash, Mike; it does indeed look as though we’re heading for societal collapse but, unsurprisingly, it’s not the LGBT community who brought it about.
The list of other potential appointees is no less daunting. In includes Sarah Palin for Home Secretary and Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie for attorney general. Neither of them seem like a great idea. Guiliani, apart from “frequently offer[ing] prejudgments about criminal guilt on the part of Hillary Clinton,” once appeared – with Trump himself – in this horrendous video (spoiler: Guiliani is the guy in drag).
The not-so-Supreme Court?
And as for the Supreme Court which should “the ultimate restraint”:
That body has a vacancy, ready to be filled by the next president. Trump can nominate a pliant judge and the Senate will be unlikely to resist… He could have the numbers to overturn Roe v Wade, the ruling that gives women abortion rights; to further entrench so-called gun rights, reducing what few restrictions currently exist (he has proposed that schoolteachers be armed).
Trump has already made it clear that the Court will be pro-life and that he will keep”his promise to name a Supreme Court justice who opposed abortion rights and would help overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized them.”
It probably won’t be okay
There are people saying that it will be okay, that Trump will moderate when in office, or that he will get frustrated quickly but the day-to-day grind of politics and not last very long. They may take his latest apparent softening on Obamacare as a sign that this is already happening, that he won’t deliver – or won’t be able to deliver – on his most obnoxious and dangerous campaign promises. The Independent here has a round-up of everything Trump promised during his campaign that may not happen after all.
However, consider for a moment Jonathan Freedland’s view of things, who points out that not only did Trump never moderate during his campaign as many expected he would, but also that the Republicans have not only won the presidency but also the House of Representatives and the US Senate and that “that gives Trump enormous power, a strength that has eluded most of his predecessors.”
What is more, recent events in Europe don’t bode well for what the world is going to look like in the not too distant future. Brexit, the rise of the Front National in France, UKIP in the UK, and the AfD in Germany. After everything that’s happened recently – and is continuing to happen – are we really confident that the people of France and Germany are going to choose any more wisely in their elections than the US and Britain have done? Marine Le Pen for one seems convinced that she can be the next French president now that Trump has won the White House. We may be inclined to say that ‘she can’t possibly win’ but…
Bye-bye climate deal, hello torture?
And even without a struggling Europe, Trump alone has the power to make the near, the intermediate and the distant future very bleak indeed.
After all, this is a man who thinks that climate change is a hoax “created by and for the Chinese” and who is talking about reinstating torture. And no, this probably isn’t an empty threat. It’s got military and national security officials so worried that they’re thinking of internal resistance or career changes. Seriously, if the intelligence services are worried we’re in trouble, people, I mean it.
Ian McEwan, commenting for the Guardian on Trump’s “poetry of hatred”, sums up everything that may go up in flames on Trump’s “government bonfire” once he takes office:
The Paris accords on climate change is already starting to look like a likely casualty with outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry scrambling to sign it before his successor takes over, while Trump is looking for ways out of it. Scientists have warned that global temperatures may rise by as much as 7 degrees. For a degree by degree idea of what global warming may do to the planet, see here.
Then there is – McEwan again –
the hard-won nuclear deal with Iran; various trade agreements; [Trump] must pressure Saudi Arabia and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons; undermine the mutual aid aspect of “obsolete” Nato, and so risk a Russian incursion into the Baltic states; annihilate the families of terrorists; begin a trade war with China by means of a discredited protectionism…block Muslims from entering the US; vastly increase military spending.
And at home: …go after hostile newspapers; go after the women who claimed he sexually assaulted them; slash taxes, especially for the super rich…slash government programmes for the poor and unemployed; “create” 25m jobs in 10 years; scrap environmental regulation; re-ignite the coal industry…borrow billions, and murmur about defaulting on US debt…”
That thing about mass surveillance…
How he is going to accomplish all of that remains to be seen but especially when trying to identify people to target – such as, for example, women who accused him of sexual assault, illegal immigrants to deport, or hostile journalists – he has handy tools at his disposal. Remember when people said – and I wrote on here repeatedly – that the vast surveillance apparatus that the US have built – and which the UK and Germany, for two, happily feed data into – only needs to fall into the wrong hands to become really, really scary? Well, guess what just happened. For an idea of what a society without privacy look like, consider this.
To believe that Trump may not, in fact, try to do everything he has promised, may well be our own human tendency to rationalize what’s going on. Which, in this case, is a dangerous thing to do and something we have been doing for far too long. ‘Surely he can’t win’. Surely, he can’t do this? Maybe let’s err on the side of caution this time and believe what the autocrat says.
Who will stand on the side of universal human rights?
It’s definitely tempting to conclude that the world is going to hell, but that there’s nothing you can do about it, so why not just make your own garden grow?
But those can no longer be the standards we hold ourselves to.
To accept this political order as a desperately sad but immovable new normal means accepting that the Earth will burn and there’s nothing we can do. This cannot be borne.
If we cannot do anything about who is in power in the US, then let’s at least show solidarity with those most likely to be affected – hurt – by whatever is coming. The alternative is to simply give up and let it happen. Is that really what we want to do? Standing on the shoulders of people who fought for the rights we have today are we going to watch as these rights are being eroded?
The very least we can and must do is watch what’s going on, stay informed, speak up, be interested, be prepared, be vigilant, be kind, pick winnable fights (because there are winnable fight), show solidarity, and be visible.
On Twitter, someone recently asked the question:
With Putin, Trump, Le Pen, Farage, May, Wilders, Orbán, Kaczyński, etc on one side, who will stand on the side of universal human rights?
The answer to that, surely, has to be: The rest of us.