A couple of readers of liberal persuasion have accused me of the ultimate political offence of being insufficiently outraged by the election of Donald Trump – and also not sufficiently concerned about the future of mankind as a result of it.
All I can say in my defence is that if outrage must be expressed in the foul playground rhetoric Trump deployed in the election campaign – notably missing ever since, I might add – then I will forego the privilege.
Anyway, I think I have expressed my views clearly enough. They are, in summary, that Trump is uniquely unqualified for the job, objectively as well as subjectively; that he is dangerously, if at times laughably, unable to construct a simple English sentence (what on earth can we expect from his State of the Union address, I wonder); and that he has, in the process of reaching the White House, demeaned political discourse to a degree that would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago, and ought to be unthinkable now.
He has, moreover, surrounded himself with the kind of people I would fain invite to a neighbourhood Christmas party for fear of frightening the children. A quote from The Great Gatsby came to mind (not for the first time) as I wrote this: “ … it is what preyed on Gatsby (Trump), what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men”.
The ‘foul dust’ in Trump’s wake includes out-and-out nutters who regard global warming as some sort of liberal plot against capitalism; religious fundamentalists of the most extreme kind – some of them determined to roll back Roe versus Wade; and an assortment of bellicose, flag-waving nineteenth-century nativists intent, for all the absurdity of the notion, on redefining America as the white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian enclave that it was a couple of centuries ago.
Having said all that, I do not believe, as my friends seem to, that a Trump administration will bring the world to Armageddon. It may be a more brutish, less civil world for the next four years, but that world has no choice but to accept and live with the decision of American voters. They may have been bone-headed – which I truly believe – but unless American society, and in turn the rest of us, is to descend into an even more bitter and divisive chaos than that which already prevails across the Republic, the rules of democracy must be respected. We must, by the same token, expect from Trump that same respect in return.
I see no contradiction in any of this.
The same goes in Britain for Brexit. The vote to leave Europe was in my view a bad one, reached by many voters for an astonishing variety of reasons, and most of them muddled or irrelevant to the central issue. But now we have no choice but to sort out the resulting confusion as soon as possible. That includes Parliament endorsing the verdict and then insisting on the opportunity to debate it, as the High Court has reasonably decreed.
My prediction is that Trump will be a mediocre president, but less bad than many of us on the left expect him to be. He may have all the perceived advantages of a Republican-controlled Congress, but there are more Republicans on Capitol Hill who despise him than like him, and if Trump attempts to subvert or bully them, they will be only too happy to shut him down, Republican or not.
He is already pulling back from some of his more insane campaign promises. Others that he wishes to stick with will fall by the wayside, not because they are not desirable but because they are not practicable.
So, here we go, off on a journey into unexplored territory, with a guide who has never set foot in the place himself. It will be hair-raising at times, and probably exasperating. We will, I predict, survive both experiences, even if the English language does not.
Trump has four years to prove himself to be the man of vision and accomplishment of which some of us don’t think he is capable. If he objectively fails, those Forgotten Americans in the hinterland, the Silent Majority, will not forgive him – even as the rest of us take smug comfort in saying, “We told you so”.
If he succeeds, well, those miracles in the Bible may not really have happened, but in politics they happen all the time.