I firmly believe that it doesn’t really matter who is president. The great machine runs on. The people who really make decisions are still there. Policies are still in place, and changing them takes time, as well as consensus. A mechanism as vast and complex as the United States cannot be rewired or rejigged by one man or one mere election. Yet the aftermath of last night’s dunces’ jamboree leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. The election and the man may not change anything, but they do indicate a national mood, a mass-proclivity. If immigration stats are accurate, this may have been the last US election in which the proclivity of white males has any decisive impact. A damn good thing that would be too – if yesterday’s vote is anything to go by. Presumably, people voted for Donald Trump’s media image, which was, of course, despicable. I say ‘was’ because we will see, and indeed we are already seeing, a different Trump. The belligerent divisive oaf becomes the gracious national healer, a President-Elect for all the people. If we accept the great I.F. Stone’s maxim, that all politicians lie about everything all the time, and if we accept that Trump is a politician (it is surely absurd to suggest that someone who runs a two-year campaign to snare the White House is not a politician), then we must accept the fact that we don’t really know Trump at all. It may even be possible that Trump doesn’t really know Trump at all. Gone forever is the publicity-hungry fat-cat businessman and beauty-show predator. Gone forever is the need for self-promotion. Gone too is the craving for financial success. Such desires, and many others, are more than adequately fulfilled by becoming the most powerful man on earth. The Trump Empire is probably already looking risibly puny to its erstwhile emperor. The insatiable yearnings that have fueled his life were all abruptly sated around 3 a.m. this morning. As life-changing experiences go, this one must be exceptional. It’s somewhat like me applying to be CEO of Procter & Gamble and getting the job. The learning-curve will be steep. We all know something about household cleaning-products, just as we all know something about politics, but running the Free World will be a little more tricky than bullying around wildly variegated aspects of the Trumpire. There is, of course, no reason to believe he cannot be a competent US President – or even a good one. As said, we don’t really know him – but now we hope he knows himself more than but slenderly. With Congress and the Senate stacked in his favour, President Trump will be able to further, if not his own agenda, at least the Republican one, without let or hindrance for two years — until the 2018 mid-terms.
I doubt if there will be a Wall – too complicated, too expensive, too silly – but I have little doubt that the modest advancements in social justice made under Obama will be on the scrap-heap inside a year. What does this say about the American electorate? The mentality of a populace able to elect George W. Bush for eight years, then Barrak Obama for eight years, and now Trump is baffling. As my wife said, it’s like a woman who has dated a crunchy-granola feminist organic gardener, doesn’t like it, and instead dates a dope-dealing biker who beats her. She won’t like that either, but will be too scared to leave the brute for four years, after which time she finds a black civil rights activist who writes poetry. The giddiness aside, what does such fickle capriciousness mean? Do most Americans not actually have any enduring values or principles? It has always been a puzzle why blue-collar workers consistently vote against their own best interests by favouring Republicans, yet perhaps this is just part of a greater and more general malaise? Or does a Trumpresidency signify something else? This could just as easily be a triumph of xenophobic, racist and divisive politics as it could be a more thoughtful, mature distaste for career politicians and vested interests. I will admit that the latter is mostly wishful thinking – but, as Miles Davis said, what’s wrong with that?.
However, one thing was painfully obvious and disgraceful last night. All the US media networks – even Fox – displayed a distinct Democrat bias, as did every pollster, with the notable exception of the Los Angeles Times. How else can one explain poll after poll over the past week claiming a victory for Hilary Clinton? Either polling methods are so inaccurate as to be worthless, or else they’re a function of wish-fulfillment. Every poll bar one was wrong? Unlikely. The performance of Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper on CNN was little short of embarrassing. Scurrying around the country for palatable interviewees, they followed news of each Trump victory with a thousand reasons why it didn’t constitute an election triumph. The calling of results in swing-states was delayed for an improbably long time, and even when it happened was palliated by increasingly arcane and complex explanations for why Trump couldn’t win. One felt sorry for the dolled-up hacks on Fox, who either could barely conceal their Clinton bias, or else really didn’t have a candidate running. Not absolutely everything Trump has said was nonsense. There is indeed a distinct media bias, and it ranges over many topics. There would be nothing wrong with this were it not for the oppressively limited ownership of all major media. And such bias is more repellent in CNN or the New York Times than it is in Fox or some tabloids. With the latter, you know where you stand – although no one on Fox last night seemed to have a floor beneath his feet. Trump’s relationship with the media will be interesting to follow. Now the great self-promoter has no more need to promote himself, will his PR skills stand him in good stead or be a liability?
Since no good result was possible for this egregious election, it is hard to feel that disappointed about it. I know my American friends are, though, and I offer them a box of Kleenex. But the sun still rose this morning, and the financial markets will survive their panic or take a Xanax. Nothing is ever as bad as we imagine it is, so the optimist in me looks forward to a pleasant surprise in the Oval Office. I couldn’t say what this surprise might be, but, my fellow Americans, you can all come to hide in my attic until the nightmare or the world ends.
Paul William Roberts