Wednesday, 9 November 2016

On the prospect of a Trump Presidency…

I think I started to drift off to sleep around half-past-four this morning – just as it was starting to become clear that it was looking like Donald Trump's night, in the US Presidential Elections.  I woke again a few hours later, still half expecting to see that results had swung back to Hillary Clinton, who had just edged it after a very narrowly-fought race.  And then I checked my phone…  Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

I'm not sure the initial shock of the result has worn off, yet (as I write, this news is barely twelve hours old, after all).  When Britain voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, just a few months ago, the result took a while to sink in; the prospect of a Trump Presidency is orders of magnitude more frightening than 'Brexit' could ever be.  People today are feeling nervous, anxious, worried and scared.  They have every right to.

There are also people trying to calm everybody down, of course.  They say that Trump won't enact the more extreme things he has said he'll do; that he will 'soften' as a character, now that he doesn't have to chase votes any more; that the enormity of the responsibility he now has will change him…  I'm afraid these soothing words do little to quiet my concerns.

Even if all the calming words are true – even if Trump himself is nowhere near as bad a President as we had feared – he has unleashed something in this campaign, something which cannot just be put back in its box.  The people who cheered Trump's incendiary speeches and divisive rhetoric at his rallies and campaign events haven't formed those views overnight – such prejudice and unpleasantness has been around for years – but in the President-elect, they realised they had found a mainstream focal point for their anger, hate and bitterness.  He was a figure around which to unite.

Trump's candidacy emboldened all manner of racists, misogynists, anti-semites, homophobes and the pedlars of paranoid conspiracism and small-minded victimhood.  They felt their opinions – once widely recognised as being unacceptable – becoming legitimised. They were on the up, and they grew in confidence, making more and more outrageous demands and sounding more and more bloodthirsty with each passing day.  They are still in the ascendancy now, and growing bolder than ever.

Even if Trump 'mellows' once he gets the keys to the White House, these people won't just go away.  They won't just stop shouting.  And having been promised policies which ban Muslims, remove gun-free zones in schools, and build border walls with Mexico, their anger won't simply dissipate if Trump fails to follow through on these promises; it will intensify.

I worry that a President Trump who doesn't do all the extreme things he has said he'll do will be as dangerous as a President Trump who does do those things.  He has legitimised bigotry by stoking these flames, and he has sent a message to his supporters that it is OK to think that way.

Even if he backtracks on the wilder points of his policy proposals now, those ideas don't just disappear.  The rage, and the hatred, won't just disappear – it will grow.  That genie doesn't go back in its bottle in a hurry.

1 comment:

Adam said...

You said you didn't mind people debating and/or hurling abuse!

I've heard this rhetoric literally thousands of times over the past 6 months. The evil opposition who are all of the things from our list of hated names.

My thoughts on it are this - just as people on the left are afraid of a world proposed by right wingers, so people on the right wing are afraid of world proposed by the left. If people are being bigots and anti Islamic and such like, it's probably not because they are evil individuals who need to have their rights removed,but maybe because of fear. There is a culture at the minute where if someone expresses a political feeling they have, that doesn't fit a very strict set of criteria of criticising the correct people and defending correct people then that person is called one of the list of names to choose from (racist, bigot, islamophobe, misogynist, and so on), they are then no longer allowed a platform. This doesn't make peoples fears or feelings to away, but they then cannot express it until they get to the privacy of their own voting booths.
So yes there are some crazies, on both sides but the problem with socially calling everyone who doesn't adhere to the millenialist, politically correct list of dogmas invalid in the debate then the middle ground people will be pushed to the extremes.

What is better is to allow each segment of the spectrum to have a political voice and then we should be able to trust the common person to hear the things on the extreme and say 'that sounds a bit extreme!' and in history, the gell curve generally falls to the safe, nice centre. And if we don't feel like we can trust the electorate to do this, then we are saying we don't want a government decided by people.

Trump is just a man who says things that he thinks people will like. Who knows what he actually believes, he's not a sociopathic genius, he basically a celebrity who has money. He's a bimbo! . We give credence to the more extreme cases of his followers when we Emanuel Goldstein them on telescreens every day so that we can yell at them at the alloted time to show our loyalty to the Gaurdian!

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