Trump is the country's id: the desire of the moment, the impulse that must be gratified, untroubled by reason or realityby Diane Roberts / November 9, 2016 / Leave a comment
A Donald Trump supporter walks through New York last night ©Anders Ahlgren/TT/TT News Agency/Press Association Images The United States has elected its own Silvio Berlusconi, a vain, vulgar, racist tycoon. Or is Benito Mussolini the more apt comparison? We’ll find out—the hard way. For all his conciliatory language last night, Donald Trump is still Donald Trump, the narcissist who basks in the adulation of his mostly white, mostly male, entirely rage-filled followers, the man with an attention span so short he makes George W Bush look like a scholar, the slimy lothario who boasts of assaulting women, the reality TV star who thinks that he can bend the world to his will simply by telling those of whom he disapproves, “You’re fired!” What happened? People like me, members of the dreaded “elite:” university-educated, progressive, outward-looking, embracing of “alternative lifestyles,” maybe just that tiny bit smug about our cosmopolitanism and our tolerance, did not reckon on the anger and fear animating white people. They feel that America is leaving them behind. Many of them didn’t bother to vote. They distrust institutions; they think all politicians are corrupt and venal; they feel that the country in which they—white Christians—used to run everything, is increasingly in the hands of groups they don’t understand. Blacks. Gays. Latinos. Feminists. People who refuse to say “Merry Christmas.” In his Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance tried to explain it: the old American Dream which assured us all that you could rise economically through hard work and determination is no longer a reality for many. The truth is, it was always something of a fantasy: American upward mobility has been in decline for decades. If you’re born middle-class, you tend to stay middle-class; if you’re born working class, you struggle to climb. Then along comes Trump and says out loud all those things white people have been thinking but were told by teachers and the media they should never express. Mexicans are rapists and murderers; black people are lazy; “political correctness” (known to most of us as common politeness) is ruining America. A lot of them actually like Trump’s tantrum-throwing and vows of revenge. They may not be able to get back at the boss who dissed them or the woman who rejected them, but he can. As comedian Jon Stewart pointed out in 2015, Trump is America’s id: the desire of the moment, the impulse that must be gratified, untroubled by reason or reality. The question is now whether Congress will manage to keep Trump from declaring war in a fit of pique or trying to dismantle parts of government which have served the citizens well. And whether there will be staff around him who will somehow keep him from insulting foreign leaders or behaving like a toddler when he doesn’t get his way. The world is complicated: Trump is proud of how simplistically he views the world. I expect that there will be endless legal challenges to everything he tries to do: abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, build a wall across the southern border, destroy affordable healthcare. After eight years of governmental gridlock, we may well have more gridlock. But that’s me being optimistic. Trump’s voters wanted a bomb-thrower, someone who will come in and “drain the swamp” or “burn the place down,” a revolutionary more in line with Robespierre than Jefferson. They may get their wish. The American experiment may be over. Or this may test the strength of American institutions as they haven’t been tested since the Civil War, 151 years ago. Not every Republican in Congress is a Trumpster. Indeed, Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, has his own presidential ambitions. He may set himself up as a check on Trump’s wilder schemes, figuring that after four years of crazy, the nation will want a good, old-fashioned sober fiscal conservative in the White House. The courts may help save us: Trump doesn’t understand that the president cannot overrule the Supreme Court. He may or may not get to appoint new justices—the Democrats in the Senate will surely be just as obstructionist as the Republicans have been with Obama’s nominees. Then there are the lawsuits. Trump is currently involved in 75 legal cases. Some he instigated, some have been brought by former employees charging sexual harassment or unfair dismissal, the most high-profile involve civil charges of fraud against his charity and the egregious Trump University. The world is about to be treated to the spectacle of a president-elect of the United States who is due to testify in court on 28th November. Will he make it four years without doing something so beyond the pale—beyond the law—that he avoids being impeached? It’s a real question. This morning I was inclined to despair: I don’t recognise the nation that chose Trump as its leader. I worry that 50 years of progress on race and gender and general tolerance have gone for naught. I’m ashamed of my country. But then I remember that while a Trump presidency is terrible for America and terrible for the world, it’s going to be great for satire.