Well, aren’t we full of surprises.
Woke up yesterday morning to find Donald Trump had been elected 45th President of the USA.
I was surprised, but not shocked. I really thought Hillary’s old guard Party machine, coupled with the mainstream media, would probably stitch it up one way or another. But I also knew this was an extraordinary election, mobilising a lot of people, and a whole lot of disillusion. A culture war had got distilled down into one event, and there would be no half way house. It was going to be “business as usual”, or “what now!?”.
To watch, this was one of the most divisive, vitriolic, low level election campaigns in memory, and on both sides. It was like a cross between a cartoon and entertainment wrestling. Trump was a maverick and a performer, skating on a seemingly instinctive feel for sections of the American public; switching, shifting, brazening out, but speaking directly to the concerns of a forgotten demographic. Clinton was slick, wielding identity politics and what have become liberal catechisms, preparing for her historic canonisation as first woman President. She seemed to be totally unaware that her currency was facing a genuine popular decline, even though all the signs have been there for some time (something she probably thought was a trolling by the “Alt Right”).
Trump appeared selfish and crass, but besides the shock jock asides and the overtures to the Evangelical Right, he had points that hit home about the callousness of globalisation and its blue collar casualties. Clinton seemed ambitious and calculating, and rigidly scripted. In terms of the two main candidates, in what is still a two party race, it was one of the most uninspiring, unenthusiastic choices ever for a lot of people, judging by the stats collected on attitudes.
There is no doubt that Hillary had the media and the commentariat largely on her side, but Donald knew how to make news. And while Trump had an instinct for popular opinion and sentiment, Clinton seemed bullet proof oblivious. She was so determined to break that “glass ceiling”, she forgot that her windows were mirrored on the inside. And what was outside was the fruition of that culture war again, of a left leaning (but essentially authoritarian) cultural elite, bolstered by academia, the media and a “progressive” but globalist policy, that pushed over a public collectivized as “the righteous” or “the irredeemable”. You can even see that in the characterisation of criticisms of Clinton as “misogynist”, and of Trump supporters as “just old, white men”, who of course were all racists promoting “rape culture”. There was never any real attempt to win over Trump supporters. They just had to be defeated, and deposited in the dustbin of history. How could you not want Hillary Clinton?
Well, quite easily apparently.
I’m homosexual, I have lots of friends who identity as LGBT, and I support abortion rights. I ought to be shocked and horrified at Trump’s election, and I am concerned about friends and family in the USA. But I’m not shocked. People voted for the person who seemed to be listening to them, rather than the person who made it clear that she didn’t even want to know. And I don’t think you can underestimate the failure of the Democrats to speak to large sections of the American working class, let alone listen to them. Instead they thought they could appeal to a post-class politics of identity, and one which demonized any disagreement or incomprehension as “bigotry”. There seemed to be a hubris in this, a kind of moral messianism, that they and “people like us” were on the right side of history, and anyone else was just waiting to die out and be left behind, as a backwards footnote, rather as some radical feminists used to look upon men (with an apparently breathtaking ignorance of biology and evolution). And it is exactly that kind of classless, ideological, faux liberal certainty, so used to being backed up by its own culturally influential authorities, that is running out of credible cover. The Democratic establishment didn’t seem to have a clue about that.
If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have voted for Trump, but I would have felt sick voting for Clinton, and I wouldn’t have done that either. I’m insulted that someone thinks that just because I am homosexual, I will run after the carrot and be the troops in someone’s righteous, illiberal program. That I don’t know the difference between free speech and violence. That I don’t know the difference between leftist collectivism and actual liberal values. That I don’t know the difference between equality of opportunity and discrimination. That I’m going to look upon a straight white man as someone that deserves to be listened to less than me. No. I have to have more self respect than that. My homosexuality doesn’t cancel out my need for intellectual and moral coherence as a human being.
The ignored concerns of people don’t just go away. Donald Trump wasn’t put in power by his supporters, or by racism or hate. He was put in power by an entire situation which has reached the end of its popular shelf life. He’s not Hitler. He might even have prevented people going to the real far right, as they have been in mainland Europe (just as UKIP probably prevented that in the UK). He may prove to be the safety valve in the long view.
I really think it is time for people to ditch the hypocritical collectivism of the left, and the carnival of identity politics, and find out what Liberal really means, re-engage with enlightenment values, and look for a shared human future.
Sometimes the biggest block to something isn’t its opposite, but the counterfeit that has been sold in its stead. Yes it could have been different, but this is how it has worked out. And the Democrats determinedly blew it for themselves (and I think they had a shot in Bernie Sanders). Like it or not, they reaped what they sowed.
So now there are a lot of questions for some people, if they will allow themselves the ideological uncertainty of asking questions. Why did they not notice what was coming? Why were they so out of touch? Why did they think whole sections of the American public could be dismissed as irredeemable and disposable? Why did they imagine that democracy works without the people being listened to?
It’s not hate. It’s life.