THAT old comfort, that go-to failsafe in times of distress: “Sleep on it and it won’t seem so bad in the morning” has not worked.
Nor is it likely to anytime soon. The prospect of the grotesque, unhinged Donald Trump making life-or-death decisions in the White House operations room during an unfolding world crisis seems even more appalling this morning than it did in the early, half-asleep hours of Wednesday when America’s electoral system — though, most importantly, not the country’s popular vote — nominated this man, one whose behaviour suggests he is absolutely unaware of even the idea of a moral compass, to succeed Barack Obama.
The liberal, tolerant and progressive world is appalled, frightened too. That constituency, goaded and derided by a resurgent, triumphant neo-right just as it was after Britain voted to quit the European Union, is even more baffled and distressed that this dreadful decision is the culmination of more than 250 years of democracy in the superpower that routinely trumpets that it is the best exemplar of that noble philosophy. That so many conservatives and old-school Republicans, including all living Republican presidents, felt obliged to make their intention of not voting for Trump public just shows how very dark and uncharted a moment this is. That the counterbalance planned in the American constitution — a Senate and a House of Representatives controlling a dangerous president — does not apply as Republicans control both makes that darkness even more intimidating.
Be that as it may, the people of America have voted and even if their decision, from the perspective of those who regard themselves as friends of America, seems the greatest threat to that country and world stability since the attack on Pearl Harbor — greater even than 9/11 or the Cuban missile crisis — it must be recognised and embraced. That stands even if Trump’s victory has been celebrated by those who might be described as The Klan of Despots and Autocrats, tinpot or all-powerful in their own orbit. Xi Jinping, Putin, al-Assad and Duterte (and, maybe in time, Le Pen) are among those who will celebrate that the world’s superpower has elected a man more in their image than anything like a great, proven leader of a strong, inclusive democracy.
President Obama, as ever, put it well and calmly when he reminded Americans that democracy requires the “presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens”. What the country needs, he said, is “a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and a respect for each other. I hope that he [Trump] maintains that spirit throughout this transition”.
The liberal world’s high dudgeon is as pointless as it is immaterial, Trump has been elected so get over it, move on and learn whatever lessons offered by the mindset that seems to yearn for something like the nativism that America was built on — the imperial conquest of a sparsely populated continent, slavery, racism, cannibal capitalism and the ethnic cleansing of native Americans. Trump may have dusted off those toxic war drums but even he is unlikely to set new standards in those categories — especially as those practices were so very successful that they allowed the descendants of those pioneers adopt, after their complete victory, new, higher principles that excoriated those foundation behaviours.
It would have been very interesting to have been a fly on the wall when Trump and Obama met in the White House yesterday but it would be more relevant to have been an eavesdropper when the Trump coronation was discussed around Leinster House. It would have been interesting too to listen to the pollsters, pundits, commentators who so universally declared that a Trump victory was as preposterous an idea as universal health care. We must all swallow our dose of that particular, sobering medicine.
Might any Leinster House conversation have reflected that the social decline that drove so many sensible Americans into the arms of a 70-year-old TV ham, an uncontrollable narcissist who never held public office, are equally active in this country? Would any have considered that last week’s appalling indictment from the EPA, our market-created housing and homelessness crisis, the unending immorality of far too many people who can’t access to our health service? Would those post mortems have recognised that income and pension inequity might fuel a revolution driven by a Donal O’Trump? Might our politicians imagine that falling educational standards, impossibly expensive childcare and the shortage of non-denominational schools all push society’s needle toward the red zone? Did they even mention corporate tax “efficiencies” that do so much to deepen inequality? If they did, and if that wake-up call resets our political agenda then there may be a silver lining to Trump’s victory. Tragically, that seems as likely as a Trump victory did just a week a go.
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