The New Hope is over and it’s very difficult to see where the Jedi is going to return from.
I grew up animated and fascinated by the laboratory of democracy that was the United States. Emerging out of enlightenment thinking the US offered hope and freedom from the despotism of a constantly conflicted Europe. Like any experiment no one knew exactly what was to come and there were many internal and external ructions. Whenever there was major strife though progressive pluralistic policies tended to triumph. Great leaders emboldened by the principals of the constitution vanquished autocratic efforts that challenged their liberal democratic values. Lincoln united the Republic as the long overdue war against slavery was won, FDR put the country on a more equal footing and stared down the violent extremism of the Nazis, and Reagan played his part in defeating the totalitarianism of the Soviets.
Despite my admiration for the successes of the American story I was quick to criticise the excesses that existed. The neglect of the poor and the enormous concentration of wealth in so few hands were, and still are, grossly unfair and a direct threat to democracy. Violent imperial tendencies like the Vietnam War, destabilising Cambodia, funding Nicaraguan terrorists or overthrowing democratically elected governments like Allende in Chile in 1973 were all repugnant events. Every now and then the world would be dismayed by a badly chosen leader, be it the mendacious paranoid Nixon or the bumbling buffoon Bush. But you knew they were still better than the alternative. You knew they were better than a Chairman Mao or a Nikita Khrushchev or a Pinochet. You knew that. However reckless and damaging their policies were, they would respect the constitution and the separation of powers. They could be trusted to smoothly transfer power when democratically defeated. This cannot be said anymore.
Donald Trump represents a direct threat to the quarter of a millennium young experiment of liberal democracy. He treats women like a character out of Mad Men jocularly describing how he sexually assaults them. Not since Hitler has a Western world leader promised to ban a whole religion from a country. He’s threatened to forcibly deport 6% of Americas workforce destroying families in the process. He has tried to interfere in the judicial process by questioning the integrity of judges based on their heritage. He believes climate change is a hoax and is likely reverse the decision of the Keystone pipeline amongst other positive environmental policies. His bellicose rhetoric towards China and any international trade deals that have been struck are sure to throw the US economy into a recession with the world to follow suit. Once he appoints a hard core conservative to the Supreme Court he will hold the balance of power there enabling him to reverse many progressive policies such as marriage equality and abortion rights. He has threatened to pull out of NATO, leaving the Kremlin and Assad purring with delight, while Kiev and the Baltic states look on, anxious of any Russian advancement. His election surpasses Brexit in galvanising the European hard right as Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen rejoice and look to capitalise in the Dutch and French elections next year, which would precipitate the full scale break up of the European Union plunging the continent back into the 1930s.
He will be the first president in 90 years to have control of both Houses of Congress as well as a Supreme Court majority. America has handed the reigns of power to a despotic demagogue and cleared the way for him act with impunity and dismantle the centuries of good work that they have worked to achieve. I hope that none of the aforementioned events occur. It could be that the sociopathic narcissistic Trump will take little interest in enacting any of those catastrophic policies. He’s proved to be bombastic and reckless with his promises throughout this campaign. Maybe he will acquiesce to voices of reason around him (although where they will come from I don’t know; Giuliani? Chris Christie? Sarah Palin?). For now that’s the best we can hope for. The alternative is the destruction of the liberal democratic experiment.
For further reading:
- David Remnick in the New Yorker. Brilliant long read about Obama's point of view during the week Trump won the White House
- Great piece by Joshua Foust on how none of this is normal, and don't forget that!
Photo Credit: The Big Lead