One of the odder effects on myself of the election of Donald Trump is that I am reading more conservative commentary than ever before. I have to admit that his rise to prominence so unnerved me, as it did so many others, to the point that writing in this blog seemed impossible. I’ve left it alone for weeks.
In the past few days, the man’s officials have threatened Iran that it’s “on watch,” as if this is something new in the discourse of the US. But since there was a thaw in US-Iranian relations, the threat is as misery-inducing to me as it must be heartening to anyone who know there’s plenty money to be made supplyin’ the army with the tools of the trade (to quote an old song).
That, of course, is the idea. The opposition must be wrong-footed all the time, so that it can’t re-coalesce. The vaguely designated liberal-left (aka, cultural Marxists, soft-on-terror types, lying lamestream media, etc.) has not handled the situation well, having failed to withdraw and construct a coherent counter-narrative. Often, it seems as if the idea of thinking has been abandoned by those to the left of centre. Every statement they make becomes a call to arms, but is rarely a call to thinking.
My constant thought on Trump is that he so over-promised that his supporters are bound to feel let down, and will turn on him. This is where his greatest weakness lies. They cheered when he conceded that the war in (or rather, on) Iraq was a huge blunder; why, then, would they want a new one with Iran? He has promised a new prosperity, yet he is trying to shut down trade with neighbouring nations. That, despite the seemingly obvious cause-effect result, is not how a country boosts its economy. Capitalist endeavours (whatever we think of capitalism) require the maximum of opportunities, not their limitation and constraint by nationalistic rules. And so on.
Oddly, then, it’s the right wing that’s producing the most coherent opposition to the tearing up of the old rule-books. I’ve despised Pat Robertson for years as a sleazy operator. Today, I read his column with gratitude. Someone on that side was speaking sense to power.
The actual effects Trump will have are impossible to say. I suspect his stupidest tweets and the daftest comments by his lieutenants will fade soon. The shock factor will wear off, Republicans bombarded by calls from anxious voters will be on his case, and reality will, at times anyway, overwhelm his hubris. Also, the more intransigent problems he faces will bore him. Renegotiate NAFTA? Okay, but do you realise that will take years? Just ask Theresa May’s people, looking to put Brexit into effect. And so on.
He has given licence to many obnoxious groups. And, as we’ve seen at Berkeley this week, where the irritating Milo Yiannopoulous is unable to speak lest he upset somebody, ‘obnoxious’ applies across the board, and not just to white supremacists.
But the man has redefined the problems the western world is facing, simply by letting them get out of control. Today, The Guardian ran an article by a China-expert (remember experts? People who know what they’re talking about?) on how much Trump is helping China on the global stage. As such things happen, the spiritual, cultural and intellectual legacy of the West comes under new scrutiny, and perhaps gains new moral force. What effects that, in turn, might have, would be interesting to see, and to share.