When Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
It has been the strangest of years and ends with the closing of one presidency and the dawning of a frightening New Age. When Trump takes over as President in less than three weeks, there is growing concern that he does not have the mental stability to function at this level without causing potentially cataclysmic damage nationally and internationally. The question to be asked is why President Obama didn’t act sooner on the now confirmed allegations of Russian hacking?
Obama’s on-record statement on why he delayed action can be taken at face value. Simply put, as he said at his final, strangely disjointed, White House Press Corp conference, he judged it the greater risk to be accused of interfering in the election process as a partisan, than ramping up the investigatory process. But, we also have to accept the administration’s off-record briefing that they did not expect a Trump win. There has been some significant pushback in the past few days, notably on the US upholding a Two State solution for Palestine/Israel, and Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats over espionage and hacking. It may well be too little, too late.
Barack Obama believes in the strength and integrity of the US political system. That while it may be sorely tested in the coming months and years, it is resilient enough to survive a mercurial and dangerous demagogue. So in the dying days of his second term, he thinks if he embeds an incoming Trump administration with enough sanctions and pro-democracy actions, he can make it very difficult for his successor to steer an authoritarian, pro-Russian course. It is the idea of the poison pill that aims to prevent a disaster after January. Trump, the theory holds, will spend much of his term – whether truncated or not – fighting off impeachment. Or, that Donald Trump will come to his senses. POTUS more or less said this when he said that the weight of the Office imposes its own responsibilities.
This may not amount to more than wishful thinking. When Trump gets sworn in, he will have every arm of federal government within reach of his tiny hands. Why should a Republican Congress perform a volte-face when they’ll be more than happy to score policy wins for an Ayn Rand agenda? Why wouldn’t Trump seek to place arch-Conservatives on the Judiciary, including the Supreme Court? Why would a White Nationalist like Steve Bannon suddenly change his spots? Putin is right to hold his fire on retaliation. Whether it be on Twitter or through surrogates, Trump simply doesn’t care how his critics see him. Why should he? He’s the top dog and all others can bow down before him.
But sanctions against Russia and the publishing of a compelling, bullet-proof intelligence report on Russian interference in a US election to favour one particular side – Trump’s – will also help to de-legitimize the incoming regime. This is important in itself. The mantra ‘This is not normal. None of this is normal’ needs to be chanted daily by all democrats of a small and big ‘d’ variety. There’s nothing that was normal about how Trump won. The Russian involvement is more than enough to invalidate his legitimacy. Add up all his other failings, hatreds and gargantuan conflicts of interest and you have a man who shouldn’t be within spitting distance of the Office.
Yet he will be installed as the next President of the United States. His Lowest Common Denominator campaign could not have succeeded without the craven support or failure to speak up of so-called moderate Republicans. They should hang their heads in shame, if they are still capable of feeling that emotion. The Barbarian is at the Gates now and good luck to his enablers who think they can ride this tiger. He shows no inclination other than to eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is ingrained in his nature. He is a cruel, humourless, stupid man, incapable of the empathy required for democratic politics.
Trump was able to capitalise on a line of racism that’s run through the US since the Civil War. There been peaks and troughs, but you take Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the backlash against Affirmative Action, and finally the apotheosis of a Black Man making it to the White House, and you see how there’s been a hard-core of racism at the root of much conservatism since slavery. He has been the evil Shaman, digging up spirits that have their roots before the 1860s. Those demons will not be easily exorcised. Van Jones was right; this was Whitelash. Or, as pointed out; not all Trump voters were racist, but all racists voted for Trump. The Republicans are not a party of Neo-Nazis, but all Neo-Nazis were supporters of that party’s candidate in November. We – Citizens of the World as well as Americans – are right to be terrified of what could be coming down the road.
Yet there is hope. There is hope not from the Paul Ryans of this firmament – although the capacity to change is a strong one in humankind. There is hope though, from the nearly three million voting plurality that Hillary Clinton got over her opponent. There is hope that if people stay strong and trust civic arms of protest and resistance, that the oncoming fire can be resisted. There is hope that younger voters will carry on with their optimism and rejection of hate. There is hope that the bully can be brought down because once stood up to, they tend to buckle. There is, for us all, in America, and outside, the guiding light of the audacity of hope.