Think Anew, Act Anew

observations and opinion

Idiot Wind: America rides the Storm

idiot-wind-trump

 

If you love, or like, or admire the United States – as I do  –  the terrible storm blowing across it now feels like it may uproot the great and essential democracy. Days of decision lay ahead.

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In August 2015, I wrote an article here about the “swirling discontent” of the democracies. I described what the “scirocco” – the windstorm – that the world had most recently seen crash through the democracies. These examples came to mind then:

  • The popularity of Alexis Tspiras in Greece, the debt collapse and the referendum in Greece rejecting the EU’s terms.
  • The unexpected, unpredicted David Cameron Conservative majority in the UK, in May 2015.
  • The near-miss Scottish independence referendum, and the May 2015 election of a totally separatist slate to Parliament.
  • The UK Labour Party’s choice of loonie leftist Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
  • A shocking NDP majority victory in Alberta, Canada’s most rock-ribbed conservative province.
  • The surprising strength of an avowed, septugenarian Jewish socialist named Bernie Sanders, in the Democratic Party nomination struggle. And the odd frailty of the 900 pound gorilla anointed next President, Hillary Clinton.
  • The surprising weakness of Jeb Bush, in his Republican Party’s nomination struggle.
  • The unexpected emergence of Donald J. Trump, of whom I wrote: Trump, whom I have described as “the disease the GOP caught after screwing America”, has never been taken seriously by “serious” people in U.S. politics. His rapid rise to the top of the Republican nomination ranks – and his tenacious grip on the position – has dumbfounded just about everybody. With every ugly and stupid thing he says, he gains popularity. Donald Trump is the living embodiment of disaffection and disgruntlement, a demagogue whose comedic stylings disguise a dark, egomaniacal mind. Trump isn’t the favourite yet to win the Republican nomination, but he’s getting there, in spite all of conventional wisdom.

Since the summer of 2015, we’ve seen more unsurprising surprises: Trudeau sailed out of the last place in the polls, to win a huge majority government in Canada. David Cameron held a referendum on UK membership in the EU – a vote he couldn’t lose – and lost. He’s gone now and his successor Theresa May is working on the exit plan. Jeremy Corbyn was abandoned by his parliamentary party, subjected to a leadership review and, being widely distrusted and loathed – kept his leadership!  Thanks to Brexit, the UK’s wealth, currency, prospects and confidence have plummeted.

Meanwhile in the USA, Hillary Clinton scraped by to win the Democratic nomination but can’t put away her opponent. Her opponent, of course, is Donald J. Trump – a man who has proven to be much more talented, and much more awful, than we could have imagined in our darkest imaginings. He humiliated his Republican opponents, devoured the Party and has, like a big fat dog, pooped out his campaign in large steaming piles on the pavement. And he could win.

How the hell did we get here? In August 2015, I wrote this about the then-looming Canadian vote:

              today we are in the eye of a storm, made up of political cross winds mixing apathy, anger, anxiety and suffocating boredom. The right man in the right moment unshackled from traditional norms and with nothing to lose, can ride that storm to success.

What kind of politician can win? I asked.  This kind:

             a front man who will either fly, or crash. A leader who is so different and so un-serious, in the traditional sense, that he will do many unexpected things, to keep                catching attention. Because it works. 

             … you don’t have to be well-informed, consistent or even coherent, to win. You just need “serious” people to under-estimate you, and to be willing to say or do,                   whatever the moment calls for.

That has proven true, over and over again. And when I used the word “unshackled” it is not one that I expected to hear 14 months later from the Republican nominee, to describe himself and his reckless candidacy for the Presidency.

Why are we here? The voting public of most of the democracies, in particular the greatest of those democracies – the United States of America- has lost its faith in politics and become prepared to behave in surprising, sometimes irresponsible ways. They’re tired of the old ways of doing things, for good and bad reasons:

  • The incompetence of the leadership class. The United States bears trillions of dollars of debt. Its Congress has been hijacked by obstructionist yahoos, in the paid service of plutocrats and rich special interests. It cannot even manage something as essential and straightforward as medical insurance. It wildly under-taxes the wealthy and underfunds wide ranges of necessary public spending, such as infrastructure. It is in the thrall of the gun industry, and it has appointed a judiciary which twists the Constitution to create loopholes big enough for assault weapons, gerrymandered electoral districts and truckloads of corporate cash to bribe officials.
  • Inequality, disconnection, disaffection. Bernie Sanders is right: inequality has become a cancer. It gets worse and with that, comes detachment from the body politic. Trade has hurt local industry, and governments have done too little to deal with the consequences.
  • Fear. There is a large, crazy fundamentalist religious sect out there which is armed to the teeth, doesn’t care about living or dying and is intensely committed to murdering as many of its enemies (which is everyone alive, except for its own adherents). Thousands of people have been murdered just in the last 12 months by Islamist terrorists, particularly by their semi-organized caliphate, the Islamic State. They’ve been to Paris and Brussels and Germany, and they’ve inspired mass murder most recently in Pakistan but not that long ago, in Orlando, Florida. ISIS is a product of profound, prolonged foreign affairs failures by the West, staggering around drunken and blind in the Mid-East. This inspires terror, but also fury – at the elites that got us here.
  • Social change.  Women, gay people, dark people – it turns out, they’re human too. White guys, still the most advantaged segment of the U.S. population, have a creeping sense of their loss of power and privilege. They can’t just grab women by the vaginas anymore and get away with it. And at the other end of the spectrum, the historically disenfranchised, marginalized and penalized, aren’t having it anymore. They too despise the leadership classes for their historical and ongoing supplicating cowardice and moral vacuity.
  • A rapidly eroding press. Free, robust, intelligent journalism is as essential to democracy as the courts and elected government. But the new media are destroying the financial stability of journalism, which was never universally good or brave anyway, and so we see less and less serious, thoughtful, careful, informed reporting and commentary.
  • The mirror effect of social media. What has replaced mediated, professional information sources? Amateur, partisan, narrow, cramped, self-indulgent splurging of opinion, lies and fantasy. That is the diet of the American voter’s mind.
  • Lazy entitlement. I hate to say it, but it’s true: many people are personally, morally, physically and mentally lazy – they don’t read, don’t think, don’t question their own beliefs. They simmer and stew in the broth of their own sense of entitlement and self-pity. They hate the truth more than anything else, because much of the truth ain’t pretty: they are fat, they are weak, they are uninformed, they are unimpressive, they are incapable of forming full sentences, they believe in magic instead of science. This is true in all countries, but shockingly so in the United States, where fantasy has come to weigh as much as facts, in people’s thinking. If a governor or Presidential candidate can deny the existence of climate change, or for that matter say there’s no such thing as evolution, that democracy is in trouble.

This all sounds like terrible snobbery. It is, to an extent. I am not impressed by irresponsible sloth or cavalier, simplistic, self-indulgent behaviour. Are you? If you admire education, if you believe that decisions should be made carefully, with consideration for those who will be touched by them (and who will pay for them), then the errant, slack-minded, slack-jawed norms of modern American politics are disturbing. Glib assertions that what what the people want is all that matters, don’t mean much when the people have been so assiduously misinformed and misled for so long, about so many things.

The U.S. gun control debate is the perfect, grim, bloody example of this. The discussion has been hijacked by the gun and bullet industry, which has manufactured a bent version of the Second Amendment, through decades of bribery and propaganda. The right to have a gun, to carry it anywhere, anytime, is today in the United States actually more sacred and more secure than the right to stay alive. School children are massacred and nothing is done. Churchgoers. Workers. Commuters. Night club attendees. Moviegoers.  A hundred Americans die daily, due to gunshot wounds (mostly self-inflicted). And the response of government? Nothing. How can you live in a country with a raging and lethally contagious disease – guns – and do nothing? Because you believe, or your leaders want you to believe, in a fantasy world of laws that make weaponry more important than women, children and men.

Amazingly, despite the endless streams of bullshit about guns, most Americans don’t believe the fantasy.  They want real gun control. But the political parties are slaves to the gun industry (for reasons enumerated above), so all progress and change are blocked. The guns pile up and up, and the bodies pile up and up.  What surprises us now about guns in America, is when there isn’t a massacre. That may change after Election Day, if Trump loses.

Yes, this is the moment in which we live. It is the moment when baseless lies and crazy conspiracy theories are swallowed whole, like baby food down the gullet of an angry toddler. And the toddler can vote. And the toddler has a gun.

Millions of Americans – most Americans – aren’t fools, or slobs, or lazy, or utterly selfish. They are great people, in the most generous, important and consequential country ever to be carved on the face of the Earth. America is as great as its people, but it’s also as awful as its people. Its politics will decide which way the country will go.

Ten days remain until America votes. The professional political class will tell you, to a man and woman, that Hillary Clinton will be elected President. Everything they know and see, tells them that is going to happen. Personally, I hope and pray they are right, but in the last several years we have seen, over and over again, shocking behaviour by the democratic electorates. This election, more than those before it, may decide whether what’s great about America can be sustained, or whether the centrifugal forces and idiot wind, will blow the country apart.

 

 

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One comment on “Idiot Wind: America rides the Storm

  1. Pingback: ReTrumplicans don’t need Elections | Think Anew, Act Anew

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This entry was posted on October 29, 2016 by in The U.S.A., Trump & Trumpism, US Election 2016.
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