Sunday, 7 August 2016

Falling From Grace: Does Trump Still Stand A Chance Of Winning?

Donald Trump cartoon, by Wendy Cockcroft
Donald Trump has been popular among disaffected members of the American public for one reason alone: he promised them hope and change. They are willing to overlook his many faults on the grounds that they believe he can and will deliver on his promises. Now the tide is turning, but could he still win?

To understand American politics you have to know their history and culture. Americans think in a peculiar way that has to be accepted and acknowledged before we can begin to discuss their domestic affairs and yes, this is a national thing because it's taught in their schools, preached in their churches, and reported on their news. To understand Trump you must first understand his people.


A peculiar mindset


Americanism is based on the Declaration of Independence and their constitution. I know no of no other country whose citizens discuss their own constitution or founding documents as thoroughly or as furiously as the Americans do. If you want to understand their love affair with guns, their visceral terror of socialism, or their enduring fascination with conspiracy theories, that's where it all comes from. Since I could actually write several books on Americanism and only describe a few aspects of these remarkable people, for brevity's sake I'll pick out three of the main ones I've got personal experience of and describe what I understand of them.

Exceptionalism


The exceptionalism you often see in Americans stems as much from their history as from the text of their Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These words ring true in the ears of every American, particularly those whose families have been there for generations and aren't recent immigrants. America as we know it today began with the advent of the Pilgrim Fathers, who were Calvinist Puritans looking for a place to settle in communities where they could practice their faith while retaining their English cultural identity. Meanwhile, non-European colonies were already being established elsewhere on the north and southern continent. It was the spread of the Anglophiles that resulted in the United States of America; they drove out the French and Spanish and gradually took over the entire northen continent. The Crown retained control over Canada, and America became independent in 1783. Basically, the Anglophile colonies in America were started by radicals, dissidents, and later on, adventurers. It was the adventurers who brought in the slaves to work their land holdings.

Manifest Destiny


The complete victory they achieved in the establishment of their nation and their dominance of the world culturally and economically has convinced Americans that they are the greatest people in the greatest nation on earth. Any threat to this greatness is vehemently challenged. While the addition of more land to America's territory ended with the incorporation of Hawaii in 1959, imperialism continues in the guise of mercantilism and is established via proxy wars with other powers, i.e. Russia and China, who do the same thing. Many Americans see it as their duty to spread American ideals throughout the world. Neoliberalism and the neocon movement are the result of such thinking. This also explains why they tend to shrug and move on if the implementation of policies based on these ideologies goes awry; the ideology can't possibly be at fault if America successfully runs on it, therefore the people implementing it are to blame.

This notion is so deeply embedded that when politician and policymakers hitch their policies to the Manifest Destiny wagon, people tend to accept them without question. This in turn results in the cults of personality we see around their politicians; the more they embody the ideals of Manifest Destiny, the more successful they are.

Personal freedom


Americans love to boast about how free they are. Free to own guns. Free to start their own religions. Free to make abusive speech or to fill the supermarket shelves with degrading pornography. Free to spread conspiracy theories and lies throughout the media. And they love to blather on about "the free market" as if there has ever been any such thing. These freedoms are guaranteed by their constitution, to which they will point at a moment's notice if you argue with them about any of the above.

The flip side of these freedoms is that they tends to apply to the powerful and the dominant. For the poor, for non-whites, for unskilled employees and women, not so much. When you can be shot even when your hands are raised, fired at a moment's notice because you're ill or can be forced to remain in touch with your rapist because you kept the baby and he's claimed paternal rights, you're not free at all, are you? But to many Americans might makes right so they don't pay much attention to the troubles of others until it's their problem.

Hope and change


Americans have been both blessed and cursed by the legacy of their unique history. It is the wealthiest nation with the biggest economy and the biggest cultural impact but the advent of neoliberal policies has hollowed out the middle income earners and now it's heading into a tailspin. The policies of the Obama administration have slowed this down a bit but America is stuck in a rut in which people have seen their wages either freeze or fall in real terms for the last thirty five or so years. This began with the oil crisis in 1979 which pushed crude oil prices through the roof and triggered recessions all over the world. Ronald Reagan came to power on the back of this with a promise of hope and change. His supply-side economics promised to trickle down the benefits of wealthier corporations and less heavily taxed individuals to those lower down the economic ladder.

Thirty five years later, the Grand Old (Republican) Party clings to that notion like grim death, refusing to relinquish it no matter what because they believe it is a winning strategy. It worked for Reagan, after all. In any case, since America is the land of opportunity, if you are poor it's because you're not trying hard enough to take advantage of the opportunities that exist. Since these notions are the guiding principles of most Americans I've interacted with, it's hardly surprising that it never occurs to them to question them. We've had thirty five plus years of neoliberalism and despite the fact that we're not swimming in jobs in a booming economy, the best that apologists can come up with for its failures is that the current administration is doin' it wrong, not that the ideology itself needs a bit of work to make it fit for purpose. So, in a spluttering economy following a string of disastrous military engagements, the people are getting fed up with being poor and having few of the opportunity they were promised by the American Dream. Enter Trump, stage right.

We actually need Trump


Since the Left has been so thoroughly demonised they can't do their job of being the loyal opposition properly any more, we need another way to break up the neoliberal consensus and Trump is the right man for the job. This pig-ignorant numbnut is ideally placed to ask all the questions the sensible people ask that that are usually hand-waved away. He's already been asking about the nuclear "deterrent" and FTAs. The resultant consternation has sent popcorn sales soaring, as I predicted. That he's actually the presidential nominee now is the death knell of the GOP as we know it. Hopefully, this will result in the party resetting as the absolute pounding they're going to get at the election results in the expunging of the looney faction so the sensible people can get their hands back on the steering wheel.

The media is turning on him


Fox was all over Trump like a rash at first because they believed they could leverage his popularity to propel their party into power. Now that they've realised they've actually got a belligerant version of Forrest Gump running for the highest office in the land, they're getting scared of what might happen if he wins. Dr. Frankenstein is afraid of the monster he created. While the rest of the media flailed about posting dire warnings about Trump, nothing they said seemed to faze his base. They're sticking with their hero despite the bad press and dire poll ratings.

His own party is turning on him


Mitt Romney had the same problem in the last election; even his own party members didn't want him in the White House so they plumped for Obama instead. It's a sign of how massively divided the party is that they won't get behind their president elect because they think he's a joke. The trouble is, anyone who's not a swivel-eyed loon gets screened out for not being ideologically correct enough, or something. It's their own fault. While Trump was hitting targets that Republicans cared little for, they were happy to nominate him. Now that he's proving to be a loose cannon they're not so keen on him any more. Picking on legal immigrants in a country where most people are first generation immigrants is not a good idea, even if they're of African origin. Getting called out for racketeering does your reputation no good. The shadow of sexual scandal hanging over your head, even if they're just unproven allegations, makes you look bad, but slagging off a dead war hero's parents is a massive no-no whether he is Muslim or not. I think it's this that has begun the turn of the tide against Trump just when it's too damn late for the GOP to change its mind about its candidate.

It's not looking good right now


As the reality that Trump might end up actually running the country begins to sink in, many of those who formerly cheered on his ascent are advising the GOP delegates to rescind their endorsements, i.e. un-nominate him, but it's too late, the die is cast. Trump's value to Americans is to embody their hopes and assuage their fears but he undermines that every time he slags someone off or acts like a prat. The latest polls show he's losing ground all over the gaff.

There's hope for him yet


The prevailing consensus now is that stimulus of some kind is required to get America moving again. This is actually baked into the GOP party platform. The best the Democrats can offer so far is business as usual with a weak tweak to the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. Remember, all Hillary really has got going for her is that a) she's female and b) she's not Trump. All Trump has to do is get a grip on his gob and learn to stop being such a jerk that he alienates his own colleagues if he wants to win. Yeah, like that's going to happen!

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