We likely are witnessing the end of an era, something last seen with the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s that heralded a seismic shift in political and economic thinking. What could be termed the neo liberal consensus broadly held sway in the Western world until November 2016 and Donald J. Trump becoming President under a banner of reactionary right wing populism that rejected globalisation and conventional political and cultural attitudes which were the prevailing views for the last few decades. Over night, the Republicans were no longer the party of balanced budgets and low deficits but of stimulas and bringing back jobs from overseas. It was no longer the party of the American century seeking domination over the rest of the world but of self interest when it suited. It was no longer the party of free trade but of protectionism and isolationism. It is now the party of the strongman leader.
What had been predicted since the banking crash of 2008 had finally come to pass. Neo Liberalism had been on life support since then, hobbling on with the aid of bailouts for banks and big business and a massive redistribution of wealth away from everyone else. Western liberal democracy had successfully propped up the system up to now, but it seems at a cost to itself. The harsh economic policies imposed on ordinary people and rising unemployment and stagnant wages was always feared to lead rise of populist demagogues. It had been speculated the left might be able to take advantage of the economic and political failures of the system but instead it is the populist and far right.
As President Obama said in a recent press conference, Trump isn’t an ideologue but a pragmatist. Over the years he has backed Republicans and Democrats, including ironically the Clintons. He has flip flopped over major policy issues from health care, gun control, taxes to reproductive rights. In the primaries likely to stick out from the crowd and get media attention, he made increasingly extreme and provocative comments which resulted in him being abandoned by the Republican establishment and then (seemingly accidentally) becoming the leader of an ultimately successful populist movement. All of which brings us today; as a product of unintended consequences Trump is assembling a government of the most extreme elements of the Republican Party who remained loyal to him, and the likes of Frank Gaffney, a right wing anti Muslim conspiracy theorist who together are likely to upend the political and economic consensus that has governed the West for the past generation.
In the media coverage the significance of this moment seems to be overlooked, in favour of the narrative that “America Elects a Bigot” and increasingly shrill and hysterical headlines such as “This is a terrifying moment for America. Hold your loved ones close” by The Guardian’s Steven W. Thrasher who breathlessly claims: “We who are queer or LGBT are going to face a rolling back of our rights. We’re going to be stuck with abstinence-only education, which vice-president-elect Pence favors in Indiana.”. To be sure, I am not dismissing this – Trump after all purposely for opportunistic win-at-any-cost reasons allied himself with the so called “Alt Right” movement, which seeks to end the stigma over racism and sexism and make white nationalism acceptable in polite society again, who have now all be it inadvertantly been brought into government along with him. It is however but one component of the revolution that West is to under go in the coming years.
The argument being settled on is that this was a “whitelash” against the gains made by minorities in America and a black President, as though Trump ran purely under a platform of racism and bigotry rather than it just being a crude tactic of his. The fact is America was inspired to vote for Trump’s radical political and economic agenda and rejected the status quo in the form of Hillary Clinton. So desperate were they it now seems for change that they couldn’t bring themselves to just hold their nose and vote for Clinton and weren’t sufficiently repelled by Trump’s eccentricity, political inexperience and frequent obnoxious behaviour and crass remarks. That should be telling in itself.
Should Trump live up to his campaign rhetoric, America’s relations with the rest of the world also face radical change. The continued relevance of NATO and America’s defence commitments to it are under doubt and wars of choice, regime changes and “humanitarian interventions” may all be all be a thing of the past under a Trump Presidency, although the presence of controversial hawkish ideologues such as John Bolton are a cause of concern as far as this goes.
I think it highly likely Trump will win a second term, barring impeachment. His policy for drilling for more oil and fracking to create energy independence is likely to create enough of an economic boom in the next few years, even if it is likely to largely go a huge on a tax cut for the rich. What America and the rest of the West will look like after the Trump revolution has finished with it we can only imagine, although considering my own political leanings you might forgive me if I don’t see much to be positive about.
Welcome to a new political age. Welcome to the age of Trump. God help us all.
Rorschach AKA Mr Cloud ©