First the Poms abandoned common sense in backing Brexit and now the Yanks have voted against their own best interests (and those of the rest of the civilized world) by electing Donald J Trump.
This was not a rational decision; it was the ultimate political gesture, a defiant middle finger towards what they imagined was The Establishment, by which they actually meant anything and anyone they resented.
It was the act of a demented driver who deliberately veers across the median strip into the oncoming traffic: he knows it will certainly harm him, he may not survive, but with any luck he will take a couple of expensive imported limousines and their fat cat passengers with him. There will be carnage and mayhem, but what a spectacle – that will show them all.
The irony is that the chief beneficiary of this craziness will be the biggest, fattest cat of all, the immensely privileged elitist who has made a career and a fortune out of gaming the very system he now affects to despise, now stands to immeasurably enhance his own power and wealth.
Trump does not have an agenda for change – it is hardly even a wish list of fantasies. Deport, ban or gaol everyone he doesn’t like; destroy affordable health care for the poor while handing out huge tax cuts to the rich; end foreign trade and reopen the coal mines, restart the assembly lines and deliver a chicken in every pot and a pussy in every hand – and, of course, make America great again.
In the meantime, break off all treaties, nuke anyone who objects and build impenetrable forces around the nation in the style of North Korea. At the very least this would destroy the economy, the Great Society and Pax Americana; at the worst, it would precipitate World War III and the end of civilization. Fortunately, this mad plan is utterly unworkable, but this does not mean that it will cannot do immense damage before the country comes to its senses.
Trump’s victory speech is seen as conciliatory, but his record speaks – or rants and gibbers – for itself, The best that can be hoped is that to some extent the poacher can turn gamekeeper; that he will appoint and trust reasonable and experienced underlings who will restrain his craziest impulses. The report that the veteran right wing zealot Newt Gingrich has the nod as Secretary of State does not inspire confidence.
Trump has promised to drain the swamp, the morass of greed, arrogance and corruption which is best embodied in his own Trump Towers but we will leave that aside. It may sound an appealing idea, but swamp-draining can have unexpected consequences. Some of the wildlife therein is not especially appealing, but it is vital to the survival of many beyond its immediate borders.
Trump will eventually have to acknowledge this truth – or at least we hope he will. And his followers, the death wish drivers who put him in charge, will have to realize that they have been conned. It is not entirely they’re fault: it is not primarily that they are racists, xenophobes, misogynists and ignorant, although unfortunately many are.
The problem is the rampant and obscene inequality of the society in which they live. They see the rich getting steadily richer, more rapacious and more selfish as they are left further and further behind. In Australia their anger would be called a class war, the politics of envy, and would be excoriated and dismissed by the conservative media. In America they were just ignored – until they decided to blow up the joint.
And, America being America, the tremors have reverberated around the world and the aftershocks will go on for a long time, even –perhaps especially – in Australia. Malcolm Turnbull, who a couple of weeks ago described Trump’s comments as loathsome, has reassured us that he has had a really chummy chat with the president elect and ANZUS is intact, so everything is all right.
But it isn’t. Europe may well be convulsed: apart from ending the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which may take some time, Trump will cast his bloodshot eyes over the NATO pact, the keystone policy of the Western Alliance.
And as he moves further east he will abrogate Barack Obama’s painstaking agreement with Iran and align with Vladimir Putin to bomb the shit out of ISIS, and anyone who opposes the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and, for that matter, anything else that moves.
And then it comes to China: he has already declared a trade war, and has talked about ramping up American action in the South China Sea. Given that Putin is apparently his new best friend, it is even possible that the two could combine to bring their might to bring China down a peg or two. The consequences would be immeasurable, but not unimaginable, and Australia would be right in the middle.
And worst of all, is the threat to make nations like Japan and South Korea to either pay for American protection, or, if they don’t, strike out on their own. And if they choose the latter, he will help them acquire nuclear weapons to do so.
It is a truism that all politicians break election promises, but the problem is that Trump has always denied that he is a politician. Some of his ideas will obviously not be feasible: they are unworkable, or illegal, or both. But many can be implemented by executive fiat, and others will be massaged through the acquiescence of a compliant congress.
Eventually sanity will prevail. Either the establishment will strike back, or more probably the voters who believed that Trump would indeed be the Messiah who would deliver them from their chains and bring in a new world order in which America ruled the world and they would share the spoils would realize that they had been conned; their world will be changed, but not for the better.
So what do they do now? What does anyone do now? We simply don’t know – we were never prepared for this. God help America – God help Australia — God help the world.