The clock has been ticking — or whatever it is that clocks now do. The calendar has been counting. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out how what happened November 8 happened.
Michael Moore foresaw it but who else. Not President Obama, he admits. Not me. Even the pollsters missed out on this one. And if you didn’t think it could happen, what credibility do you have if you now pretend you can explain it? Exactly none. So read on with no expectation of the truth except by random error.
Actually, most of the truth is contained in that brilliant Trump slogan “Make America Great Again.” America has claimed to be great since the first white settler stumbled ashore proclaiming his or her exceptionalism, but the time of greatness that Trump and his listeners had in mind is likely to have been the Eisenhower years of the 1950s.
It has to have been prior to the cultural revolution of the 1960s, a time before women’s liberation, the rebirth of the environmental movement, civil rights for African Americans, multiculturalism and other fundamental decencies. And, of course, well before there was climate change to deny.
But how great the 1950s really were doesn’t really matter, that being in the nature of nostalgia, of fairy stories of once upon a time.
(I was there, doing graduate work in the U.S. and, actually, it was the most boring of times.)
What does indeed matter is how we lost that time. We know what the answer has to be: we were betrayed. And by whom? Our own political elites, the insiders, that’s who, by people like Hillary Clinton who’ve been there for 30 years and, of course, the mainstream media.
It is of the essence of Trump’s appeal, and no mere flourish, that he is anti-elitist and politically reactive to the Establishment, literally reactionary.
Add to this political mix some “foreigners,” Mexicans and Muslims — the Other – who’ve come here as cheap labour taking jobs, and as terrorists. Appeal to the most base of sentiments: deport them, make sure no more come.
Stir up this toxic brew and you have the white nationalism that Trump toyed with so successfully.
That nationalism has been here from Day One, evident in the treatment by white settlers of Indigenous people and African Americans brought as slaves. The surprise is that it is alive and deeply unwell in the head office of globalization. The elites who talked up the virtues of globalization knew not of what they spoke. Neither Obama or Clinton seem to have grasped the depths of the downside.
Globalization handcuffed the nation state, which was said to be a virtue. In the rule of neoliberalism, there was no way for any one country to help out their losers because there weren’t supposed to be any. It was a guaranteed way to create reactionary right-wing nationalism.
There is a deep irony involved here. The United States pioneered the digital technology, the social media, that has overwhelmed America with “information” and facilitated the spread of lies and hate.
We obviously await full analysis of the vote but this is what is thought to be so: 90 per cent of Trump’s support came from white people, who voted 60/40 for Trump over Clinton. The proportion of the white vote that went to Trump was higher for the over $50,000 a year income than for the under $50,000. Whites of lower incomes appear to have voted less for Trump than their “betters.”
There was a gender difference with white men more supportive of Trump than white women, but a majority of white women with college degrees voted for Trump in spite of his flagrant misogyny.
All of which is truly appalling, a huge backward step. It’s hard to be a white man in North America and hold your head high.
The cost to the planet from electing Trump is huge. Four years of not dealing with climate change increases the likelihood that it will escape our control.
It is tempting to see globalization as the problem to which people were responding but it is far from that simple. There has even been loose talk about the importance of class, but a surprising number of well-to-do whites supported Trump. Colour “trumped” class.
There is a powerful trend within American scholarship to praise civic nationalism and damn ethnic nationalism; our Michael Ignatieff is very much of that persuasion. Such scholars are apt to see American democracy as what the world needs. Really?
That same strand of scholarship sees merit in any and every trade agreement. Those of us who have doubted their virtues have been treated as know-nothings by the mainstream media. I am deeply troubled by Trump’s victory — like my hero Noam Chomsky I would have voted for Clinton if I was an American — but I admit to a sliver of satisfaction watching trade agreements wither.
Corporate globalization, which is what we’ve had, is the problem. It is a travesty to confuse that with popular global consciousness, which we are desperately in need of. Agreements like NAFTA are charters of rights for the corporations. It is unlikely that Trump even understands this — but then neither does Justin Trudeau.
First Brexit, which was also a white vote against globalization. The further right is taking over and we must all be on our guard. Anti-Trump forces are organizing to our south. We need go do the same here. How about a wall to keep the bearers of bad ideas out?
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Image: Flickr/PBS NewsHour