Saturday, July 11, 2020

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 31-12-2017 00:50

The year the world revolved around Trump

What Trump represents is certainly not confined to the US. Throughout the developed world, more and more “ordinary” men and women feel they have been taken for a ride by allegedly progressive minded people.

Unless something truly momentous happens before 2018 finally comes marching in and television viewers get treated to renderings of “Auld Lang Syne” in Chinese, Tagalog, Hindi and an assortment of other tongues, future historians will agree that the year that is leaving us belonged to a loud-mouthed vulgarian with a strange hair-cut called Donald Trump.

In 2017 the goofy “reality TV” star – who, to the dismay of professional politicians, backed by squadrons of experts and with war chests stuffed with huge amounts of money, had snatched from under their noses the biggest prize of all, the presidency of the United States – bestrode the world like a comic-book colossus.

For many people, the mere existence of such a creature was already an affront to all they held dear; to see him strutting about in the role of the most powerful man on earth made them squirm with disgust. In North America and Europe, millions fell victim to a novel mental affliction that, without having to exaggerate even a tiny bit, amused onlookers called the “Trump derangement syndrome.”

Sufferers from this condition feel obliged to shower the man and his supporters with insults. They do it in order to draw attention to their own superiority and tell us they have no responsibility for whatever may happen in a world that no longer respects their wisdom. The efforts of the more articulate continue to fill page after page of left-leaning periodicals such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and, on the other side of the Atlantic, The Guardian, as well as meeting with the approval of the people in charge of the BBC.

By now they should have realised that Trump himself relishes being at the receiving-end and rarely misses an opportunity to hit back. He does so not just because he has always liked a good scrap, but also because he understands that, politics being the nasty business it so frequently is, success depends more on an ability to choose one’s enemies than on knowing how to ingratiate oneself with traditional power-brokers or doing whatever it takes to get feted by actresses, rappers, sportsmen and other celebrities.

Trump’s own recent experience has taught him that picking fights with credentialed members of the progressive elite, instead of trying to curry favour with them, is a good way to open up a path to high office. Whether or not it will help him consolidate power now he has his hands on it remains questionable, but so far the technique he made his own has worked well enough. Despite his many unappealing qualities and his often bizarre behaviour, Trump continues to enjoy the support of his “base” and, unless he decides to call it a day, the economy tanks or the Democrats manage to come up with someone far better than Hillary Clinton, he could well get re-elected in 2020.

Politicians who are convinced that the left-of-centre “progressive elite,” which for several decades dominated politics in much of the West, has made an almighty mess of things will have come to the conclusion that, in a future election campaign, someone of a more conventional appearance but similar views could sweep all before him or her. Like Trump, in the US such a candidate would stand for controlled immigration rather than letting all-comers in, economic nationalism, less government regulation and a reluctance to be intimidated by militant Islam, keen environmentalists who would like to save the planet by dismantling entire industries or the preachers of “political correctness.”

As many must appreciate, by his uncouth behaviour and his self-indulgent tweeting, Trump has put off a large number of North Americans and Europeans who would otherwise support much of what he is trying to do. In other words, his programme, if such it may be called, is much more popular than his enemies would have us think. By attacking the man, they avoid having to take seriously the issues he raises; the harm done to once thriving communities by free trade and an influx of immigrants from parts of the world where Western values tend to be heartily despised, the risks posed by the totalitarian antics of far too many denizens of academe and much else besides.

What Trump represents is certainly not confined to the US. Throughout the developed world, more and more “ordinary” men and women feel they have been taken for a ride by the allegedly progressive-minded people who take it for granted that their way of looking at things is the only one that is morally acceptable.

For these individuals, the year that is about to depart has been unpleasantly instructive. To their pained surprise, the more prominent among them have had to get used to being pictured as membersofwell-heeled, pompous, self-righteous, out-of-touch elites who inhabit privileged enclaves.

As for the young folk who are being put through the expanded educational system daddy and mummy helped create and, as is prone to happen, want to outdo them by “progressing” even further on the road towards a perfect society free from racism, Islamophobia, “hate speech” and other things they have learned to dislike, they are widely regarded as poor little “snowflakes” who would rather cower in one of the “safe spaces” that now abound in academic institutions than confront a possibly unfriendly world.

The defenders of what may soon be remembered as the old order are evidently bewildered by what is going on. Like their counterparts in Argentina, in the US they have reacted by hurling abuse, and on occasion rocks, at those who refuse to take their orthodoxies seriously. Here, the Kirchnerites assume that any government but their own must be illegitimate and act accordingly.

In the US, disgruntled Democrats take much the same view of the Trump administration; some seem genuinely convinced that the cunning Russians, chess masters to a man, put him in the presidency by investing in the ubiquitous social media a tiny fraction of the money they themselves lavished on the previous year’s election campaign. By his outlandish conduct in office, Trump has certainly made his critics’ life a lot easier; by responding in the way they have, they have helped him drag US politics down to a level that was once considered typical of banana republics.

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James Neilson

James Neilson

Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1979-1986).

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