White House

The Trump ‘victory’ – a post-mortem for an American tragedy

Many analyses have taken place since the unexpected electoral college victory of president-elect Donald Trump, and no doubt countless analyses are yet to come.

While the world is unlikely to end as a result, fingers crossed, the United States of America is likely to become a very different place, and that will have significant ramifications around the world.

One thing is not in doubt: Donald Trump is the least conventionally qualified, and most ill-prepared, person for the job – ever.

At least, the internet trolls and bullies of the United States can now dream that they too could be president one day. And until then, they can rest in the knowledge that one of them leads the nation.

In January I compared Donald Trump’s candidacy to an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer Simpson runs for Sanitation Commissioner of Springfield – sadly I have seen nothing in the course of the past year that would change that dire comparison.

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.
An American tragedy, The New Yorker (9 November 2016)

The economy, fear, and disillusionment

Racism, misogyny, and homophobia

The unleashing of evangelical Christians?

The threat to women and LGBTI Americans

Donald Trump’s the business acumen – reality or illusion?

Establishment politics and draining the ‘swamp’

Hoping for the best – but is hope enough?

The economy, fear, and disillusionment

Donald Trump’s election campaign was largely built on appealing to fear, dissatisfaction, and a variety of attitudes that belong circa 1516, rather than 2016.

The outcome shows us that there is just enough fear and dissatisfaction out there for people to lose their minds enough to elect a man with the questionable qualities of Donald Trump to the most powerful and influential public office in the world.

Sadly, there is nothing surprising about the outcome – it was practically predetermined by the shortcomings of human nature, our innate evolutionary reflex to circle the wagons when we feel threatened.

I feel cheated by the Information Age.

It was meant to herald a new age of an informed and learned humanity.

It was meant to herald our ability to rise above our basic instincts.

It was meant to herald the victory of knowledge and logic, over the primitive Neanderthal instincts imprinted on us by evolution.

But fear and caution, perhaps the strongest and most influential evolutionary tools, that had served our survival so well for millenniums had now become a liability. They are preventing humanity from crossing the next social evolutionary barrier from a tribes of nations, races, and religions to a unified single humanity.

We organised into societies from the very beginning because deep down we understand that we are stronger together, and division leads to weakness and fall.

But our instinct to fear and be cautious of the ‘other,’ the ‘different,’ remains an evolutionary imperative designed to protect our lineage, our ‘own.’

There is an existential conflict between our innate desire to exclude the ‘other,’ and our understanding of the need to band and work together for survival, and greater success.

This conflict, perhaps one of the most instinctual constants throughout our history, is easily manipulated and exploited.

Some people had found ways to flame and exploit that conflict throughout human existence, and our known history is essentially the tale of that conflict playing out across the centuries.

Enter Donald Trump into a world undergoing a global economic realignment, and a nation with a long history of economic inequality, poverty, and debilitating social ills, from a history of slavery and racism to epidemic gun violence, which all stand in direct conflict with its polished self-image of a leading democracy where all men are created equal, and supposed to have the same opportunities.

Facts and numbers had failed to counter a lying, unapologetic Donald Trump pandering to the rising fear and disillusion caused by a world changing at a seemingly ever increasing pace. And his lies were no little white-lies. They were huge, misleading whoppers, always calculated, frequently malicious with utter disregard to the truth, and designed to have an impact.

Sadly, the fourth pillar of democracy, the media and journalism, had failed us, by allowing the lies to trump the truth, and social media contributed to spreading a tsunami of harmful manufactured fake news.

Cognitive dissonance on a national scale had become the reality of the United States, and one cannot look at the success of Donald Trump without the backdrop of that collective cognitive dissonance.

Donald Trump is a man who presented himself as the champion of those left behind my special interest politics. But he is a multi-billionaire who built his fortune on a multi-million dollar inheritance, exploiting those very special interest politics he is now promising to realign to help those left behind.

Ironically, President Barack Obama was just finally getting on top of an economic disaster he inherited from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush who had sunk over a trillion dollars into a failed war, the consequences of which are still reverberating around the Middle East and Europe, amplified by the global financial crisis, despite Republican lawmakers blocking and frustrating him at every turn for eight years.

Gold elevator
A poignant Indy100.com headline …
There are only a few ways Donald Trump could tangibly address the economic and social inequality that permeates the United States, and they would include policies that would set in stone minimum wages and conditions for the working class, implement quality, science-based education standards across all States, ensure that an equitable tax burden is placed on high-income earners and corporations, and providing universal healthcare.

Many, if not all, of these policies have been in place in most other Western democracies for decades, although conservative forces everywhere are constantly working on undermining and eroding them, including in Australia.

There is zero chance of Donald Trump implementing any such policies, in fact his policies, and the policies of the Republican Party, are diametrically opposed to any sensible action that could practically improve the economic and social status of those left behind. Such policies are frequently, and dismissively, painted as akin to ‘communism’ in the American political discourse, and the American people are culturally conditioned to reject the very policies that would help them to raise their living standards and improve their lives.

Donald Trump’s key platform of returning manufacturing jobs to the United States is likely to be futile as it faces the economic reality of trying to compete with labour costs in Asia, and elsewhere. If he tries to address that problem by implementing economic protectionism, the outfall is likely to cause more damage to the American economy than any potential benefits.

Modern economic plans that are built on manufacturing and mining are also inherently problematic because there is a significant ongoing shift away from those industries due to our economic and technological development – a global trend that is unlikely to reverse itself to suit the political agenda of reactionary conservatives.

While progress can be frightening and requires significant readjustment by those affected, such changes have been a hallmark of human development and had happened continuously in the course of human history.

The answer is not to reject, slow, or stop human progress but to adapt, and help those affected by the changes to adjust, and eventually also reap the benefits of that progress.

Racism, misogyny, and homophobia

Donald Trump also coloured his campaign with very strong shades of racism and misogyny, arguably designed to appeal to specific subsets of American culture, galvanising subcultures that can only further damage the already frayed fabric of American society.

And we can only hope that his presidency won’t be what finally rips that fabric apart, because despite its undeniable flaws the world still needs a strong United States of America.

Over the past half century America had taken on a self-appointed role of balancing sensitive geo-political forces and it cannot now wash its hands and walk away from those responsibilities, or destabilise itself to an extent where it can no longer live up to the expectations it had itself created.

A serious further complication for Donald Trump is that while he captured a majority of the electoral colleges, he is trailing in the overall popular vote by over 650,000 votes at the date of publication, and Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote grows larger every day as counting continues.

While the democratic system must be respected, and the electoral colleges have been part of that system since the birth of American democracy, trailing in the overall popular vote will haunt him during his four years in office.

When one has a close look at the electoral map, further schisms in American society are revealed.

First, most major urban centres and cities, even in Republican held States, have voted for Hillary Clinton, and they stand as blue Democratic islands in a sea of red.

This, together with the popular vote outcome, explains the large and bitter anti-Trump protests across the cities of the United States.

They are not paid, professional protesters as alleged by Donald Trump and his surrogates.

They are angry, disaffected Americans who reject his presidency, and what it represents.

Second, on the face of it race appears to have been a critical factor, with white Americans overwhelmingly endorsing Donald Trump, while non-white voters rejected him on mass.

Sadly, white supremacists and national socialists were a solid support base for the Trump candidacy, including the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and his victory was greeted with celebrations in those circles.

David Duke was predictably jubilant and frank following Donald Trump’s victory.

Donald Trump had already returned the favour for the white nationalist support by appointing Stephen Bannon, the right-wing media mogul, widely considered to be a white nationalist, and the owner of the Alt-Right Breitbart online news platform, as Chief Strategist.

It’s worth noting that the notorious poster boy for the Alt-Right movement, and internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos is employed by Breitbart. Yes, that’s the Milo Yiannopoulos who was banned for life from Twitter earlier this year following a vicious racist Alt-Right mob attack on African-American actress and comedian Leslie Jones in a trolling incident largely seen as encouraged and directed by Mr Yiannopoulos. Mr Yiannopoulos is also one of the main public personas behind the largely anonymous and violently misogynistic ‘Gamer Gate’ movement.

Of course, Mr Yiannopoulos is also an avid Donald Trump supporter.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the context, reports of racist attacks in the United States are on the rise.

While Donald Trump’s campaign enabled fringe elements of American society, and legitimised their views, it is doubtful he will be able assert any control over the rise of white nationalism, and their actions, when it comes to the unfolding backlash against minorities.

Third, the education levels of voters may have played a role, with indications that those who did not graduate were more likely to vote for Donald Trump.

Fourth, income levels also appear to have influenced voting decisions, with higher earners slightly more likely to vote for Donald Trump.

Fifth, gender also played a role with men more likely to vote for Donald Trump.

Finally, age was also a critical factor with older voters favouring Donald Trump.

Healing such significant cultural and social schisms will require something more nuanced and qualified than Donald Trump, and an administration packed with reactionary evangelicals.

The unleashing of evangelical Christians?

Which brings us to the issue of evangelical Christians in America. A large number of American evangelicals are the most misguided, misinformed, and malicious religious extremists outside the Middle East.

They are anti-progress, anti-women, and anti-gay.

On some days their social policies are hard to tell apart from much maligned Islamic extremists.

Thankfully, our liberal, secular democracies developed checks and balances and institutions that prevented them from taking their ideologies too far, and from fully unleashing those ideologies on society at large.

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established.
The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin, Newsweek (23 December 2014)

With the Trump administration those checks and balances will be under significant pressure. Evangelical Christians have long sought to enshrine their influence in the laws of the land, and Trump could be the conduit through which they can achieve this.

You could think of their ultimate vision of the United States of America as a Christian Iran.

Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s Vice President is a notorious evangelical extremist himself who thinks gay people can be turned straight with conversion therapy, and opposes abortion rights. As Governor of Indiana, he was also leading the charge for the enactment of so-called ‘religious freedom’ bills which would entitle people to refuse service to LGBTI Americans on the grounds of strongly held religious beliefs. He, like many other good, god-fearing American evangelicals, also appears to be preoccupied with transgender people’s genitals, and their bathroom use.

If you don’t find the idea of Ben ‘Joseph built the pyramids to store grains’ Carson as Secretary of Education a frightening concept, you are a brave individual indeed.

Or Sarah ‘keep your change, we’ll keep our God, our guns’ Palin as the Secretary of the Interior.

Or Newt ‘the idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument’ Gingrich as Secretary of State.

And so on …

One can only hope that America’s democratic institutions and its people, including moderate and progressive Christians, many of whom had stopped calling themselves ‘evangelicals’ because they do not wish to be associated with the damage being caused to society in the name of evangelicalism, will be strong enough to stand up to any attempts to undermine the American republic.

Science and education will also be the likely victims of a Trump led evangelical takeover of America. Climate science, largely rejected by Donald Trump and those closest to him, is likely to become the first casualty, leaving the world ill-equipped to respond to an existential threat to the entire globe, without the cooperation of one of its largest economies.

Realistically, the United States is unlikely to become a Christian Iran, but extremist evangelical Christians will use this opportunity to get as close to a theocratic leaning America as they can, or will be allowed.

The threat to women and LGBTI Americans

Women, in particular fertility rights and abortions, and LGBTI Americans will be under a nationwide siege.

The historic judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) in Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), guaranteeing a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, has been under unrelenting siege by so-called ‘pro-life’ activists for decades.

Conservative, Republican controlled States in particular are continuously looking at increasingly extreme ways to regulate, limit, and erode that right, often using very cynical and questionable methods, to the extent permitted by the Constitution, and the decision in Roe v Wade which tried to find the delicate balance between a woman’s right, and the state’s two interests considered legitimate by SCOTUS when regulating abortions: to protect women’s health, and the potentiality of human life.

With several appointments likely to be made to SCOTUS in the course of the Trump presidency, those appointments could have far-reaching consequences on American jurisprudence, and the country’s cultural and social development. Donald Trump worked with two notoriously conservative policy groups, the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, to draw up his list of judicial candidates.

A conservative majority on SCOTUS would have the power to reshape America, by overturning Roe v Wade, and putting an end to marriage equality in the United States.

Donald Trump: I feel that the justices that I am going to appoint — and I’ve named 20 of them — the justices that I’m going to appoint will be pro-life. They will have a conservative bent.

Chris Wallace (moderator): But what I’m asking you, sir, is, do you want to see the court overturn — you just said you want to see the court protect the Second Amendment. Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?

Donald Trump: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justice on, that’s really what’s going to be — that will happen. And that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.
Donald Trump, at the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (19 October 2016)

A renewed effort by a Republican controlled legislature to destroy Planned Parenthood is practically also inevitable and Trump is unlikely to stand in their way with a presidential veto.

Meanwhile, LGBTI Americans are likely to be targeted with new federal laws to enable federal contractors to fire them on the basis of their sexual orientation, or gender identity.

To achieve this aim the Republicans already went as far this year as jeopardising the defence budget of the nation by tacking the anti-LGBTI amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, knowing President Obama would veto the bill due to the unrelated and spiteful amendment.

With Donald Trump in the White House, and Republicans ruling both houses of the legislature, the anti-LGBTI amendment can now be seen as a certainty.

And there will be no protection offered by SCOTUS – stacked with conservative judges under President Trump.

Waving an upside down rainbow flag at one election rally does not make Donald Trump a ‘champion’ of the LGBTI community, especially when he made it clear that he plans to appoint ‘pro-life conservatives’ to SCOTUS, who will eventually overturn marriage equality. Donald Trump waving the rainbow flag upside down is not just ironic, but a downright dark prophecy, as flying a flag upside down is the international sign of distress by the community it represents. No wonder the majority of the LGBTI community fears his ascension.

Any recent assertions by Donald Trump that he sees marriage equality ‘settled,’ and that ‘it’s law’ are disingenuous, verging on the ludicrous.

First, if Obergefell v Hodges is ‘settled,’ why would Roe v Wade be in question? They are both decisions of SCOTUS, and part of the law of the United States.

Second, if you plan to appoint ‘pro-life conservative’ judges to SCOTUS with the very specific aim of overturning Roe v Wade, you can be sure those same conservative judges will not look kindly at marriage equality, and Obergefell v Hodges, either.

The National Organization for Marriage, a notorious anti-LGBTI organisation, classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, had already drawn up and publicised a plan on how they intend to utilise the Trump presidency to overturn marriage equality in the United States.

Here is our plan:

• We will work with President Trump to nominate conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, individuals who will adhere to the words and meaning of the constitution. Such justices will inevitably reverse the anti-constitutional ruling of the Supreme Court imposing same-sex ‘marriage’ on the nation in the Obergefell decision, because that decision lacked any basis in the constitution.

• We will work with President Trump to rescind the illegal, over-reaching executive orders and directives issued by President Obama, including his dangerous “gender identity” directives, attempting to redefine gender just as he sought to redefine marriage.

• We will work with President Trump to reverse policies of the Obama administration that seek to coerce other countries into accepting same-sex ‘marriage’ as a condition of receiving US assistance and aid. It is fundamentally wrong for a president to become a lobbyist for the LGBT agenda, and we are confident that will end in the Trump administration.

• We will work with President Trump and Congress to pass the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which Mr. Trump supports. FADA is critical legislation to protect people who believe in marriage from being targeted by the government for persecution.
The Plan, National Organization for Marriage (9 November 2016)

Some will point to the appointment of Peter Thiel, a gay tech multi-billionaire, to Donald Trump’s transition team as a sign of the LGBTI community’s overreaction. Unfortunately, Mr Thiel’s appointment is mere payback for his financial and vocal support for Mr Trump’s presidential run.

Mr Thiel has no tangible track record on gay rights issues, in fact he ‘referred to the devastating legislation that North Carolina and Mississippi passed prohibiting transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice as a “distraction”,’ and financed the destruction of Gawker to exact revenge over an article that publicly outed him to the world at large.

Donald Trump’s business acumen – reality or illusion?

Donald Trump strongly relied on his business credentials during the campaign, but the more one examines his business dealings and the quality of his successes, it becomes clear that he is not the unqualified success he presents himself to be.

An analysis of his finances revealed that if he just invested his inheritance back in 1982 in a fund based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, with the dividends reinvested, he would be almost three times as rich today than he actually is. In real terms this means that he lost billions by doing business, while also destroying countless others along the way.

His practices had often been highly questionable, and his business ‘successes’ are underpinned by a significant inheritance, exploiting the very system he now promises to dismantle, and the milking of an empty but influential American celebrity culture.

The issue of Donald Trump’s business empire and the huge conflict of interest created by him becoming president cannot be overlooked either. The concerns are further amplified by the ‘blind trust’ proposed to address the issue.

A lot of mileage was made during the election campaign out of the perceived conflict of interest between Hillary Clinton being Secretary of State, and the charitable and highly respected and effective Clinton Foundation soliciting and receiving international donations in support of its work around the world.

Now Donald Trump thinks that allowing his children to run his business while he serves as President qualifies as a ‘blind trust,‘ even after he appointed three of those children to his presidential transition team – this represents an unprecedented conflict of interest in American politics.

Establishment politics and draining the ‘swamp’

As for the metaphorical ‘draining of the swamp’ in Washington, looking at Donald Trump’s transition team, his supporters may be bitterly disappointed. A transition team filled with Washington insiders is a bad omen for this promise.

Multi-billionaires, such as Peter Thiel, and established political operators, no matter how huge a failures they were, like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, can try to pretend to be ‘outsiders,’ but never will be, and assertions to the contrary can only be met with laughter and derision.

For someone who used the phrase ‘Washington establishment’ as a dagger, he already appointed Mr ‘Washington establishment’ himself, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff, so the ‘swamp’ in Washington continues to enjoy very good health – and undoubtedly will continue to do so.

Hoping for the best – but is hope enough?

One can wish only the best for Donald Trump, and his success as President is paramount, not just for the United States, but for global stability.

Unfortunately, the reality of his lack of redeemable qualities, his multitudes of personality flaws, appalling history of behaviour, and official appointments to date, are no match for communal hoping and wishing.

Donald Trump has a disconcerting psychological profile. He’s a man who had proven himself to be a self-serving pathological liar, and who time and time again demonstrated his lack of empathy, unfamiliarity with the concept of humility, and myriads of personality traits which are most often associated with psychopathy.

Those behaviours and traits kept him afloat in the unscrupulous world of the billionaire business club where laws, regulations, and courts are just tools to be exploited to get further ahead, while destroying the lives of workers and contractors caught up in the web is inconsequential.

One can only imagine the potentially disastrous consequences of bringing that personality and modus operandi to the White House, and the world.

Hoping and wishing might not be a match in the circumstances.

But actions will be.

We must all work together to keep Donald Trump and his administration accountable for their actions and words, and support those targeted by culturally, economically, and socially reactionary policies.

We must also monitor our communities for occurrences of bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, and racism, and we must stand united against those attitudes.

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