AMERICA HAS ALWAYS ELECTED A BULLY

So, Trump has finally conceded the election. Sorta. Kinda. Maybe. Perhaps. And thus ends America’s encounter with the reality of 2016-vintage populist nationalism. His kooky cuckoo coup crew (as comedian Seth Meyers calls them) have failed for now in their openly ludicrous and vile attempt to subvert the will of the American electorate. But only just, which does not bode well for the future. Thanks to them the cracks in western democracy deepen and darken ever more. And God only knows why he is desperately trying to hold on to a job he has not done, currently is not doing, clearly has no intention of doing, and never really wanted in the first place.

Make no mistake, this is a coup, a slow moving one at that (it’s been in progress since January 2016). One person is refusing to accept the people’s will, and he’s taking power that doesn’t belong to him. That’s a coup! Luckily for us it’s a coup as if it were done by the Marx Brothers on a bad day. Somewhat of a “low-energy coup” if you will, which further proves that Trump is still more farce than tragedy, still a two-dimensional toned-down Beer Hall Putsch-plotting phony fascist wannabe. If this were happening in some third world shithole country the global media would not think twice about calling it for what it is, an outright coup, which has resulted in people making bitter jokes on social media such as “America is faster at choosing other countries’ presidents”. Touché my friend, touché.

Thanks to Trump and his cronies the American republic is fast turning into a banana republic. It’s like watching the last days of Rome, but at digital hyperspeed. The only difference is that during the Great Fire of Rome Emperor Nero played the fiddle, and during the Great Fires of America (literal wild fires and metaphorical ones due to the pandemic) Emperor Zero plays golf every weekend. And I do mean every weekend. And people thought the last days of Nixon were dark! In reality, however, Trump could never be a dictator, or an emperor, or a fascist: he just isn’t disciplined enough to maintain the image. Having said all that, as bad as he may think he is, there are still plenty of parts of the Middle East where Trump would be considered nothing more than a liberal tree hugger.

America has also reached a point of utter mutual incomprehension between it’s two factional halves. The party of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and John McCain, is no more. In its place we now have the sycophantic cult of King Donnie-Do-Nothing, a psycho beauty pageant queen who refuses to let go of the tiara. He obviously thinks of himself as the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms. Who knows how long it will take for the Republifascist party to recover, if it ever does? What will the Republican party look like without Trump? Can Republicans emerge from Trump’s shadow or will Trumpism loyalists’ soldier on regardless? And just how large will the shadow be that Trump and his clan cast?

Far from being the shiny-shiny beacon of western democracy, the US system is actually really weird, which is why the 2020 election strangely feels like a built-in coup, but then again America constitutionally coups itself every election. As Ashton Kutcher would probably never say, “You’ve been coup’d!” Or, for the younger and trendier among you, to paraphrase my fellow Muslim DJ Khaled, “Congratulations America, you played yourself.”

Architecturally, the Trump government is simply not normal. And Trump as a president is about as far from normal as we have ever seen, and hopefully will ever see. But every tweet, every press conference, every firing, every unholy pardon, all twist him and his government further out of any recognisable political shape.

And where will the 73 million plus deplorable volk who voted for him go now? Will Trump take his supporters (and maybe even some of the GOP) over the proverbial cliff in a sort of collective rapturous sacrificial martyrdom? For Trump supporters, home is where the hate is, and as long as Trump continues to hate, they will continue to donate. As long as poor white Americans have little hope of a better life, they will continue to seek a leader in his mould. Little do they realise that whatever promises Trump made on the threshold of the White House, once inside he spent four years giving billions in tax cuts to rich people and trying to deprive millions of low-paid Americans of decent healthcare. For the poor whites who put him in power, Trump had nothing to offer apart from a mutual love of casual racism. But as long as Trumpland exists, it will need a Trump. And who knows, the next white saviour may be even worse.

Because he did not campaign quietly, nor did he rule quietly, and as such there is no way he will go quietly. His concession speech will no doubt be like the end of Scarface. But worry not, come January 20th 2021 Trump the person will be gone and Sleepy Creepy Joe Biden will take over the reins. But his odorous ideology of Trumpism will still be around. The underlying problems that caused his political rise clearly still remain. Unless the opposition can offer a viable alternative, the spectre of Trumpism will continue to haunt the western world’s first banana republic.

Stephen King, the most successful horror writer ever, recently said that he thinks Trumpism is way scarier than any of his novels. Having read quite a few King novels in my time, that is high praise indeed. But once Biden is in charge, how much will truly change? Will Biden be handicapped by the antics being pulled by Trump to kneecap the incoming administration? Time, as it always does, will tell.

One thing which remains fairly clear is that for many parts of the world the American president, whomever that person is, will always be somewhat of a bully. Witness the recent demonstrations in Tehran where people are burning the flags of America and Israel, along with pictures Trump and Joe Biden. I’ll let the brilliant Karachi based Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif explain further below. Along with the quote from Hanif please also find other quotes that hopefully shed some light on the world right now. As best as one can with all that is going on, enjoy…

The rest of the world has had it with US presidents, Trump or otherwise…No matter who’s in the White House, their task is the same: fight the evil that is all of us who aren’t American…The US has always elected a bully, nurtured him and asked him to go out in the world and do the presidential thing: fight the evil that is the rest of us. At the same time they have expected their president to be nice at home, have mercy on their Thanksgiving turkey and keep talking about the American dream and affordable healthcare. Abroad, US presidents have wrought havoc, invaded and destroyed places whose names they could never pronounce, hosted murderous dictators from around the world at Camp David and found even more bloodthirsty ones to replace them. Trump has just brought all that bullying home…Americans are the world’s biggest entertainers, but seem to get bored easily and in their fabled innocence go around the world destroying places in order to save them. At home they keep telling themselves that it’s time to make a choice but, in reality, what choices do they have? Trump makes the US look bad, makes the US look too white, makes the US speak bad English, makes the US look ill-mannered, greedy, overweight. But as far as many of us around the world are concerned, even if he loses, it’s not a sign that the US is about to change; it really just heralds a bit of a makeover. The US needs a lean mascot, someone who wears better suits, who is not as overtly racist. US presidents are like the boss who goes to work terrorising his employees but comes home to spread sunshine and love. Deal with Trump by all means, lock the door and throw away the key. Elect the person you believe will save the US soul – but don’t send him out into the world to save us. – Mohammed Hanif, 03 Nov 2020, theguardian.com

The online content that people see has profound real-world consequences. Much of this content reinforces hyper-partisan, bespoke realities, in which people inside each bubble barely even encounter information that might challenge their preconceptions. This is bad for democracy, which is built on dialogue—on the belief that even when citizens argue about the merits of a politician or the specifics of a policy, they ultimately use the act of voting to decide on a shared direction. Democracy also assumes that people on the losing side will accept the loss, not retreat into an alternate reality in which their candidate won. No amount of content moderation by Facebook can make up for the president’s refusal to concede and his most die-hard supporters’ inability to see any reason why he should. The conspiracy theory that the president-elect is illegitimate and the election was stolen is being reframed as reality, and millions of Americans keep buying it. – Renée Diresta, 23 Nov 2020, theatlantic.com

The last days of Rome. Sodom and Gomorrah. Hitler’s bunker. Brookside. History is littered with cultural apocalypses and each instance is tied together by an enlightening common thread. That when all the cards have been played, the curtain is falling and the endgame looms, the damned will always revert to primal instinct – seeing out their last with a panicked frenzy of mass fornication. – Bill Bain, Dec 2018, heraldscotland.com

He lost. We’ll have to stop obsessing about him…Our contempt for Donald Trump is too finely honed at this point, too essential a part of our psyche. Who would we be — conversationally, politically — without it?…I’m not talking just about journalists. An obsession with Trump as the brute of all evil extends far beyond us…It turned his rise and reign into an all-consuming international soap opera with ratings not just through the roof but also through the stratosphere. No public figure in my lifetime has made such a monopolizing claim on our attention, even our souls…I worry that in the wake of Trump’s presidency, which both reflected and intensified the furious pitch of American politics, melodrama may be the new normal. I worry that while Americans are exhausted by it, we’re also habituated to it; that we’ll manufacture it where it doesn’t exist. – Frank Bruni, 21 Nov 2020, nytimes.com

2016 was a very bad year, and it was. It was terrible. But this year? Holy shit! This has been a lot. For me, it’s felt like the world has somehow both shrunk and expanded around me. I don’t see anyone, I don’t do anything, and I have no idea what’s going to happen next…Look, this year has been an absolute parade of misery. In January alone, Australia was being been ravaged by wildfires, Kobe Bryant died, and for a few days it really seemed like America was about to go to war with Iran. That was all this year! And that was before the coronavirus exploded and everything got even worse. Mass unemployment, evictions, that video of those celebrities singing “Imagine.” It was really terrible. On top of which this year saw the deaths of Chadwick Boseman, John Lewis, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Plus, the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett…This year ruined lives, jobs, concerts, and sanity. It also brought a new wave of wrenching videos of police brutality that brought on a national reckoning with race, and a ferocious and depressing backlash. And sure, the presidential election ended well, but it was grim to live through. And Trump won’t actually leave office till next January. 2020 was absolutely terrible. And I really hope next year is going to be better, but the truth is, what happens next is up to all of us. It’s going to depend how willing we are to fight, how well we learn from what’s happened, and how much we are able to care about each other. So I don’t know what happens next…Let tomorrow be about solutions. – John Oliver, 15 Nov 2020, from his TV show Last Week Tonight From John Oliver

The age of Trump was an ugly one. An ugliness in profound and harrowing senses – racism, lies and callousness – extended into a literal ugliness that, while in no way as significant as the president’s actions, has often made the past four years feel like an assault on the senses. This administration has looked and sounded like no other, just as it has acted like no other. The nastiness of Trump’s pronouncements has many times been made more shocking by his language: the barked, capitalised tweets littered with errors and exclamation marks; the misogyny underscored by snickering profanity. Every unmasked public appearance has been a visceral reminder of a shirking of leadership and responsibility in the face of a public health crisis…The past four years in US politics have been tough to watch on many levels. The changing of the guard in the White House is a sight for sore eyes. – Jess Cartner-Morley, 11 Nov 2020, theguardian.com

The constant barrage of Trump’s norm-busting presidency has caused a collective numbness that accepts institutional impotence, renders objective facts relative and decouples actions from their consequences. Like it’s all become a game. Now after four years where almost anything has gone, Americans and their friends across the world wait to see if those institutions can withstand a final barrage of orchestrated chaos and whether what emerges from the election is democracy or a paler imitation. It is impossible to look away as we are, all of us, drawn into the orange vortex…Many of us have been drawn into the drama as bemused onlookers. – Peter Lewis, 03 Nov 2020, theguardian.com