Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Own Goal

I suppose we in Britain, of all people, should not be surprised at how easy it is to miss what is, apparently, an open goal, or to accidentally put one in the back of the wrong net.

But, good grief, America, what have you done? Are you sure about this? I'm not one of those who arrogantly dismisses anyone who disagrees with me politically as "stupid". And I don't presume to understand the politics of a country that has the colours red and blue the wrong way round. But I do worry about the whole "post-truth" thing. Anyone who seriously believes Trump's promise that he can bring coal and steel and car-making back to their rust-belt town – including Trump himself – is a victim of truthiness, of choosing to believe what they would prefer to be the case.

We are right to be concerned about the foreign-policy implications of an "America first" stance, especially those of us living next-door to Putin's Russia and just down the street from the Middle East. But what concerns me more is what happens to American politics post-Trump, after it transpires that coal and steel and car-making won't be coming home after all?


Thomas Rink said...

Mike, what really makes me angry is the abject failure of the liberal/left part of the political spectrum, not only in the US, but in all western countries. When Reaganism/Thatcherism took off in the eighties, their first reaction was to freeze - and later happily jump onto the neoliberal bandwagon! Instead of developing a credible alternative to deregulation, denationalisation and warmongering, they gave us Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder, the Clintons, you name it. Now, after several disasters like the invasion of Iraq, the almost-meltdown of the financial system in 2008 or the Euro-crisis, voters finally noticed that not everything was fine. NOW would have been the time to offer an alternative - and what they offered was Hillary Clinton! Seriously??
Please don't get me wrong. Being a member of the oligarchy, too, Donald Trump is not an alternative either. I believe that politicians like Varoufakis, Corbyn, Sanders or Wagenknecht and the ideas that they represent might be our last chance to avoid that our democracies turn into authoritarian (or even fascist) regimes.

Best, Thomas

Mike in San Diego said...

I slept only 2 hours last night, sick with the idea of having an uncivilized sexual predator, a misogynist and demagogue as our next president. I felt as though it had to be a nightmare because nobody with any intelligence would elect such a monster to lead a democratic country, but no, it was true. America is teeming with idiots - idiots who will never get what Trump promised. I am truly embarrassed for our country. Many of us are deeply depressed about the outcome. Thankfully I have photography in which to enjoy a few hours of calm and forget about the brewing storm.

Paul Mc Cann said...

How many people truly believed those promises?

How many believe the £250m going to the National Health Service? I sense no real air of diaappointment at it not happening, more an acceptance of the lie as it was.

I think we all only listen to those with the same views as ourselves and close our ears to the rest. We ignore demagogues at our peril. There must have been something in the Trump message, beyond the populist nonsense, that appealed to all those Americans who voted for him.

Anyway the man is/was a New York democrat so who knows what the outome of the whole farrago will be.

Mike C. said...


It's an extraordinary and worrying development, no doubt about it. I think the main "hope" (if that's what it is) is that people who wade into a swamp with the intention of draining it most often either sink without trace, or become swamp-dwellers themselves, out of necessity. My bet is that a year from now Trump will be the biggest Washington insider the world has yet seen. All that populist momentum will have long gone -- look what happened to Obama, after all...

As I say, I'm actually more concerned about where all that populist energy and anger goes to find its next outlet. There are worse people and ideas out there...

There may be comfort in the knowledge that Clinton (a bad candidate, IMHO, who lost the elction as much as Trump won it) did actually *win* the popular vote, and it was the absurd electoral college apparatus (on which she had falsely pinned her hopes) that delivered the presidency to Trump.


Mike C. said...


I think you're probably right, with this difference: our national default settings are "mustn't grumble" and "typical!" -- we expect to be let down and actually rather enjoy it. After decades as a trades union activist, my conclusion was that most people don't want the embarrassment of being seen to fight for personal (an even collective) gain. How many lonely picket lines I have stood on, since the heady days of the Miners' Strike, and how few actual gains we have won.

Americans are different, in a worse state at the bottom of a bigger heap, and also armed to the teeth. There are actual fascist militias out in the Flyover States, which are beginning to seem rather less like a joke now.


amolitor said...

I am relying on on our bureaucrats. 'hmm, yes. Interesting idea Mr President. We'll form a working group to study the possible shapes that might take' They stop good ideas as well as bad, of course. But this is the season rejoice in our obstructionist lazy government drones.

Of more concern is the Republican control of all the branches, really. That sort of thing makes it a lot easier to steamroll bad ideas past the bureaucrats.

For the record, I also oppose Democrat control of all three. Efficient government is a horrible thing, and I want those bastards mired in glue, even though it she's frustrate me from time to time

Mike C. said...


As I say, until you sort out the correct party colours there really is no hope of understanding US politics...

Do you know the British TV programme from the 70s, "Yes, Minister" (or its far more brutal contemporary version, "The Thick Of It")? The format may have transferred to the States -- the basic premiss is that the Civil Service's main job is to prevent government ministers from actually doing anything.


DM said...

A piece I read today brings together your two most recent posts, Mike in a kind of “you’ll never believe how long this has taken me to conceive, negotiate and bring to fruition” way:
The glory of electoral democracies is that with remarkably reliable frequency, amongst the sheer tedious boredom of it all, we get to have a show, a few parties, some glitter, photo opportunities, vox pops and even social media posts….my 15 seconds of fame….while I gawp and then put my x in the box. The more abased and bankrupt the discussions, the more excited I am. The excitement builds and builds and explodes in “result nights” – one of the principal reasons you’ll never get me to vote in favour of proportional representation.
It’s the process, not the outcome, stupid. Everybody will lose interest in 6 months. I agree – he’ll become the biggest insider of them all. Frayed denim to Aaron Sorkin’s haute couture. How else could it be? The success of the system is in its capacity to absorb, incorporate, re-shape and adapt. The individual’s role in history is not all that.
Far from being a time for despondency, this is the time for servicing our finest irrigation systems, improving the soil structure, and investing in a whole new range of plough shares. The swamp may get drained (a little), but climate change is producing periodic inundations which will top-up the drier corners again.

amolitor said...

Oh yes, I do. 'yes minister' was actually the thing which tipped me over into the realization that the bureaucracy in control. It makes sense out of so much.

Mike C. said...


An interesting piece, clever of you to contrive that!

Ah, the "West Wing"... I remember the Lost Easter, a few years ago, when I and my kids were holed up with a box set, ignoring the glorious landscape beckoning outside... Just one more episode! If life in power is even one tenth as glamorous, what a wrench it must be to have to give it all up.


Mike C. said...


Sorry, just found your comment in the "spam" folder -- it seems Gmail (unlike me) doesn't like strong opinions...

Agreed, I think I've written before about my euphoria on the day after the 1997 election, driving on a sunny day to Somerset, for a workshop at Duckspool with Paul Hill. Life seemed perfect, everything seemed possible. Then ... Blair and Brown! What a tragically wasted opportunity.