Americans have elected a man who is a compendium of dark comparatives. He is greedier than Goldman Sachs, more egomaniacal than Howard Stern, dumber than Dan Quayle and blessed with a social conscience that a psychopathic con-man fleecing old ladies out of their life savings would be proud to have. And, oh yes, he is now President Trump.
As I watched the map of the United States turn to a blood-red blob of Trump states, my heart was not bleeding for Hillary Clinton, though she would have been the far better choice. There’s a reason every politician has a best-before date of 16 years in the limelight. You can’t end up with a net worth 1,000 times that of Joe Blow, as the Clintons have, and expect undying loyalty for your “public service.”
Clinton and her calamitous husband missed any chance of a graceful exit from public life by nearly double that number. Despite a trainload of celebrities cheering them on, they could not cloak themselves in reflected glory for one last successful grab at the brass ring — and a chance to position daughter Chelsea to continue the dynasty.
Why? The public was Clintoned out. Their joint legacy includes good economic times under President Clinton, a serious stab at health-care reform and a meeting at Camp David that came within a whisker of slicing through the Gordian Knot of the Israeli/Palestinian impasse. There was also Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers and the other objects of Clintonian pollination that took the shine off the good times.
The final chapter of the Clinton saga, written largely by Hillary, includes political deceit directed against Bernie Sanders, cheating in the primary debates with leaked questions, a murky email controversy fanned by a rogue FBI director, whiffs of scandal from the Clintons’ own charitable foundation, and a nagging sense that they had mixed public and private business to their financial advantage (though the smoking gun was never produced).
So if not for the Clintons, for whom was my heart bleeding last night? For all the poor saps who wanted change — and who somehow thought that a racist, misogynistic, shameless liar who has conned his way to fame and fortune would be its best agent. If Trump voters broke out of the prison of standard Washington Establishment BS this week, it was only to be strapped firmly into the electric chair.
The first shock wasn’t long in coming. For over a year, Trump has whipped up his political supporters against Clinton by calling her a corrupt, incorrigible felon who was unfit for the office of president. So I wonder what all those people with their Trump hats on backwards thought last night when President-elect Trump, sounding oh so politically correct, said, “We owe her [Hillary] a major debt of gratitude for her service to the country.”
Was this the same man who had the People of the Corn screaming at his rallies, “Lock her up, lock her up”? Was it the same Donald Trump who called Clinton “the devil” and “a nasty woman”? Was this the same self-described groper who said that “if Hillary can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy Americans?” Most importantly, will one of Trump’s first actions as president be to appoint a Special Prosecutor to put “Crooked Hillary” behind bars, as he promised to do in one of those shit-flingers laughably referred to as presidential debates?
Not a chance. Remember Lying Ted and Little Marco from the Republican primary race? Trump’s belittling personal attacks against them were deployed strictly to dispatch them rather than to reveal legitimate shortcomings. He is the sort of person who buries the knife deep in his opponents’ back, then shows up at their funerals with the biggest wreath.
Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the other fifteen candidates he dispatched on the Republican side are talented, worthy people — now that they are no longer in The Donald’s way. Trump has laid bare a few new and dubious precepts of U.S. presidential politics. A bombastic lie, repeated often enough, equals truth. And you don’t have to reveal your taxes — your fangs will do just fine. Long live reality TV.
After the shock of no jail for Hillary, the next shock for Trump voters will come in the Rust Belt. The grimmest fairy tale Trump told during this campaign is that the new president can somehow bring back all the jobs lost to bad trade deals like NAFTA.
A little history here. Production in the U.S. manufacturing sector has actually gone up 66 per cent since the days when those jobs were migrating abroad. Most of those productivity gains were achieved by robots, in high-tech factories. The kind of factory jobs blue-collar voters in Ohio and Michigan dream of getting back under Trump are relics of a distant past. They’re not coming back.
As for his claim that America’s auto industry will return in all its glory, and that Michael Moore’s hometown will flourish like your grandmother’s begonias … it’s a little more complicated than ripping up NAFTA. As long as other countries offer much cheaper labour and zero benefits to their workers, the only way Motor City with rise again is by becoming Little Mexico. Tearing up free trade deals like NAFTA might make for good retail politics. But its only practical effect would be to trigger trade wars that would make consumer goods more expensive.
Trump has promised to put an expeditious end to Obamacare. He promised during the campaign that he would replace this flawed system by allowing greater competition among private health insurance providers. It’s worth noting that before Obamacare came into being, medical insurance costs were already rising — and they no doubt will continue to do so. Nor does the Trump plan give much comfort to the twenty million Americans who gained health insurance through Obamacare and will lose it under its demise.
And then there’s the wall. Just how big and beautiful will it be? Will it be like a wall around a prison, or the Great Wall of China, or (as I suspect) a glorified chain link fence with a dash of new technology? Come to think of it, Trump never did say exactly how tall it would be, or show the blueprints. All he said was that the Mexicans would pay for it. But since Mexico won’t pay for it, the only plan Donald has left is to seize the money that Mexicans remit to their relatives back in Mexico. Does that sound like a long walk to the Supreme Court to you?
And speaking of the Supreme Court, candidate Trump pledged to appoint justices who will overturn the landmark abortion ruling in Roe vs. Wade — a promise that won him the Christian Conservative vote.
Again, it’s not as simple as that. The Senate, and in particular the Senate Justice Committee, has a major say in Supreme Court appointments. And it just so happens that when Roe vs. Wade was decided back in 1973, the ruling was made by a Republican-nominated court interpreting the Constitution. No matter how many pro-life justices Trump appoints, they may arrive at the same ruling their Republican-appointed predecessors did 43 years ago.
When you start reading through the fables that Americans like to spin whenever they come face-to-face with what looks like success, it pays to remember that Donald Trump’s election is not a success.
It is a series of failures: deeply misguided cultural values, making spin an acceptable form of lying, surrendering to relentless bullying, glorifying toxic exceptionalism … and pretending everything is normal as the country is turning into something monstrous and no one — not even President Obama — has the courage to say it.
If Americans ever do drain the swamp in Washington, what they’re going to find in four years’ time is a giant alligator named Donald, all jaws and belly.
Author: Michael Harris