I’m feeling the need to write about the US elections, mostly so I can process all my whirling thoughts. It’s probably important to start with this, so you will read the rest in this context: I despise Donald Trump for his entitled misogyny, xenophobia and racism, and for his cynical manipulation of the decent ordinary people he has stomped over in his life to date. And I deeply fear for those who really do support women’s rights, climate change action, civil rights and a fairer and more equitable and peaceful society. But here’s the thing: I also understand why so many otherwise disenfranchised people voted for him.
Millions of Americans have fallen victim to the overriding neo-liberal agenda of both main parties, which, in part, relies on the divisive nature of its hate-mongering dog-whistles to pit man against woman, white against black or brown, rich against poor, privileged against downtrodden, Fundamental Christian against everybody else. Make no mistake, this kind of partisan rhetoric is a necessary rubric for neo-liberal economic policy to exist and succeed – we have to have winners and losers, and we have to blame ‘someone else’ for the hardships such policies create. We have to hate, big and furiously, or else we would be forced to look harder at ourselves and see that we have allowed this state of enslavement to the ruling corporate elite to emerge.
Those people at the bottom of the pile have had so much power devolved away from them that when they hear the kind of clever ‘I’m on your side’ spin Trump wielded in his campaign they truly think they might have a chance of turning their hopeless lots around. They need to believe the rhetoric that he really cares, because for too long it has appeared (quite rightly) that no one does. That Trump doesn’t really represent them, and that he has mobilised the very worst in human behaviour to stir the pot, will be a slow-dawning horror for them over the next few years. I’ll come back to this . . .
I have to admit that I despise Hillary Clinton, as well. Yes, I wish to see a woman in the top job and, yes, Trump’s ascendancy will see women and minorities suffer in a way that we all fear — all of which horrifies the bejesus out of me. But Hillary stands for more than just women’s rights, and many of the other things her candidacy and service has propped up are indefensible to me: the tacit support for the elitist corporate status quo, the sly support of immoral bankers, the undermining of democracy, the siphoning of money for the chosen few’s benefit, the dreadful degradation of human and civil rights, and inexcusable foreign policy decisions that prop up torture and genocidal regimes, and kill civilians with impunity. These are all gross violations that cannot be ignored — and are the same sins that saw my hopeful support for Obama bleed away. Yes, there have been small gains in some areas, but by mouthing progress while maintaining a corrupt system, they lose all credibility or reason to trust them with further support.
In fact, in the middle of the night I had a moment where I wondered if, in fact, Trump is a gift to them, doing their dirty business while they can claim the moral high ground. Step one, alienate and divide the voting population, pitting them against each other, dog eating dog. Step two, allow them to believe that they have voted in someone who will make a real difference and improve their lot. Step three, sit back and watch while it all implodes, having set in place draconian surveillance and detention laws, pouring millions into ‘homeland security’, ripe to start imprisoning all those whose wicks reach their end when they realise they’ve been lied to and their lots won’t change. Kiss goodbye to dissidents, intellectuals, academics, human rights defenders, indigenous (and other) activists, etc. etc. Step four, give Trump four years to rid the country of all those who call him (and their corrupt systems) out, all the while weakening ties between people so that concerted protest is diffused, and then, once this toxic meltdown has run its course, ride back into office with more power (and less oversight and criticism) than before. It’s not outside the bounds of possibility.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s like an American version of us having to decide between the Act Party and National — neither really give a shit about the ordinary person on the ground, both only exist to maintain their selfish elitist agenda and their positions of power, and if they can diffuse debate by dividing the electorate and pitting them against each other, and through slick PR and media control, then they can keep this going forever. We should take this as a stern warning not to be side-lined by such divisive bullshit – and those on the Left should take it as a warning: divest of National/Act-lite policy and start to really walk the talk. Draw a line in the sand and start to really speak to the ordinary people and champion their causes – not merely pay lip service to it, otherwise we will see ourselves swallowed by the same vile ugliness we’ve just observed.
There will be a movement here to try to capture and motivate the disenfranchised; god knows, there are enough of us. What we must do is make sure that we do not allow hate-speech and divisiveness to guide our hands. We must speak out at every opportunity, but not to slur or blame those already suffering, and we must hold all politicians to the highest account.
If I could wave my magic wand and have any influence over Labour at all, I’d ask them to take the brave stand and step away from their neo-liberal side-track of the last 20-odd years, and to go back to grassroots advocacy, loudly rejecting some of the worst decisions they have been party to (free-trade-at-all-costs zealotry, dismantling of our social network, fudging commitment to climate change mitigation, allowing state surveillance and the destruction of unbiased media and the right to protest, allowing our involvement in other people’s illegal and immoral wars.) They need to understand that times have changed and the mood of the electorate is for principled and honest engagement. Yes, they may lose the support of some, but they may well pick up those who have felt without a voice and who have bought so entirely into mainstream media bias against the Greens that they won’t risk their votes. Gareth Morgan sees this (though the depressing truth of his stand is that he’ll diffuse opposition and allow National another term.)
But do I think Labour will do it? No. Sadly not. And I’m not even sure this will work, given our current system has already convinced so many they are powerless to make any change, and spun so many lies, that people prefer to console themselves through shit TV, rugby and celebrity gossip. Our greatest enemies are ignorance and the lethargy of disenfranchisement, and our current leaders know this very well and actively work to promote them.
Okay, I think I’ve run out of steam — and staring this so closely in the eye is starting to bring on a kind of fatigued nausea. Your thoughts?