November 14, 2016
My step-daughter has asked me why Donald Trump defeated Hilary Clinton. (She is a Clinton supporter.) I thought you would be interested in my reply. See below.
I made my final trip to the U.S. on Thursday to pick up 100 more copies of To Be With A Woman. Odd to think that my final trip was not to Pittsburgh but to Port Huron. Oh, well . . .
November 13, 2016
Today is a mild Sunday morning in the autumn of the year. The sun is out. The back yard is blanketed with yellow leaves from our cottonwoods. The Japanese maple has gone a vivid red. Our squirrels are busy gathering the last of the walnuts. A perfect time to reply to your question.
Many people in the United States, Canada, and around the world are both baffled and dismayed by the election of Donald Trump. Here is just one of dozens of examples I have read in the leading newspapers. The New York Times supported Hilary Clinton. They were, as writers to newspapers often put it, “shocked and appalled” by the victory of Mr. Trump. Only yesterday (Saturday, November 12) in a major editorial entitled “What Trump Exposed About the G.O.P.” Mark Schmitt stated that this election was unlike previous elections in that it was not about ideology. In Mr. Schmitt’s opinion, identity politics had replaced ideology. A too common view.
Nothing could be less true. The results of five days ago (1) should not have been unexpected and (2) were purely about ideology. Although I also briefly thought the Trump candidacy was merely a publicity stunt, I saw by mid-summer that not only was Mr. Trump serious but that he would defeat Mrs. Clinton in the general election. I fully expected the result we all saw by midnight last Tuesday. It does, however, shock me that this result shocked so many others. They were not paying attention.
The ideology that animates the United States is Americanism. The roots of Americanism go back through Ralph Waldo Emerson and his fellow 19th century thinkers to the Puritans of 16th century England and 17th century Massachusetts. One could say that Americanism is as American as apple pie. (But much less tasty.) In short, Americanism is the political expression of the Puritan vision.
Just about all political activity in the U.S. is an outworking of one strand of Americanism or another. In the most recent election we saw the Kennedy-Clinton-Obama strand pitted against the Trump strand. These were not different ideologies. They were different strands of the same ideology. The Kennedy-Clinton-Obama version was old fashioned, weak, and obsolete. The Trump version was more pure and far more advanced. Mr. Trump represented the future direction of America while Mrs. Clinton represented its past, albeit a very recent past.
In times of fear, anger, and economic uncertainty — such as the present moment — people will naturally seek shelter in what they perceive as something pure and strong. That is exactly what Mr. Trump was offering. One could say that Mr. Trump won because he was more American that Mrs. Clinton.
It was clear by mid-summer that Mr. Trump was tightly focused on the fear and anger and economic misery experienced by many, perhaps most, Americans. Five days following her defeat, Mrs. Clinton has still failed to appreciate the depth of these feelings. That is to say, she still does not understand the issues this election was about. Nor does the Democratic Party understand; they have no clue why they, and their Blue Wall, crumbled.
This has unpleasant social implications. It is suddenly OK to voice ones dislike for people such as Blacks, Muslims, Jews (like my daughters), homosexuals, handicapped people, American ex-patriots (like me), Mexican-Americans, and Asians. Prejudice against and persecution of minority groups will soon have the stamp of government approval. In a sense it may seem as though we are returning to Jim Crow and the social attitudes of the 1950s. But this is not a “return” to anything. Rather, it is a sign of the future direction of our society. It is, most of all, the failure of the liberal idea.
The liberal idea is one aspect of Americanism. It has been called the New Deal, the Great Society, and, most recently, Obama’s Yes We Can slogan. And it has not worked. So the American people have decided to try another aspect of Americanism, and one that will prove far less pleasant. (Unless one happens to be White, rich, and, male.) It is a serious error to equate Mr. Trump and fascism. But, although Trumpism is not fascist, some of the groups that make up this movement are. And these fascist elements, in their millions, are the strongest of Trump’s supporters. They are the real danger.
Unfortunately, Canada is almost certain to follow suit. The future of our children will be more dangerous and less enjoyable. And even though I fully expected Mr. Trump to become my next President, I was still somewhat depressed on Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, at my age I expect to be only slightly inconvenienced. My worry is for my daughters and my granddaughter. They will have to confront the rise of fascism.
Nonetheless, this is a lovely autumn day. A perfect day for a walk.
. . . James
You're far more prescient than I! I wrote Trump off as a character in that old Simpsons episode, altho Sylvia had feared a Trumpian victory.
Whether Trump won or last, I saw his candidacy as a milestone on the road of the continuing decline of the Amerikaan empire. Following is the blog post I wrote on the eve of the election, and then some further thoughts and posts by other poets two days after.
I agree that the blue collar disillusionment with the status quo is similarly deep in Canada. With a few exceptions, I've spoken with a number of Marmorites on my daily strolls around the village, and almost every male was pleased that Trump had won : ( When I asked why, they spit back the usual idiocies about opposing the elites (as if Trump isn't part of both the Amerikaan and global elites). But underneath this superficial misunderstanding of class, there was that gut level knowledge that the working class/blue collar/rural lifestyle is doomed under the current neo-liberal systems.
As you note, there does seem to be a see-sawing effect between the elected governments of Canada & the U.S. - hopefully we already had our Trump, in the watered-down form of that ideological bible believing maniac Stephen Harper. Sad thing is, Trump will have his itchy fingers on the little red button, and he may speed the human race to our biblical final days of judgment, a cosmic power Harper must now envy!
If you'd like, I can include you well-written letter on riffs & ripps?
peace & poetry power!