Donald Trump, you’ll be aware, lost the election on Tuesday, or rather Saturday – kind of, we think – thereby making Joseph Biden, his uninspiring, moribund opponent, president-elect of the United States.
There is a lot to say about this, naturally, but I will try not to bore.
Firstly, Trump’s hastily presented allegations of fraud and posthumous voting will be investigated in due course; but I am not at all convinced these investigations will alter the final result. There is a very obvious note of bad faith about some of the charges, which should be available to conservative perception as well as liberal. Only time will tell, I suppose.
Secondly, and whatever the media claim, Biden’s victory does not represent a repudiation of what the president stood for; his ideology and platform. Seventy million votes were cast for Trump on Tuesday, in defiance of all kinds of weather, all kinds of pressure, all kinds of ridicule, in the middle of a serious pandemic. A significant number of rational Americans still believe in the movement he advertised.
Pat Buchanan agrees – “Trump may lose the presidency,” he writes, “but Trumpism was not rejected… if, by Trumpism, one means “America First” nationalism, securing our borders, using tariffs to bring back our manufacturing base, bidding goodbye to globalism, staying out of unnecessary wars and swearing off ideological crusades.”
Yes. Trumpism remains. I do not believe the Republican party will soon return to the socially liberal, fiscally conservative non-ideology of Marco Rubio or Mitt Romney, nor, as would be worse, to the sleazy, faux-Christian theatre of Ted Cruz. Trump has set a precedent of greater sincerity; a connection with the most base and natural and important instincts of the white electorate. Can these voters really be lured back to simple ‘red team good, blue team bad’ politics? I doubt it.
What appears to have lost the election for Trump is rather his character. Though they were given disproportionate emphasis by a hostile, coordinated press, the president’s personal flaws inevitably disposed many to overlook his novelty and merits. Threatening to run for a third term, casting pre-emptive doubt on the democratic system, appointing members of his own family to positions of global influence, sleazy rumours of extramarital sex with porn actresses, inane tweets and absurd tantrums, etc. The American ‘middle’ do have a limit, and the president overstepped it frequently and unnecessarily.
Thirdly, we should talk about those who, as far as we know, are going to replace Trump and Pence at the Western summit.
Joe Biden, going by his statements and history, is a pedestrian centrist of the Obama-Clinton mould; nothing more glamourous or frightening than that – in theory. His danger derives from how this dopey conformity threatens to interact with the period in which we live; a time requiring of iron-like, brilliant men, not weak, corruptible puppets. Biden is a dusty slate on which donors will scratch their own priorities. Beer and tobacco Americans of the kind Donald Trump sought to remember will struggle to be heard.
And then there is Kamala Harris – young, Indo-Caribbean, haughty, greatly attractive to the corrupters of American politics in Washington, as well as to the severely myopic outside of it. I have written about this questionable woman elsewhere. Here, I will only repeat that she is firmly of the ‘kiss up, kick down’ school’ of Asian careerism; ruthless, energetic, corrupt and corrupting.
Both Biden and Harris are excited advocates of America’s downward trajectory; the decline of European America, and the rise of conceptual replacements for old American facts. As it did to the neo-conservatives before them, America appeals to corporate democrats as an international hub; the engine, university and military headquarters of post-historical liberalism.
In essential ways, their instincts are right on the money. America is all those things. And Donald Trump, to the living grief of his electorate, could not do anything about it.
Fourthly, and lastly, what does this mean for the United States and Europe going forward?
In the country itself, the result declared will considerably worsen existing divisions, especially along racial lines. European-Americans have become quite accustomed to having a voice at the highest level. They like it. They do not wish to let it go. Indeed, should they be forced to do so, America may suddenly feel like someone else’s country – hijacked, irretrievably lost, undeserving of their allegiance, service, taxes. That would be noteworthy.
I used to believe, in the worst years of the 9/11 era, that Europeans were considerably worse off than our cousins across the ocean. While in Europe, barbarian hordes were setting fire to the wages of a triumphant history, Americans could afford to relax in an atmosphere of relative calm. That was short-sighted.
Detroit, Michigan, is a warning few possess sufficient courage to heed. A European-American city, laurelled for its industrial dynamism and machine technology, armoury of the winning militaries of World War II, was burnt out by sudden demographic confusion. Now, in terrible clarity, it decays beyond remedy.
What if, you have every right to ask, Detroitification occurs to the nation as a whole?
People have an unconquerable desire to live in suburbs, away from people they dislike, or from those they have good reason to believe they will not get on with. Suburbs are often the size of countries.
This is not – or is not merely – an issue of race, class or religion; but quality, consent, compatibility.
And also identity – historical and individual. The United States is quite obviously no longer a single entity, having been divided in two by warring interpretations of what the national ends are supposed to be; homogeneity of appearance and culture? Homogeneity of values? Bright-blazing rainbow of every human type imaginable? Capitalist playground? Final, perfect realisation of social justice and human equality?
Parties gathered around different visions of long-term identity are the future of US politics, and will replace quaint concerns about four year reforms. After Trump has departed the White House to take up permanent residence on Twitter, the GOP would be sensible to conceptualise a grander vision of America; something they can agree on, and work for.
Pick your destination. Where do you want to go?