Like the reader, I have spent a large part of this week studying the US presidential election polls, the contest being now just a few tantalising days away. Most of those I have seen predict a Biden win. A few expect a landslide or ‘blue wave’. Others see the Democrats just scraping through. But disagreement on the probable winner is rare.
Liberals have in some ways learnt from 2016 – that memorable, dramatic, gorgeous collapse of ill-deserved mainstream credibility. They are stressing this time that polls are not to be trusted, that elections are won solely by voting, not by media preference or stated intentions. And they are right on that score at least.
For all the poll advantages Biden enjoys, it is not impossible that another black swan will slide into view on November the 3rd; a sequel apocalypse, perhaps even more consequential than the last. Nonetheless, Trump goes into this contest as the underdog.
In other ways, Liberals have yet to take on board the deeper meaning of their defeat.
I have just visited the Biden campaign’s official Instagram account, and rather wish I hadn’t. It is chock-full of all you would expect – victim worship, empty slogans, feminist snark, retractably vague economic promises, and above all a disturbing fetishization of African people (especially women and children).
Of course, this soup of brainstormed concepts appeals to practically no-one. Biden and the unintelligent Left trust this will not matter on the night. They believe, perhaps with good reason, that people are so sick of the name ‘Trump’ appearing in every headline that they will vote it out of their lives for no better reason.
They are also banking on the dilution of the Trump brand. What was once fresh, exciting and radical is now repetitive and exhausting. The unending turbulence of the last four years has middle-of-the-road Americans longing for quieter days, which the white-haired, slow-talking Democrat seems to realistically offer. Joe Biden, even his friends concede, is tediously non-ideological, hardly even opinionated.
But this is not a zero-risk strategy. 2020 is not 2000. The internet has changed people more fundamentally than even tech entrepreneurs seem to appreciate. Modern politics is increasingly understood as a kind of showbusiness mixed with corporate and military cronyism. Faith in its humanity, its link with people and ideals, has been all but lost. Very few now believe (sincerely) that Joe Biden has a cause, or that Obama had one, or Bush, or Clinton, etc. The same cynics may have once invested in the messianism of these very presidents; but no longer. The internet has placed cameras behind the curtain dividing people from power. We overhear the actors rehearsing their lines, applying their makeup, practising their emotions.
Yes, even Obama, the great black hope, sent by providence to destroy racism on Earth, turned out to be a typically unscrupulous bureaucrat – a warmongering drone-assassin, happy to deal with ancient nations as if with chess pieces, as per an unfortunate American tradition dating back to the end of the Eisenhower administration. Democrats, blockheads were shocked to discover, are every bit as violent and compromised as Republicans. The differences are cosmetic; a few slogans here and there; a rainbow flag emoticon, a celebrity endorsement, late night propaganda. But no substantial disagreement.
All the candidates Trump defeated in the Republican primaries suffer from the same crucial lack of humanity and belief. Ted Cruz, the educated Republican voter realises, represents nothing. He is a political nothing, as well as a rotten coward, which is even worse. We will not even talk of Rubio, Bush, Paul, Fiorina or Kasich; only remark that these were – and are – more like bank managers than statesmen.
Populism is the rejection of managerialism – the idea that countries are little more than flag-bearing economies, and that concepts of race, language and culture have no place in modern political discourse. In 2016, Trump obliterated this notion in fine style. (I still fondly recall the night of his victory; the surprise and embarrassment.)
Since his inauguration, Trump has done and said a lot of silly things. But he has also done a lot of good – considerably more than I am ordinarily willing to admit. He has kept America out of wars where no Western interest exists. He has consistently opposed the kind of lockdowns inflicted on Europe, and for exactly the right reasons – citing economic despair, alcoholism, depression, suicide and domestic violence. He has projected an image of unapologetic masculinity in a world where men are under constant attack. He has exposed the corruption and DPRK-like uniformity of the Western media. He has asked, though often in unnecessarily crude language, extremely important questions (“Why are we letting in people from shithole countries?”, etc.). He has set radical precedents on immigration, identity, abortion, political language and foreign policy. He has accelerated the demise of the legacy media, stimulating a massive alternative media subculture. He has demonstrated that the anything-is-possible narrative in American politics is not merely a nice thing to say to children, but a bright, inspiring reality; that anyone, provided they are straightforward enough, consistent enough and brave enough, can break the corporate-media alliance.
Whether Trump loses or not, his legacy is destined to be a great one. The energies he has released will not soon be re-imprisoned in taboo.
What will happen if the polls are correct this time? Various journalists foresee a violent showdown between far-right and far-left elements, similar to what has been witnessed on-and-off since the death of George Floyd earlier this year, only more intense and widespread.
This isn’t impossible. After so much divisive poison from the media, nothing, even a full-blown civil war, can be entirely ruled out.
The QAnon believers, together with allied Facebook radicals, are disturbingly confident of their eschatology. Confident enough to perceive an electoral disappointment as sufficient cause for an apocalypse? Maybe.
And even those not intoxicated by schizoid theories are vulnerable to being seduced by the drama of it all. Trump, they know, is a once in a lifetime phenomenon. When he goes, whatever should happen to his ideas, he goes for good. There will not soon be another president so friendly toward the working classes, so unpretentiously in love with his country, or as bold and entertaining in his style. A Trump loss will bring forth angry tears. The president enjoys not just political support in white working class America, but great personal affection.
Of course, if the result goes against the predictions of the polls, there is an equal danger of violence from the Left; militant ‘anti-racists’, BLM and simple nihilistic window-breakers have acquired much useful experience in recent months; hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of young people may be willing to fight – in a true sense – the prospect of four more years under the orange demon.
In closing, though I would love to play prophet, this swirling, haunting prelude to something offers only cryptic clues and contradictory messages. America requires revolutionary change. It will soon get it, from the state or from the people.