Wednesday, 9 November 2016
I happened to be in the United States during the later stages of the Carter-Reagan campaign of 1980. Until the result of a Reagan victory, which to me was almost as big a shock as Donald Trump's victory today, Reagan had been treated by the "liberal" press as a lightweight candidate, not a serious contender, something of a buffoon. However, as soon as he became President-Elect he acquired some of the automatic dignity that goes with the office and even the media which had been dismissive of him before became more respectful.
I suspect much the same will happen to Trump: perhaps is already happening (I can't say as I've spent the morning out walking in spite of the snow). In addition, just as many of the ideas of left-wing governments, in the UK in the 1930s and more recently in Greece for example, have been neutered by the established order, so inevitably will some of Trump's wilder proposals, such as his his "beautiful wall" on the Mexican border and the exclusion of all Muslims. It is perfectly possible that Trump has already begun to row back on these proposals, much as the Brexiteers lost no time in doing when they won our EU referendum.
So maybe this is not total disaster, but can be "managed," as someone put it on a news bulletin I did hear this morning.
Nevertheless there has been a serious shift in the way democracies work. The Enlightenment/Liberal consensus of the last 200 years: that life is good, most people are well-intentioned, all deserve respect as human beings, peoples can live in harmony provided that the rule of law and human rights are respected, that rational argument can lead to wise government - has received a serious knock. In the UK with Brexit, ("we've had enough of experts"), in Turkey with the increasing influence of fundamentalist religion, now with the absurdities of the Trump campaign, perhaps Marine Le Pen in France next year.
Literals with both large and small "l's" need to take a long hard look at what has caused our good intentions to be defeated by what looks very much like mob rule.