Published in the Express Tribune – cover art by David Becker
Special thanks to Ismail Khan
First, the fatigue: she was leading. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the old, cold warhorse from ‘92, would coast to victory. The wisdom was basic: HRC may be unloved and unwanted, but voting for the other guy? Unthinkable.
Then came the shock: the slow waltz with unreality. Ohio fell. Florida fell. Around 9:30, Eastern Standard Time, America went red. By morning, it was orange.
Then the meltdown: faced with disaster, humanity did what is usually does on such occasions – it ran and hid. Websites for Canadian immigration crashed. The old white men on CNN blubbered how old white men had hijacked the race.
Finally, the fear: As this goes to press, the leaders of Japan, Afghanistan, and other countries America’s bombed are phoning in their congrats. Welcome to the new normal: the surreal is real, and Donald J. Trump is President of the United States, leader of the Free World, and commander of the most lethal military machine in human history.
To roundup, here are the losers: Mrs. Clinton, who taught us that fake tears, focus groups, and gajillions from Goldman and Morgan and Exxon still can’t buy you a message worth voting for.
Tied for first are all America’s minorities: Muslims, Mexicans, blacks, moving targets for the Trump campaign. How they will fare is a question no one’s had the nerve to answer.
The pundits come second, frantically rewriting their thinkpieces as we speak: the New York Times put Mr. Trump’s chances at 8 percent. To those gents, one may quote H.L. Mencken: ‘No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.’
Third come the markets, as the Dow crashes and investors sweat bullets. When globalization picked up steam in the ‘90s, many gurus congratulated themselves over having averted the sort of backlash such movements saw in the ‘20s (the kind that gave us world wars). It turns out the backlash was a little late this time, but it’s back with a bang. The Donald shall tear up all trade agreements, and the world order with it.
Now to the winners: first and foremost, the 66 percent of white women that voted for Mr. Trump. Congratulations ladies, you voted against the first woman president, for a glorified grabber that thinks ladies are ‘pigs’, ‘slobs’ and ‘dogs’.
Then there’s the rest of Monsters Inc. Leaders that would have been tried at Nuremberg in the ‘40s get a whole new lease on life: Modi, Wilders, Le Pen et al – the future glows golden. As long as the Orient continues to make babies, far-right fever is here to stay.
And just as the fortunes of fascist thugs are tied to jihadi zombies, a Trump in the White House will make for a recruitment bonanza for ISIS, al-Nusra, and both Talibans across the Durand. God stop the crusades from coming.
Last, and ever the least, is the long line of second bananas the world stopped calling respectable a while ago: Christie and Gingrich and Giuliani, the GOP bozos that will now have a say in the new administration.
So there we have it: winners, losers, and a ginormous human tragedy.
Which brings us to the next mess: what to make of it? How did a country that voted for the first black president vote for the Ku Klux Klandidate eight years later?
That one’s easier: it was America, after all, that voted for Lyndon Johnson – big government and black rights and wars on poverty – then spun 180 degrees for Nixon eight years later. What’s common is rage.
In many ways, Mr. Trump’s campaign is a love letter to Dick Nixon: the dogma, the dog whistles, the disappearing way of life that could only return under One of Us, not glittering Kennedys or smarmy Clintons or manor-born Bushes. Nixon was a spiteful mirror to the only constituency he prayed to (and preyed on): the Great Silent Majority – white, working-class, and vengeful. Donald Trump just ditched the dog whistle for a four-alarm fire.
And anger and insults beget anger and insults. Dave Cameron called the UK Independence Party ‘fruitcakes, loonies, and racists.’ Seconds later, Brexit broke the EU wide open, and destroyed Mr. Cameron.
This is not a conceit limited to Tories in top hats. This column has in the past called Donald Trump an orange circus seal. Last June, it described Mr. Trump as ‘a racist hairdo that makes menstruation jokes’. While all of that’s broadly true, it’s also unhelpful.
And in a country teeming with rage, it is also irrelevant: The Times, the Post; they could call the Donald whatever they wanted – it only served to confirm his supporters’ anger that the press was corrupt, condescending, and limited in its understanding of rural rage. Come 9 November, white voters showed up in droves.
Because the white working class, wrote Nick Cohen, ‘went from being the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth in three generations, and as Thatcher and Reagan had shown, when the liberals despise the working class, the opportunities for backlash politics are boundless.’ What they needed was understanding and equitable economic growth. What they got was an airbrush out of the conversation.
But rural America, said often and yet not enough, was and is hurting; courtesy globalization, the old way of life – the manufacturing economy – fell apart. The recession smashed the heartland, but the recovery only went to urban centres. And, as said before, rural suicides are twice what they are in the cities.
This gives us the Great White Revenge: the 45th president of the United States. The outcomes are trickling in slowly: the Supreme Court remaining red, Obamacare shutting down, Muslims (already) getting beat in the streets.
The Chairman of the PTI tweeted, ‘It is high time Pakistanis stopped worrying about elections abroad and focused on putting our own house in order.’ Mr. Khan is right about the second part. Yet as to the first, the implications are dire for Pakistan, and the region (here’s looking at you, Kabul and Tehran).
27 years ago, Francis Fukuyama wrote that the ‘end of history will be a very sad time.’ The fight, the daring, the big ideas of history would give way to ‘economic calculation, the solving of technical problems’ and consumer demands. Perhaps, wrote Fukuyama, ‘centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.’
He didn’t have to wait centuries. Donald Trump has been elected president. And history’s returned as nightmare.