“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
—H.L Mencken: journalist, editor and social critic 1926
Wow! I didn’t see Donald Trump as American President, elect—not by a long ways. How, I wonder, can someone alienate Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, women, and anyone with a trace of compassion or hope that we might stop global warming actually get enough votes to make a respectable showing, let alone come out on top? My gosh, he blatantly advertises his penchant for violently groping women. America will be “Great Again” because it will abandon even the pretense of avoiding climate disaster and because it will now slide into the kind of xenophobic nightmare that gave rise to the Nazi Party in Germany 1933?
Here is the sad truth behind the Trump victory: This election was decided not by those who voted for an abusive, narcissistic, misogynistic, racist as president, not even by an absurd electoral system that has long since lost its relevance, but by the citizens who voiced their political choice by staying home on polling day.
Clinton actually won the popular vote–by a small margin– but not enough to carry the arcane
Electoral College and definitely not enough to draw in “down stream votes” to give Democrats a say in either of the legislative bodies. The most telling fact of the election is that neither Clinton nor Trump got as many votes as Mitt Romney, the losing Republican Candidate in 2012. It seems a whole lot of people just did not feel either candidate stood for anything they considered worth voting for—a feeling that I have no difficulty in understanding.
Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald is most succinct in drawing parallels between the Trump victory, the Brexit vote in the U.K. and the general sense of despair and disenfranchisement that is politics in most Western countries today.
“The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much—when they caused a ruckus— and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.”
I am, certainly, not immune to such feelings when I look at politics across the 49th and even as I look about our province and find no party speaking for the just, sustaining, peaceful and sustainable world that means so much to me.
What I–and I believe much of the voters that stayed home–didn’t consider was that Trump, himself, is just the tip of the ice berg. The real nightmare unfolding in the United States today is the Trump cabinet.
At the top of the list for Secretary of State is Newt Gingrich the rabid right congressman who has lobbied to overturn child labour laws, doesn’t think waterboarding is torture and is an outspoken supporter of America’s imperial wars.
And then there is Sarah Palin high on the list to be called to Interior secretary. Imagine this woman who can’t find the up side to a road map, who chanted the mantra “Drill, Baby, Drill” as her vision for US parks as being put in charge of all government lands.
Of course Treasury is likely to go to Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s friend and a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, a bank US taxpayers had to bail out due to its mismanagement and role in the 2008 financial crisis .
Despite Trump’s campaign promises to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, it now appears he will appoint Myron Ebell, a climate skeptic to head the EPA—probably more effective at gutting the agency than eliminating it!
The consequences of this election are more disastrous than any of us can begin to think. Who knows what a Hillary Clinton presidency would have been like, but—clearly—she is closer to Wall Street, the “War on Terror” and the spying on everything that moves mentality which is the unfortunate legacy of Barack Obama—and yet—AND YET—Clinton does have a firm understanding of climate change and how close we are coming to a tipping point where the oceans have absorbed all the heat they can and our atmosphere is pushed into the kind of cataclysmic climate change that could spell the end of civilization as we know it on this Earth.
Trump will be the only leader of a major power who does not believe that urgent action on climate change should be a dominant theme to our social, economic and political actions. Trump is a climate change skeptic who wants to cut and run on the Paris Climate Agreement because—in his words—it is “bad for US business.” You would think that the US economy is already suffering enough from the effects of climate change to refute that one. And the most frightening part of Trump’s willing ignorance on climate change is that—as has happened over and over in world discussions about what can be done to turn back the threat to our atmosphere– other national leaders are not willing to cut back on fossil fuels while the US continues to belch so much CO2 into the atmosphere that it dwarfs all other actions .
Without participation by the United States it is clear that China and Russia, and Brazil and almost all other nations will simply withdraw from any kind of commitment to meaningful action. And it is not hard to understand why. Why should others incur large economic costs and social investment in a project that is being actively sabotaged by the world’s leading imperial power? It won’t happen and it is too easy to understand how no one will see any reason to act without participation from the world’s largest economy.
My gosh, we had come so far, and–despite inadequate responses–it did seem like we were building a consensus about the problem and the beginning of a willingness to act together for the well being of our planetary home. This is a dark morass for me. I just can’t imagine a way out. Does anyone have any thoughts on any possible out from this most devastating quagmire on what can be done about climate change in the dark age of Trump ahead?
Perhaps the only great news to come from Tuesday’s election is that it is utterly clear we are seeing the end of America, The Exceptional: A the nation that could pretend that by its so-called “inherent goodness” had the right to dictate to all other nations; a “natural right” to rule the world by the threat of its nuclear weapons, a nation that could invade others on whim; that could defy the most basic human rights by bombing and killing with “unmanned” airplanes where the unfettered killing of other citizens was, somehow, acceptable because there is no human pilot in the plane; that could depose of governments and national leaders who didn’t put the economic privileges of the US first; that could plunder the Earth, its citizens and its living ecosystems for the greed of a few.
For whatever else Donald Trump will do to the world, he has—at last—with his abusive view of the rest of the world–put an absolute end to any meaning that was once attached the idea of America the Exceptional. Perhaps ( I’m just thinking here) a good thing that could come from the Presidency of Trump is that something like the Organization of Non-Aligned states will reemerge to supplant the hegemony of the United States with an organization designed to allow all people’s a chance to have a say in defining inalienable human rights, a say in defining meaningful ways of dealing with conflict that is not about American covert actions, a say in the right of all citizens to a decent living and a healthy environment. Perhaps the rest of the world united can, yet, bring the reluctant Trump to the negotiating table on dealing with climate change.
For now I have read no more profound comment on our new relation with the United States than that of Sierra Club BC Executive Director Bob Peart, “We will need to strengthen the coalitions in which we work. We will need to strengthen the bonds that we forge with our friends and allies. We will need to work with and stand up for those who are most threatened by this new reality.” And—in my view—we are going to have to learn to speak with conviction and act with utter resolve about the values of a just, sustaining and sustainable world–values we have, for far too long, taken for granted.