So here we are. This morning I woke up feeling optimistic for the first time in months. So I revisited this old draft post, and decided to make it live, even though things are moving on already. I live on twitter too much these days and the rawness of events seems to get so much amplified there, that it is hard not to feel like the whole world will end in a snap. Maybe this is the singularity they have been talking about for all these years.. what I hope is that the twitter whale can rise above the divisions of hard opinions and closed minds.
A personal muse on election 2016
I don’t see the election of Trump as being inevitable, but rather as the result of the chance congruence of several factors.
Clearly there is a genuine protest vote and organic movement for change. There is also the charisma and personality of Trump himself – not likeable to many of us, but still a vital part of his appeal especially against the prospect of four more grey years of politics-as-usual.
Then we saw how the support or at least acquiescence of many major American news networks to Trump’s extreme views really helped to ‘normalise’ the whole thing, even when he ventured into completely uncharted territory of crime and vulgarity.
There was the Russian support and interference through fake news, troll armies and leaks to Julian Assange, all of which seems to have been conducted as a sort of game to amuse Putin.
Finally there was the well-known effect of republican gerrymandering, vote suppression and other cheats which seek to undermine an honest election process in subtle ways, difficult to quantify.
Given the closeness of the vote in the end, all of these factors I think can be considered necessary to bringing about the election result, but I’d argue that only the first two fit within what should be the normal paradigm of a well-functioning democracy. All the other factors exist because of the self-interested influences of power. They are not new – there has been money influencing the white house forever, undermining the sort of decision making that should occur there, and the way elections are fought. It does seem to have got worse, though, due to the enormous amount of money in fewer and fewer hands in recent years. Similarly the media has been run to ensure the interests of the very few rich media operators are protected, and these interests intersect with those that influence the white house directly. Only the Russian influence seems to be quite new to this election, an interference which reflects geopolitical power games, and Russian ingenuity which has shown how with a bit of money the news can be created or leaked, and then shaped and spread on the internet to influence ‘real’ opinions.
The trump card was Trump himself, and without his personality I don’t think all the other factors could have combined so effectively to keep Hilary from power. But Trump himself seems like an outsider to the whole process which has now placed him in the driver’s seat. The danger he faces is that all the vested interests which his election has benefited, including Russia and the GOP, will want to dispense with him if he doesn’t continue to be useful to them. The way in which they try to do this, and the way he chooses to retaliate, if he gets the chance, could create dangerous frictions. I am nervous that it will create a state of emergency in some way or other, which will be the justification of attacks on his enemies, and on the systems of government itself.
The other danger is that he actually is removed, and the party he leaves behind is left in the hands of the the hard core of the GOP (Pence), or the strange fanatics he surrounded himself with (Bannon), all the moderates having abandoned him during the election. People like Bannon have seriously ideological positions which seem certain to create conflict, in fact they probably invite it, using chaos as another means to an end. You only have to take an ideology of extreme intolerance – whatever it is that you are intolerant of – through to its logical conclusion and you have gulags, or war. Because what else are you going to do with all the intollerable people in the end? This is why tolerance has been at the heart of all modern/liberal democracies. I think I’ll talk about that more in another post.