Chris Martin on Trump (Or: Fascism, liberalism and karma)
Chris Martin of Cold Play was spot-on when he burst on to Graham Norton’s set and described the karmic moment represented by Donald Trump’s success in being elected President of the United States. Mr Martin said, in terms, that Trump expressed the feelings of millions of people, and that doing so is a refreshing and crucial part of democracy. Dead right.
In the absence of such expression, or safety valves, feelings curdle into something toxic. I am near to completing an essay of Fascism and its precursors and outcomes, based on a reading of Italian, German, and Spanish history. It seems obvious enough, but Fascism succeeded because democratic politics failed. Fascism then went on to fail because it is hopeless at politics, let alone at democracy.
But Martin, I think, understands the cultural poetry or dynamics of the American situation. It is that the liberal over-reach has been spectacular and spectacularly blind. Clever, nice, educated, successful people have made a religion of liberalism and have sneered at everyone who doesn’t get it.
There is a lot to be said for full-on left’s view that mainstream left-wingery has sold out to Neo-Liberalism, and thus Corbyn and Sanders got traction in the UK and US by being liberal in the modern way and socialist in the old way.
Accordingly, you might say, Farage and Trump get traction in the UK and US, by being anti-liberal in a refreshing way. The brilliance of Farage – his immense value – is that his populism never strayed into Fascism, but may have vented (and therefore, scuppered) Fascist tendencies in a tiny monority of his supporters. I think Trump has done the same for the US.
The economics and the welfare policy of the insurgent right is far harder to read. Will it be Neo Liberal? Or Neanderthal Interventionist?.
Trumpism may turn out to be bad for the Left Behind. For myself, I am quite Neo-Liberal, and may have things to worry over if the US becomes very protectionist or crudely nativist (I doubt it will). I am very uncertain as to the merits or demerits of state investment in infrastructure.
I am as sure as about anything about the need to explain to Westerners that they are not as rich as they think, nor as economically secure. Our young need to get their minds very revved-up indeed if they are to stay ahead of the technology and cultural competition whilst also wanting good pay.
Those are practical matters of economics and education.
The important thing to stress now is that this a cultural and political moment. We have seen that full-on elite liberalism is very bad politics. The majority of citizens do not make a religion of tolerance (or multiculturalism, or feminism and all the rest); rather they make an ethics of decency and commonsense.
You do not have to be a redneck and still less a vicious redneck (as in Tom Ford’s marvellous Nocturnal Creatures) to be a bit Trump round the edges.
Trump campaigned in vulgarity and hyperboles and in that he showed himself brave enough to thumb his nose at liberal pieties. It is hardly surprising that beyond their embarrassment and even disdain and their concern many people who were not beer-crazed bar-flies saw the point. Much more than his policies, we can celebrate his courageous determination to throw over years of kowtowing to Radical Chic and all the rest of unlovely liberalism.
We’ll see how Trump gets on. I am hoping for great things.