(This is a version of the post I wrote here, re-written in a more formal manner in the hope someone might like to publish it. Anyone know where I could send it?)
Few would argue that the 2016 US presidential election went as planned. It was supposed to be a straight contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, both fully endorsed by their respective parties on the grounds that it was their turn. Bush would have been denounced as a Nazi early on, as happened to Mitt Romney and John McCain, and like his hapless predecessors he’d have spent the entire campaign issuing clarifications and grovelling apologies. Clinton would have been feted by the media as the natural successor to Barack Obama, ideally suited to continue his good works in taking the country in a more progressive direction. She would win by a handsome margin becoming the first female president, thus striking a blow for women everywhere. Eventually the Democrats would concede Bush wasn’t really a Nazi, but not until long after Hillary’s inauguration.
Only it didn’t work out quite like that. Nobody knows why Donald Trump decided to run for the Republican nomination. Was it because Obama mocked him at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner? Or did he simply want the publicity before launching a new series of The Apprentice? It doesn’t matter now. Shortly after entering the primaries, Trump found himself at the head of a political movement no-one knew existed. The alt-right, as they became known, liked what he had to say particularly around topics nobody else would mention: immigration, Islamic terrorism, and the plight of blue-collar America. The more he spoke the more outrageous he became, and the more the media and his Republican rivals reacted with righteous indignation. But at the same time his popularity grew because of, not despite, his willingness to ignore the established rules of political discourse. Before we knew it Trump had won the GOP nomination; party favourite Jeb Bush had withdrawn weeks before with less than 1% support. I suspect nobody was more surprised by this outcome than Trump himself. He had entered the race as a joke figure and emerged as the unwitting leader of a powerful, grass-roots movement he knew little about. But he quickly learned how to speak to them, and they listened, and so did he.
Against all expectations, the forces which secured Trump the Republican nomination propelled him into the White House, defeating Clinton in the November presidential election. Here we had a novice outflanking experienced politicians with the backing of both major parties to become president of the United States. His victory can be ascribed to one simple thing: when it came to voting, he had the numbers.
Since then there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Trump is a Russian stooge, a misogynist, a white supremacist, a danger to the world. Perhaps, but what matters is enough people voted for him. Trump showed that simply by saying certain things, millions of disaffected people sick of the status quo and sense of entitlement among the political elites who dominate both parties will vote a maverick into the highest office in the land. Note Trump didn’t have to tell outrageous lies and make too many unrealistic promises, but it wouldn’t matter even if he did. All he had to do was speak to the masses on issues which the established political classes refused to address.
Given how easy it was in hindsight to wrest the presidency from the grasp of America’s complacent political elites, we should perhaps reflect on how fortunate we are that it was a 70 year old multi-millionaire New York playboy that stumbled upon the gaping hole that led straight to the levers of power. Nothing Trump has done – or intends to do – should cause alarm among ordinary, sane people who accept that politics is a broad tent which needs to accommodate many people and sometimes your side doesn’t win. Yet we are subject to a loud and continuous refrain that Donald Trump is without doubt the worst and most dangerous president the United States has ever seen. His presidency is under attack from all sides, including what is supposed to be his own, in the hope that one way or another they can force him from office and things will go back to how they were. Most people in the world would cheer if this were to happen, as would many Americans.
But let’s take a step back a moment. So far, Trump’s main activities in office have been overzealous, ill-advised Tweeting, muddle-headed speeches, fighting with Republicans, and backtracking on his campaign policies. With what he’s up against I doubt he can achieve anything other than slow the decline for a few years at most. The few policies on which he has made progress consist mainly of rolling back Obama’s EOs and other instances of blatant executive overreach. If this is what has the entire world squealing in terror and applying epithets recently reserved for those who had actually committed genocide, they are woefully ignorant, lacking imagination, lying, or a combination of all three.
Consider for a moment who might have got in. What if it had been a young, charismatic unknown who harboured greater ambitions than Trump and a far more ruthless streak that appeared on stage and said all the right things? As Trump showed, it really didn’t take much to win when up against Hillary and a thoroughly corrupt Republican party that takes its voters for granted. Such a person wouldn’t get in, you say? Well, who had heard of Emmanuel Macron before he became president of France? That’s not to say Macron will become a ruthless dictator, but few bothered to find out much about him before voting him into office largely on how he looked and who he wasn’t.
Somebody far worse than Trump could have trodden the path he took to power, and Twitter outbursts and trannies in the military would be the absolute least of our worries. Hillary really could be in jail instead of flogging her book of excuses, and the leaders of Antifa and BLM lying in hospital contemplating life in a wheelchair. If you think the decency of the American people and the robustness of the political system would prevent such an outcome, think again. In an era of Executive Orders, a weaponised IRS, politicised appointed judges, and a president with a pen and a phone, there’s an awful lot resting on the decency of Trump. Now there’s a thought.
Alarmingly, the political classes haven’t learned anything and seem determined to compound their mistakes. If they succeed in their efforts to force Trump from office by fair means or foul, what lesson do you think future political leaders will draw from it? They will assume the game is rigged and merely winning an election is not enough to hold power, and will do everything they can to ensure they cannot be unseated in a similar manner. If you conspire to get rid of a fairly elected president simply because you dislike him, expect the next guy to be a lot more savvy and interested in self-preservation over and above everything else.
In 2016 Americans dodged a bullet they never saw coming, and are fortunate it’s Donald Trump that now occupies the White House instead of someone much worse. If they have any sense, they’ll allow him to see out his term and leave office peacefully. If they don’t, historians may come to view this supposedly dangerous white supremacist as one of the most benign presidents of the 21st century.