I was torn between writing something about this week and Trump’s win because it occupies my mind so much and not writing anything because everyone is writing about Trump right now, even more than before. Is there anything I can say that not anyone else has said or written already? I don’t know but I need to get all of this of my chest, so I can make room to mourn Leonard Cohen. What an appalling week.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have cheered if Clinton had won. In the past, I made it clear that I don’t expect any U.S. president to actually change the world in any meaningful way. That’s not their job. Obama could have had a shot at this, but he not only had a strong opposition against change but he also got caught up in the political system, making compromises wherever he could. But that is not a flaw of the system. It is not “rigged”, as Trump loves to claim, but inherently flawed. Think about it, the political system was created to preserve the status quo, so any attempt to fundamentally change something this way is doomed from the start. There is no reason to pin your hopes on the American president or the German chancellor or any world leader because the effect they can have is undermined by the system they’re working with.
Trump will have to realize this too. Imagine him in one or two years making the same compromises and disappointing his fanatical base by achieving just as little as anyone before him. Can you name a president who really changed something, where you could say: “Wow, it’s not like it has been before!” You can find examples where things changed for the worst and surely that is what Trump could be capable of.
When I listened to the mash-up of campaign highlights that The Run-Up posted recently, I was reminded of all the terrible, awful things Trump has said and that reveal his childish, nasty, arrogant personality. It is said that he was elected because he “told it like it is” and in a way that is a damnation of the current political system again because politicians have this way of talking, not saying what they mean, beating around the bush and obfuscating simple matters that people are just fed up by this. They are so fed up that they rather vote for someone who lies and insults as long as he sounds more authentic than politicians. This might have been the election that is the least about politics and the most about the basics of the way we do politics.
During all the discussion now who is responsible for his win, the media rarely mentions itself. Imagine they hadn’t written and broadcast and live-tickered every single offensive word Trump has said during the last year. I don’t think he would have come as far. And if they instead had reported more on Sanders’ somewhat revolutionary ideas, the race might have gone different too. The more we eat up any new controversy, we feed into the narrative that it matters what Trump says and that we can only rely on him or any other elected president to change something.
His win caused a feeling of dread and disbelief within me but by now I can’t help feeling a kind of cautious optimism not because I think Donald Trump will be a great president (again, mainly because I don’t think anyone can be), but because I’m starting to hope that he won’t be as bad he appeared during his campaign. As he said himself, he likes to win and he realized more than anyone else that being someone who seems truly authentic is someone who will win this election (which is why Bernie Sanders might have had an actual chance too). I also have a weird hope that his presidency will prove more than anything else that we can’t rely on this system to achieve actual change. If he embarrasses himself miserably this will become clear, if he ruins a lot it’ll become clear too and if his win causes a kind of counter-revolution that will achieve more change (in the spirit of the Occupy Movement), it might be even worth something.
When Rage Against the Machine released Guerilla Radio before the immensely contested 2000 election, I felt a sense of understanding like never before. To them the only answer to Bush or Gore (where Gore was seen as the “lesser evil”) was ‘none of the above’. If we continue to focus on a system that is only interested in the status quo and don’t look for something different, we can also continue to whine and complain. But I still think that the following lyrics are some of the most important and relevant, now more than ever before:
It has to start somewhere
It has to start sometime
What better place than here?
What better time than now?