Rafe: Trump win was a vote against the “establishment” – but don’t count on them realizing it
Fresh from the heady feeling of predicting an election result, indeed an American presidential election, and having the reasons pretty accurate, I’m encouraged to take the next logical step. I only go over a bit of old ground to make the point that if we do not understand the depth of the problem – I suspect that the elite doesn’t even know there is one – then we might just as well have a drink or two and see what happens.
This is the most solidified establishment in modern history. It runs through several strata of society and includes members who profess not to like what they see as the “establishment”.
My father would have faded away even to find a union leader next to him in his comfy Anglican pew, even though he only went to Church once a year (though that once with great enthusiasm) and the union leader would have been no less surprised and uncomfortable. Today, they would seem part of the same elite fraternity to an environmentalist who sees them both as the forces destroying the river.
The folks that run things are like universities of elites, where the colleges don’t like each other very much, but have a strong commonality of purpose – to run things – and the students can’t wait to guillotine the lot of non-elites.
Loss of tradirional political discipline exposes imponderables that didn’t used to be – speaking just of the United States, where do the armed forces stand? Here is the eternal steadying tradition of the president being the Commander-in-chief, which suddenly is not such a sure or, indeed, comforting thing. Whether this hitherto stability will stand the shock of Donald Trump is the number one question.
There is good news and bad news.
The good news is that institutions are not easy to bring down, least of all when there is no organized force with that directly in mind.
The bad news is that when they do come down, it’s with a hell of a crash and there is a lot of collateral damage. Moreover there may be someone ready to help with the crash launch. That brings on the next imponderable.
To say it’s difficult to get a constant theme out of Trump’s mumblings is putting it mildly. What does he really want to do? Does he know? Trump has an enormous following as I write this but they’re scarcely a homogeneous group and seem to have as their only thing in common being thoroughly pissed off at something or someone or both. Just as the former elite came from disparate unorganized units, so does the Trump outfit, as any look at a Trump crowd clearly indicates.
The first concern, then, is domestic and there simply is no precedent from which to work. We have seen malevolent dictatorships crumble and we’ve watched benevolent aristocracies and all other manner of a governments go but the United States of America, and what it has become in fact and psychologically over the last 260 years, is just not readable on the evidence and leaves us in the highly dangerous “waiting game.”
Foreign affairs, of course, is the scarier part. Contestants, in whatever the contest, love weakness in their opponents and will probably exploit it even though there may not be much point at the time. It’s a natural reflex.
When we are talking about a game where the stakes are not very high, no big deal, but we’re on survival where missteps under the most benign of circumstances yield catastrophes. I needn’t begin to mention nightmares waiting to occur that exist all around the globe.
There is always one saving grace, otherwise known as MAD, when referring to nuclear warfare. In most international contests of any consequence there are huge doses of self interest available, namely survival, to keep some sanity inside the war room. Unfortunately, leaders have not always responded well to the obvious and even good counsel available. In the situation that exists in the world today, failure is not acceptable.
One cannot be blamed if after all of this time, being exposed to Trump blatherings, one becomes just a tad irrational. I am now going to be just that by saying “you never know”.
Ironically, President Warren Harding, who fights it out with W for being the worst of the lot, once said “the White House is an alchemist”. By that he meant one can never be sure what the person occupying the Oval Office will be like until time has passed. Admittedly, it seems a wild dream to suppose that Donald Trump could turn out to be a decent president, but this is as good as most dreams available to us.
The real issue is not Donald Trump – he is just the catalyst. The issue is slow, rumbling, unforseen, huge, undisciplined change by the “post-elite” who don’t get it yet and show no signs of doing so.
It’s a watching game and a very scary one.