I do not normally do reassurance, so consider this a one-time election special.
A Trump Presidency will not end the world.
Here I said it. I hope you feel better.
A second Trump Presidency WILL end the world however.
Our efforts, and by our I mean all internationalist liberal people anywhere, should be concentrated on preventing this calamity from repeating itself next time around, be it in 2020 or whenever. Consider this a strategic retreat if you will.
Liberal internationalism has suffered a heavy defeat in the election of Trump in the USA. It suffered a serious blow by the Leave win in the EU Referendum in Britain. It would be dealt a long lasting wound by a Le Pen win in France.
There are some things we cannot change. Enough people have revolted against social liberalism that mandated political correctness and acceptance of others as equals. People resent women, foreigners, other races, religions. They always have and they probably always will. They also strongly resent being told they are inferior and wrong, even though these behaviours are inferior and wrong.
Enough people had enough of elites that supposedly operate for their own purposes and interests away from them. They resent the lack of vision, the lack of connection, the excess of a system that blew off the greatest economic crisis for a century and kept on going.
Enough people feel threatened by things outside their control shaping their lives.
All this we knew. What we did not appreciate is the establishment’s inability to shape people’s behaviour when they do get to express a policy changing opinion (eg at the ballot box). We also (at least in the case of Brexit) did not appreciate that a section of the establishment would co-opt this rebellion for its own purposes.
All this you know already, and there are millions of articles, op-eds and blog posts written about it as we speak.
What everyone is wondering about is what to do about it. How does one fight back against this irreversible (it seems) lurch to the right, towards populism, towards a darkness with echos of the 1930s?
After Trump’s victory I no longer believe this descent can be halted. Greece elected ignorant self-serving populists in an act of rebellion against ‘foreign occupiers’. The British chose to throw themselves off a cliff in the hope of something new. The Americans have just elected perhaps the least appropriate person to ever run for the Presidency. It is happening, it will happen elsewhere, nothing you can say or do can put a stop to it.
What does one do then?
The answer is capturing and controlling the narrative of the extremists’ failure.
What is so dangerous about this global phenomenon is not the extremes taking power, it is how they will use their failures to create a narrative that leads inexorably to conflict.
Lets take the example of Brexit.
The idea of Brexit is based on a series of un-achievable dreams. During the EU Referendum we failed to convince the majority of voters that wishing for a unicorn does not create one. Our task post-referendum is to convince people that the unicorn did not appear because it never existed, not because we Remainers did not join in wishing for one.
Brexit will fail as a project because it cannot deliver on its promises of restricting immigration and ensuring prosperity at the same time. It can either attempt to restrict immigration with catastrophic consequences for economic performance (for a variety of reasons explained elsewhere on this blog), or it can deliver a manageable drop in living standards for zero progress on any of its key objectives. There is no upside to Brexit and no silver lining, at least for the people who voted for it.
What is important is how a narrative explaining this failure develops. A careful, fact based, relentless effort needs to be made to demonstrate that the failure of Brexit is due to incompetent government, unrealistic aims, incoherent promises and contradictory policy goals. This needs to be homed-in on a daily basis for weeks, for months, for years. It may not prevent (and will not prevent) Brexit from happening, but it will lay the blame squarely where it belongs: at the hands of those who argued for Leave and carried it out.
Failing to control the narrative will lead to a surging nationalist right placing the blame at the hands of “Remoaners”, pro-EU traitors, evil vindictive Europeans, bribed or bamboozled foreigners, Enemies-of-the-People Judges.
Failing to demonstrate, carefully and thoroughly that the Brexit government is responsible for the disruption that is to follow will lead to an entrenchment of the worse aspects of Leave: The racism, the anger, the violence. It will lead to violent conflict.
Similarly with Trump. The Trump Presidency will spectacularly sink in its myriad incompatible, incoherent, un-achievable promises. Who gets the blame for the failure will determine the nature of US politics and the shape of the world for generations to come.
Failed governments, bad policies, rotten ideologies crumble and fall. Look at Soviet Communism if you need any examples. Trump’s rotten politics should not take 70 years to disintegrate. They should not outlast his first term.
The job of Democrats, of progressives, of liberals in the USA and the world is to highlight, publicize and fact check day in and day out the failures of the Trump regime.
It will be difficult in this supposedly post-fact, post-rationality, expert-hating political environment, but people are not that blind to the reality around them. Blaming others only works for a little while for regimes that burn out very fast. Hitler came to power in 1933 and would not have lasted till 1945 were it not for the war. America is not Nazi Germany. When Trump fails, it will be obvious. The task is to control the narrative and prevent him from spinning it as the fault of ‘wreckers’ and traitors within.
There it is therefore America and World. We have failed, we have been defeated. We will rise again. Reality is our ally, we just have to pull our sleeves up and this nightmare will one day be over.