Action not Normalisation
There are broadly three emerging responses to the coming to power of Trump and his movement in America. The first is denial (it probably won’t happen, he probably didn’t mean it, there are checks and balances), the second is co-optation and compromise (show respect, stop being antagonistic, smooth transition), the third is to demand action and resistance. The only response that has any moral credibility is the third.
The arrival of a fascist regime in America will not just send the US hurtling backwards with a government packed with racists, creationists and hucksters of the alt-right, it threatens the global climate-change agreement. As such it demands a global response.
The first category of responses is ably represented by Kevin McKenna, writing in the Herald (‘Sturgeon should take lessons in grown-up statecraft when it comes to Trump’). McKenna writes:
“To our political leaders in Scotland I would commend the response of Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach, to Trump’s triumph. “On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I am pleased to offer our sincere congratulations to Donald J Trump on his election as the 45th President of the United States.”
Faced with fascism we’re encouraged to a sick pragmatism and sycophancy. This is a disastrous response with humiliating consequences.
A better approach is offered by Senator Aodhán O’Riordáin to the Seanad:
“America has just elected a fascist and the best thing that the good people in Ireland can do is to ring him up and ask him, is it OK to still bring the shamrock on Saint Patrick’s Day? I am embarrassed by the reaction of the Irish government to what has happened in America. I can’t believe the reaction from An Taoiseach and from the government.”
The second response, offering accommodation and ‘reality’ that ‘it’ probably won’t happen is often allied with a sort of gallows humour. ‘He’s an actor’. ‘It’s showbusiness’.
Denial as a response to death is a well documented part of a mourning process. But mourn quickly and know what has died. It’s a response which springs from a quaint faith in American institutions of government. It’s a faith that looks suddenly fragile and stupid and one dimensional in the face of a political onslaught. It’s politically illiterate not to recognise that the forces that stopped Obama from acting are the same forces that put Trump in power.
Ian McEwan writes:
“Stunned disbelief, a condition at which we are beginning to be adept, is a form of denial that fades quickly, but not smoothly. It vanishes by steps, two forward, one back. But by inauguration day in January, we’ll be mouthing the words “President Trump” without incredulity or mirth. The danger is that it will begin to seem normal, this unique tragedy of national self-harm whereby a suspected con-man (the Trump University case, one of many, comes to trial on 28 November), this narcissistic and cynical vulgarian of limited attention span becomes the most powerful man on earth, ready by his own account to begin his assault on liberal democracy, rational discourse, civil liberties, and all manner of civil decencies, which are known to him as political correctness. There will be pundits and flunkies eager to persuade us just how acceptable the new situation is. But the contest for the presidency was too long and revealed too much to be forgotten.”
Either this is an unprecedented event with potentially catastrophic consequences or it isn’t. If it is, and it is, then the only viable response is to organise on a massive scale. Andrew Rawnsley reminds us
“.. his election is the Black Swan event of a generation. A serial bankrupt will be at the wheel of the world’s largest economy. A man with no experience of elected office will preside over a government machine with 2.8 million civilian employees and 1.5 million military personnel. A man who will be pursued into the White House by a pack of lawsuits will be in charge of the FBI. A man repeatedly described as unfit for the office by senior members of his own party will be the commander-in-chief with his finger on the trigger of more than 4,000 nuclear warheads.”
That’s not a scenario to respond with a shrug and a whimper.
It’s not time for a slumber party. Paul Mason offers a ten point plan for resistance:
4. Build a new political alliance
5. Kill neoliberalism
6. Design an alternative
7. Create a different media
8. Reclaim the term ‘working class’
9. Choose one fight and become expert in it
10. Take the political battle outside politics
He argues for a global response: “Friday 20 January — a work day. Take it off and block the streets of your town. If you can get to Washington DC get there and block the streets. All across the world people are planning to mark #J20 with street protests and vigils — but we should do more. We should stop work in the first global mass strike against bigotry.” Read it here. It’s a good place to start.
In Scotland we have a ‘special relationship’ with Trump and our #J20 actions can be joyous from Lewis to Turnberry. But demanding fealty to fascism from our political leaders is a sign of instant capitulation.
We need to be lucid and active not craven and accommodating. As Jiddu Krishnamurti told us: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”.