I find it increasingly hard to turn away from the ugly spectacle of American politics. Part of this is envy; I honestly wish that I could have cast my vote (Bernie, then Hillary) in this seminal election, a transition (I hope) from the industrial age to the information age. I live in the shadow of American news and politics, and while I love Canada, it is hard to ignore the tug of that great country south of us.
I often talk about systems on this blog. I feel that systems and institutions are the villains of modern stories more than singular figures.
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump is a man who has shown absolute willingness to cast aside institutions and ideas. Depending on how you view his motivations this is either a good thing or a bad thing, obviously. I see his motivations as guided by contempt for expertise, the power of persuasion, revenge, desire for personal gain, and an ideology that places wealth and business above all else. Some of his followers see a heroic iconoclast that will break the chains that have held back their country for decades and allow them to cast down their enemies at last.They see him as akin to Alexander confronting the Gordian Knot, as Jesus sweeping the money-lenders from the Temple.
We both might be right.
[What is an iconoclast? a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions, literally a destroyer of idols.]
Trump shut down the TPP, instantly dealing a blow the flow of decades of globalization. I actually am in favour of this, but mostly because the TPP is full of harmful laws that limit freedoms and make life easier for climate change deniers. If I could bring myself to trust Trump (spoiler: he lies quite frequently), this alone would be enough to gain my support.
I also don’t trust foreign intervention or intelligence agencies; Trump is currently at odds with both.
I can see why some of Trump’s followers view him as a heroic figure, come to break down regulations and set things right.
The problem is that what guides Donald Trump is not a desire for justice or to make America a better place for everyone. Donald Trump’s destruction of institutions and ideas is purely motivated by personal gain and to enhance to power of the wealthy. In this way he often acts like an orthodox republican: spouting tax cuts, attacking climate science, and seeking to enhance the power of the nation with military might over diplomacy.
In this, he is willing to be iconoclastic as well. He does not care about the truth, spewing whatever he reads on his twitter feed without fact-checking. He does not seem to realize the responsibility that seems to come with his office in this regard. His racism and sexism is well noted, but seen by many as a reaction to stifling political correctness, a bullshit claim in my opinion.
Trump is even willing to violate the constitution (article 1, section 9) in order to keep ownership of his business interests, arguing that his voters knew that he is a businessman, wiping out hundreds of years of tradition in a single stroke. What is fascinating is that his followers and party are, so far, willing to go along with this, even though it is a glaring example of the corruption they despise. In fact, the more his corruption irritates liberals, the more some of them seem to like it.
Trump has already changed so much of american politics and he is not even in power yet. And yet, rather than bringing the country into the future, Trump seems to want to return to a mythical era in the past when coal and manufacturing propelled the economy, businessmen were objects of unqualified adoration, and people did not have to give a fuck about political correctness. In this fashion we can see the orthodoxy that shapes his attacks, a hatred of the directions that the country has taken since his youth.
And yet that bygone era has one defining feature that Trump rejects with great vehemence: The Cold War with Russia. Trump loves everything from that time but rejects butting heads with the dictator, Putin. In many ways this is laudable, but in Trump I think we can see how it is motivated by self-interest. The CIA and the NSA have both sounded warnings about Russian hacking in the election and Trump refuses even to talk about it.
I wonder what is in those tax returns, another tradition that he has broken with.