By Eugène E.
Some days before last week’s one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, a curious protest campaign had begun to gather steam on social networks. The plan for the participants was to get together in a number of US cities on November 8th and scream at the sky. As far as PTSD symptoms go, one could certainly do a lot worse than this kind of cri de coeur. After all, that day came down in history as a dark one in ultraliberal latitudes, a day when the unthinkable became reality, a day when a man whose very hair – let alone his views – seemed to embody every strand that was antithetical to the ultraliberal weltanschauung, became the 45th president of the United States.
Trump’s surprising victory has exposed the overall depths to which democratic discourse has sunk in the United States, the paralysis of the much-vaunted American-style democracy, the unbridgeable divide running through America, and the futility of forecasts and futurology. It has also exposed something else: the epic intolerance of those who pride themselves on being tolerant. It is that last bit that is key to understanding the improbable triumph of Donald Trump, since the intolerance of the tolerant was what, in many ways, had led to it.
There’s little point in giving POTUS much space here. Everyone with a keyboard is writing about Trump these days, including the Twitter-friendly Trump himself. The victory of Trump was not only about Trump; perhaps it wasn’t about Trump at all. Trump is much more of a symptom of his times than their cause. The Trump phenomenon has less to do with Donald Trump than with the crisis of democracy in the modern world on the one hand and with the shifting sands of the landscape of Western civilization on the other; connecting the two is the paradoxically intolerant ultraliberal movement, which was made possible by the former and which made possible the latter.
The improbability of his success notwithstanding, Trump did not materialize from thin air. He became the voice of all those silent millions of Americans flummoxed by a plethora of changes that had either left them behind or promised to do so. There’s certainly a considerable economic dimension to this anger – declining economic prowess is always a major source of frustration – but demography has played a large part as well. You can’t explain everything away with an economics textbook; humans are driven by other things (and when there aren’t any other things, psychotherapists and pharma giants tend to rather well). In any case, the loss of economic supremacy of many white Americans dovetails with the demographic shift which leaves so many of them feeling petrified.
This fear is not unjustified. Many bien-pensants – for whom reverse (anti-white) racism is a myth and who like to think that anyone who broaches the topic must have a white hood hidden in the closet – like to believe that the people who voted for Trump last year are racist hicks. While the Trump electorate certainly had its unsavoury elements (after all, David Duke did endorse Trump’s candidature), there were also those voters who were concerned about the threat to their identity and their place in US society. These concerns are legitimate.
Recent decades have shown that white Americans can be forgiven for thinking that they are the only group it is now socially acceptable to bash. What does a white American see when he takes stock of his country? He turns on the news, only to be told that he’s protected by an apartheidesque police force that is too happy to indiscriminately do away with black youths. He tunes in to watch the Academy Awards, only to be reminded that there aren’t enough black faces in racist Hollywood. He cozies up to the literati, only to read that American literature does not have enough “minority voices”. He goes to the polls mindful of the fact that there are too many white people running the government and there’s a paucity of congressmen representing minority groups. Wherever he looks, he is reminded that white America is solely responsible for the plight of America’s blacks, who never seem to get enough room in the US.
Of course, the corollary of the statement that there aren’t enough people representing a certain group is that there are too many representing another one; and this kind of discourse is no longer even thinly veiled. It has become all too common, as a point of criticism, to hear that this movie or that book has been created by “old white men” or for them, or that there are too many “white men” in it – as if “too much whiteness” is somehow a vice. As the credit crisis ravaged much of the world, the then-president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, could get away with saying that “white people with blue eyes” were responsible for the crisis. It is hard to imagine the leader of a Western country accusing, say, “black people with thick lips” of giving the world AIDS; and if such a comment can be conceived, then the future of the political career of the leader who says it cannot.
In France, a number of years ago, a disturbing video emerged, capturing the violent assault of a young Frenchman by a group of goons with a Maghreb background. The victim was called “sale français” (dirty Frenchman). In other words, an individual whose ancestors have lived on French soil for centuries is attacked by virtue of that very fact – attacked in his home for being the homeowner. The incident perfectly illustrates the contempt that many feel towards whites; at a minimum, it debunks the myth that reverse racism is a myth. Some will say that it’s an isolated incident – but then so are the racially motivated incidents against blacks, which are nevertheless seen as part of a wider, pervasive trend.
When George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, white America was accused of racism, even though Zimmerman, strictly speaking, is of mixed racial heritage (his mother was born in Peru and had some African ancestry). But that inconvenient fact didn’t faze those groups determined to play the race card and demonize American whites. Nor does it seem to faze them that America’s cops will soon be unable to police the streets properly lest they be accused of apartheidist tactics.
There was a time when Europe was present in the minds of the US establishment. For a number of reasons, including those of language and lineage, those at the top of America’s power pyramid felt a connection to the Old World. This is not longer the case; since the end of the Cold War, Europe has not been a pivot. In 2008 America elected its first half-black president, who grew up in Indonesia. One can easily envision a day when the man (or woman) in the White House is Latino. These leaders have never had – and never will have – much affinity to Europe. In that sense the victory of Donald Trump was a historical aberration. Indeed, some sociologists have said that the presidential election of 2016 was the last election in which the “white vote” had a material impact on the results.
Ultraliberalism might not be the primary cause of this, but when cheerleaders had to step forward, ultraliberals eagerly raised their hands. The ultraliberal lobby revels in this trend (and encourages it), since Europe for them represents parochialism, imperialism, colonialism – a whole raft of “isms” that offend their sensibilities. Like the white faces of which there are way too many, Europe is redundant. It is also culpable. As far as ultraliberals are concerned, the end of the European legacy can’t come soon enough. The ultraliberal movement has worked assiduously to help whites ease themselves into redundancy – how else to explain the guilt felt by so many whites in Europe and in the United States today?
(I am not straining for effect. Several personal experiences illustrate how the notion of racism has been distorted and instilled in many people. Recently I was trying to explain to a young woman that customer service centres come in different varieties and need not resemble the call centres of India that many Westerners have gotten to know so well, if only remotely. The woman remarked that this was a racist thing to say, though she was lost for words when I pushed for an explanation of how this was racist. Another young woman told me about a conversation she’d had with a client, who expressed his delight at finally being able to deal with someone who didn’t “have an accent”. The woman immediately characterized this compliment as a “racist” one, although it was, at worst, an expression of mild jingoism. If the woman in question had a thick German or Polish accent instead of a neat English one, would accusations of “racism” make any sense? She’d be white after all, only endowed with a heavy accent. Two things are on display here: the inflation – and unavoidable devaluation – of the term “racism”, whose definition many people no longer understand; and the alacrity with which many people use this word as a weapon in order to stifle anything that is outside their ideological comfort zone. For all that we can thank ultraliberalism.)
To add insult to injury, there are ulcerative economic problems. Outsourcing, deindustrialization, and the shift to the “gig economy” have left many (white) American males unable to adapt to the new realities – for age- or skill-related reasons – with few economic prospects. Coupled with the loss of his political and demographic dominance, the white American – a descendant of the people who really did make America great – surveying all this is bound to feel a bit marginalized. The choice that such an American made on election day – when presented with an insincere, frigid establishment figure and a self-made, if crass and vulgar, maverick who had taken care to connect with the man in the street – ought therefore not be so astonishing. Trump promised to revive the kind of America that many people wanted, and his myriad flows were overlooked.
Trump’s victory was a major setback to the ultraliberal world. Judging by the vilification of those who had voted for Trump, ultraliberals did not understand how history could have turned its back on the inexorable march to ultraliberal utopia. Needless to say, incomprehension goes hand-in-hand with rejection. Trump had not yet been sworn in when the word “impeachment” started to crop up; and it has plagued him ever since. Trump is hardly blameless, but allegations of electoral malfeasance alone cannot explain it. The reality is that Trump is the victim of the same kind of ultraliberal hysteria that has been observed since the Brexit results in the UK: the utter unwillingness of the ultraliberal bien-pensants to accept a result that is not to their liking.
As soon as the Leave camp carried the day in the UK, the Remainers began to push for a revote. The arguments for one were predictably ridiculous (the “age argument”, for example, held that the future of the country had been “highjacked” by those who were least likely to live long enough to see it, a reference to the fact that most young voters were apparently in favour of remaining in the EU – as if the vote of a sixty-year-old paterfamilias who has the experience of raising a family and may know a thing or two about the business of life is somehow less valid than the vote of an unschooled twenty-year-old youngster whose attention span is governed by the screen of his smartphone), but that did not deter those who were struck by the realization that instances of direct democracy sometimes involve accepting outcomes at odds with the ones desired. The ultraliberal concern could not accept that the majority of Brits (however slim) decided against staying in the EU, even though the results were wholly democratic: when democracy does not suit ultraliberals, they have no qualms about turning anti-democratic.
(Democracy, for all its virtues, periodically leads to severe bouts of dyspepsia – the Nazis’ rise to power a tragic case in point. If ultraliberals had a say in it, a man like Donald Trump would have never been eligible to run for president. But that would mean revisiting the entire concept of democracy, which is a notion that is something of a sacred cow for ultraliberals and, as such, is theoretically inviolable. The quandary in which ultraliberals find themselves, then, is not an enviable one.)
The same principle was at work with Trump. The common denominator here was the intolerance of the tolerant – the vehement opposition of the ultraliberal movement to anything that does not live up to its standards. Trump could have participated in satanic orgies or, equally, played baccarat with God in the Garden of Eden – that wouldn’t have made a difference. As his stunning victory could not be accepted by ultraliberals, it had to be overturned – however illegitimate the grounds. Suddenly it was discovered that the Electoral College was no longer working, rural voters had hijacked the election, and the democratic victory of Trump was somehow undemocratic. The entire election had acquired an air of illegality about it. Articles appeared in the press questioning the validity of the Electoral College and the means to repel its latest gift. The author of one newspaper article went so far as to raise the possibility of intervention by the US Army to prevent Trump from becoming president.
These were major political roadblocks for someone en route to his inauguration, and the lack of political goodwill that has accompanied Trump since his victory continues to hang over his head like a sword of Damocles (in comparison, Barack Obama walked into the White House with the Nobel Peace Prize under his belt, which he’d been awarded by a coterie of Scandinavian bien-pensants happy with America’s very ultraliberal choice of a non-white American president and oblivious to the president-elect’s vague accomplishments).
The current ace – or trump card, if you will – up the sleeve of those seeking to oust Trump is the “Russian connection”. It is still unclear what, exactly, happened, although it does seem that something did. Foreign intervention in the electoral process of a democratic country is serious business. However, some incredulity is warranted when the public is told that a group of Kremlin-backed hackers some eight time zones away could affect the results of a presidential election campaign in the world’s greatest superpower. Particularly as, assuming that the accusations are true, the Russians did not engage in anything that would be alien to the practices of America’s intelligence agencies.
And what of the accusations themselves? It’s alleged that Kremlin-backed Internet operators disseminated false information online in an anti-Clinton propaganda campaign. Dirty, but such is the nature of the Internet. It behooves responsible citizens to ensure that they obtain information from reputable news sites and not from tin-pot forums. If they’re not responsible, perhaps they shouldn’t be voting in the first place. As for the allegations that Russian operatives hacked into servers belonging to the Democratic Party to leak out sensitive data (namely, involving some unsportsmanlike tactics intended to knock Bernie Sanders out of the party’s leadership race), there’s no discussion concerning the veracity of the leaked information, for the leaked information was accurate; the problem, for those crying foul, is that it was leaked. In other words, Russian hackers are alleged to have disclosed something to the American people that was not meant to be disclosed. If true, it’s a delightful stroke of irony that Russian hackers – of all people – were the ones to inject some transparency into the US election campaign.
If Trump didn’t have the Russian hacking scandal weighing over him, he’d have something else; and if the president weren’t Trump but another firebrand equally odious to ultraliberal sensitivities, we’d still be treated to allegations of secret handshakes with the devil, reports of coprophilia, or perhaps of bestiality on planet Mars.
This is neither to exonerate Trump nor to deny the seriousness or validity of the claims made against him. But it might be worth to question the zeal of Trump’s adversaries in the ultraliberal camp, who seem to be far less interested in establishing the truth than in overturning a political result that is completely unpalatable to them. They want nothing less than to stymie the reaction to the ultraliberal movement’s ruthless promotion of its agenda – and if asserting their intolerance in order to prevail upon society to come up with the kind of tolerance they expect is the best way to bring that about, then so be it. The ends justify the means.
Ultraliberals should not despair. It is perfectly possible that the presidential election of 2016 will indeed be the last election in which the “white vote” was consequential, and Donald Trump will be nothing more than a bad four-year dream (if his reign doesn’t get cut short, that is). But it is also perfectly possible that we’ll see more Brexits and more Trumps in the coming years – as long as those who are unwilling to subscribe to the kind of tolerance demanded by ultraliberals continue to be ignored, you can expect all kinds of reactions. And some of them might be very dangerous, far more than anything we’ve seen.
I have dutifully scoured the news to gauge the success of the “scream-at-the-sky” initiative. By all appearances, the event was far tamer than what had been anticipated. In any case, troubling the sky with frustration-laden hubbub is as innocent as it is pointless. Ultraliberals might consider experimenting with alternative approaches. Showing a bit more tolerance to those you don’t agree with will be a good start.