Trump and the revolutionary atmosphere in America
Political pundits in the US, who saw their election predictions turned on their heads, are now scrambling for an insightful explanation of how Hillary Clinton could have failed to win. Well, there’s one big reason. The anti-establishment protests that marked the whole trajectory of the US election came to a head on Nov. 8. The American people had not only lost their faith in the powers-that-be – which try to equate their own needs with the interests of the broader nation – but they had also stopped trusting the dominant media outlets that are so intertwined with that system. Trump was not only battling his political opponents, he was also opposed by many from his own party who defected to Clinton’s side. He faced resistance from the mainstream media, including an estimated 50 of the leading American newspapers and magazines, as well as virtually all of the major television channels. It is difficult to imagine how Trump managed to break through the «consensus» that was aimed against him. It appears that some instinctive, universal sympathy was roused toward someone who, like the Paul Bunyan of American folk tales, was willing to single-handedly take on the world. The fact that the traditional media was able to exert so little influence is evidence that they are losing ground to the Internet and other more cutting-edge ways of communicating. It seems that Trump was also better able than others to harness this technological revolution.
It is possible that one of the new president’s first steps in his revolution will be to begin a housecleaning of the American media landscape. In his «100 Day Action Plan» for his new administration, Trump has already announced that he will do battle with anyone who is «trying to stifle the voice of the American people». He has singled out AT&T’s desire to purchase Time Warner, which owns CNN and many other media assets, as an example of how big capital is taking over the channels that influence public opinion. Trump stated that as president he would not approve this deal, «because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few». Amazon, which owns the Washington Post and thus avoids a high tax bill, is a similar case in point. Yet another example – the television channel NBC, in which Comcast has acquired a majority stake, also «concentrates too much power in its hands». The list goes on. Trump feels that we now have one superstructure that manipulates the thoughts and behaviors of voters, thereby contaminating their minds. Deals like these «destroy democracy» and the Trump administration has vowed to try to break them up.
The publications that could be affected by these reorganizations are close to panicking. Their prestige is declining, as are their stock prices. The Washington Post, for example, is behaving very oddly right now. It published an article claiming that the blame for all the filth and professional sleaziness that has filled the pages of American newspapers, including its own, can be placed on… Russia.
The New York Times has not yet reached this conclusion and remains absolutely dumbfounded, claiming that what was once an «implausible fantasy» is now a fait accompli that has «placed the United States on a precipice». You can, however, agree with that publication’s conclusion that during the election Trump used the «judo move of turning the weight of a complacent establishment against it».
Television channels reorganize quickly. They are not yet singing Trump’s praises, but are putting many of their previous assessments on hold. It is easier for them to simply broadcast pictures of events while refraining from comment. Political analysts who don’t have the backing of powerful organizations and corporations are in a more difficult position – they need to respond instantly. Yesterday they considered Trump anathema, but today the number of his «long-time» supporters is growing rapidly, and one topic predominates among them. If the new president wants his policies to work, he needs to get advice from these «indispensables», otherwise he will fail. There are quite a large number of those who want to lend Trump their own broad shoulders and minds – the very same that have already pushed the US into so many misadventures. To what extent these «eternal gurus» will manage to latch onto Trump – and how much success he will have bringing fresh blood into his administration – will largely depend on whether the newly-elected master of the White House sticks to the script he has promised. The most militant of them – neocons such as William Kristol – are already glancing toward the future vice-president Mike Pence, hoping to make him an agent of their influence over Trump.
Outside the US, the prize for the most ridiculous reaction to Trump’s win should probably be awarded to French President François Hollande. He was completely unprepared for Clinton’s defeat, and what he said was not only incongruous with French gallantry but also common sense. «The American people have just expressed their opinion… They chose Donald Trump to be the president of the United States», Hollande reluctantly admitted, adding with a sigh, «and I therefore congratulate him, as is natural between two democratic heads of state». Meaning that he personally would have never done so on his own. «This election opens up a period of uncertainty», added Hollande, «I must be very clear about that». Although probably after such a «warm greeting» it will be difficult for him to count on having a relationship with Trump. But it’s possible he won’t have much time left for that anyway.
The former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is favored to win the upcoming French presidential elections in April and May 2017, is pretty much already celebrating his own victory and is not concealing his joy at Trump’s election. Sarkozy emphasizes that the outcome of the US election signifies a «rejection of a monolithic mindset» on trade and immigration issues. With leaders like Donald Trump in the US and Vladimir Putin in Russia, France should also have a strong leader at the helm – there is no longer «any place for helplessness and weakness».
In Berlin Angela Merkel is of course too rational to give way to emotions like Hollande’s and merely responded to Trump’s victory in keeping with diplomatic protocol. However, she was clearly feeling some unease about her future political destiny. The changes in Washington could have a negative impact on the prospects for the CDU party that she leads during the Bundestag elections in the fall of 2017. Plus, Merkel has been copying Clinton’s unsuccessful tactical approach. For example, the German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported her sudden announcement that the Germans were «having to deal with Internet attacks by Russian hackers and with news from the Russian media that provide false information». She claims that «this could influence next year’s German elections». It is unlikely that such a plan of attack, which didn’t work out for Clinton, can help Merkel in any way.
It is not unusual to opine that Trump’s victory is being welcomed, first and foremost, by the world’s alt-right. That’s an oversimplification. Although there are many Trump opponents in the US who are unhappy with his conciliatory words about Russia and his preference for non-interference in the affairs of others, it’s more the case that there are some who are known as traditionalists who have specific hopes for him. In some sense the Trump phenomenon is a conservative revolution at the hands of the US and global «mainstream» who are pushing back against the aggressive hold over them by those in the minority. Statistics show that the majority of the US population favor Trump, while only a minority supported Clinton. And democracy is after all a political form of governance in which power belongs to the majority. Soon we shall see how Trump is going to act on this issue.