Donald Trump is President of the United States. Donald Trump is President of the United States. Get over your denial. Donald J. Trump is President.
At times of political disbelief, the easiest response is to stick your head in the sand, to pretend that it isn’t happening. To pretend that there could be some way out of it, that it isn’t real. Well it is. The world has changed overnight and there’s no point denying it. What’s needed is not passivity, removal and a refusal to accept. What’s needed is activism and engagement, and this can only be achieved after we accept what has happened.
Trump’s victory represents a rejection of politics as we know it, of what people perceive to be the establishment. The political attitude is one of discontent – people are fed up. Whether they are fed up of their manufacturing jobs being exported, their communities being ignored, their incomes being squeezed while those of the 1% grow, or, yes, the aggressiveness they see in a political correctness that has at times stunted reasonable debate about the changing social world, they are fed up. Make no mistake about it.
“There must be a rejection of the neoliberal establishment of which Trump is a part”
But their emotions are misplaced. Trump is not their saviour.
To truly make a difference to these problems, there must be a rejection of the neoliberal establishment of which Trump is a part. Real change for the disenfranchised does not lie in the bigotry, bombs or big business tax cuts promised by Trump. It lies in a wholesale rejection of the political and economic system that enabled a presidential race to be fought between a billionaire and possibly the most establishment candidate ever.
While Trump’s protectionist leanings may do something to bring jobs back to traditionally working-class communities, his tax cuts, his repealing of climate change legislation and his social bigotry stink of a brand of politics which superficially promises to be for all but which is, at its core, geared to the interests of a capitalist elite.
“In both the UK and the US, anti-establishment sentiment has masqueraded as this brand of divisive and dangerous politics”
It is an ideology that is present in our own politics, too. Theresa May’s early promises of a Britain that works for everyone – which were eerily echoed in Donald Trump’s acceptance speech – seem a far cry off. In a week where the UN has criticised the UK’s treatment of disabled people and the number of homeless children is expected to reach an eight-year high, we would be foolish to think that we were escaping many of the horrors that Trump represents.
In both the UK and the US, anti-establishment sentiment has masqueraded as this brand of divisive and dangerous politics. One resulted in Brexit, the other President Trump. However, the destruction of establishment politics and the status quo is not in these superficially transformative ideologies, as appealing as they may seem to those who are fed up with politics as usual.
The destruction of establishment politics lies with a radical rejection of it, an overhaul from the bottom-up, a politics that truly works towards a fairer economy and a more just society. It is not Donald Trump or Brexit. It is anti-austerity, anti-neoliberalism; and it can be achieved.
“Donald John Trump is President of the United States of America. If this is something that upsets you, do something about it”
The anti-establishment sentiment harboured by many Trump supporters could have been harvested by Bernie Sanders had he been given the chance to do so. Countries like Spain, Iceland and Portugal have put faith in progressive anti-establishment parties. And while the UK’s alternatives to neoliberalism are currently waning, the anti-establishment attitude expressed by Brexit is one that can – that must, if we are to avoid the bigotry of the hard right – be used for good.
Donald John Trump is President of the United States of America. If this is something that upsets you, do something about it. Denial is not an option.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.