Iain Dale is Leading Britain's Conversation.
20 January 2017, 11:15
Don’t blame Trump for being the most absurd President America has ever elected. Blame the failed US political system that has allowed him to get there.
Trump is a noisy, snake oil salesman, full of ranting rhetoric that only sounded convincing because a lot of American voters were fed up with every other politician, so queued up to buy his bottles of brightly coloured water, masquerading as cure-alls for every human ill.
The American people voted him in (though they actually didn’t; see later) because they were so disillusioned with Washington; a word that used to betoken hope for a newly independent America, but now carries with it, for most Americans, the stench of corruption and failure.
If we’re in the blame game, let’s start with the Democratic Party. They produced President Obama, a wonderfully fluent and attractive politician, who got to the White House four years after he gave up being a social worker in Chicago. For all his elegance and style, Obama was an inexperienced failure; a divisive influence in domestic politics; hopeless internationally, reducing the world’s most powerful nation to the status of a by-stander, as the Middle East went up in flames, and Putin got out of his cage in a way not seen since the heyday of Stalin.
And why was the Middle East in flames? For that look no further than the next defendant, George W Bush, and he’ll be there grinning away on Capitol Hill today, seemingly without a care in the world.
Look especially carefully at Bill and Hilary Clinton. That ghastly sleazeball Bill, now looks like death warmed up, a pale shadow of his former self. But he’d have been there, with his nose in the trough, if Hillary had won. And because a lot of American voters knew that, she lost, well, sort of.
Put the American Constitution in the dock too. Hilary got 3 million more votes than Trump, just as Al Gore (remember him?) got half a million more than George W Bush, first time around.
But both lost, because the President is elected, not directly by the voters, but by delegates from each state. This throwback to the foundation of the US, should be consigned to the waste bin, but won’t be, however many losers it turns into winners.
A lot of Americans are much given to boasting about their democracy, yet in the last five presidential elections, the loser has won twice. Go figure!
Then there’s Congress. 100 senators, living high on the hog at the public expense, and most of them, time-serving mediocrities. And, members of the House of Representatives, reduced to the status of social workers, always fretting about local issues, because a two year electoral cycle makes that inevitable. Most of them don’t have the time or inclination to play an effective part in national politics. That’s why congressmen never end up in the White House.
Indeed, when was the last time Congress as a whole produced a truly great leader? It doesn’t happen. Presidents come from outside, not inside. Obama was only on the Hill for a couple of months. Bush Jnr was Governor of Texas; Clinton Governor of Arkansas; Reagan Governor of California, and Carter Governor of Georgia.
Congress should be producing a stream of experienced leaders, cut from presidential timber, but it doesn’t, because most exceptional Americans don’t want to go there.
So put the media in the dock too. Legitimate scrutiny is one thing; an obsession with the minutiae of people’s private lives, especially their sex lives, does nothing to make a career in politics an attractive option for wealthy or successful people with options.
A good friend of mine, who for years chaired the Republican National Committee, told me of his soul destroying slog around every state in the union, armed with a list of prominent local citizens, who he would try to persuade to run for Governor or the Senate. And to a man and woman, they would shake their heads, and reply; “I don’t need this in my life, and my family certainly doesn’t”.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, out of this unholy mess emerges the 45th President.
I’ll be fascinated to see how it all works out, and I hope I haven’t been reduced to a pile of irradiated dust before it’s all over.
Trump is an old fashioned American populist, along the lines of Huey Long, the Louisiana Kingfish, whose campaign pledge back in the 30s was; “A cow in every yard, a chicken in every pot, and every man a king”.
And is Trump any different? No, he’s just more successful. Huey Long was assassinated before he could take his snake oil into the White House. Trump has got there.
And look what he’s going to do. He says he’s going to restore American strength and pride, and bring back millions of manufacturing jobs, thereby transforming the lives of blue collar workers, who, presumably, will get a cow in their yard and a chicken in their pot. Or will they?
To do this, he’s relying on a Goldman Sachs government, filled with people whose creed is “Greed is Good”, and who got their vast fortunes by exploiting the working man, not empowering him. But what will happen, when the voters he conned realise the true nature of Trump and his cronies?
Fasten your seatbelts folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.