Wednesday July 15, 2020

Susan O'Keeffe: Trump cannot deliver real change

'Everything he has done has been driven by one thing: does it benefit Donald J Trump?'

10th November, 2016
Protestors rally against Donald Trump in New York. Pic: Getty

The true sign of the naïve, inexperienced, selfish and inexperienced candidate – playing at politics – is the promise to the electorate of change. The broader and more extensive the promise of change, the more naïve the player.

And Donald Trump promised the sun, the moon and a new, squeaky clean America during the last twelve months. On the Richter scale of naivety, he scores at maximum destruction level; the full-on five-star package of ‘I can fix the world – just vote for me!’

He didn’t hold back on his change agenda – immigration, the economy, foreign trade, NATO, the restoration of jobs in good traditional American industries, the banning of Muslims and the exclusion of Mexicans. And that’s for starters.

The scale of these global problems didn’t apparently cause Trump any difficulty either. The complexity of each issue was hardly touched upon. He made change look easy and, more importantly, just a vote away. Make a list of ten big problems and package them together under the slogan ‘make America great again.’ Keep saying it, loudly, forcefully and often and the cheering, clapping sycophantic crowds will help to make it all sound achievable. Hell, Trump probably believed it himself by the end of the tough months of speeches and stumps.

And when the musical merry-go-round that is the US election stopped and the game he had been playing of promising people what they wanted to hear had ended, Trump was the one left holding the dice and in charge of the new and very real game. No one was more surprised at the result than ‘the Donald,’ but who would falter at that point?

However, this new game has one important rule which marks it out from election fairyland and a candidate’s unfettered fantasies. The rule in the real world is that the person in charge has to make decisions, drive decisions, agree decisions, oversee decisions, delay decisions and every other possible variation that involves the need to do things that are needed, in order to govern any country, especially a country with a diverse population of close to 320 million, across six time zones.

And for some reason, the American electorate decided that they would best achieve much-needed societal and economic change by voting for a man who has never done any of this before. They chose to elect a person who has zero experience of the byzantine rules and tricks of Congress, a man who has never had political allies or enemies, at home and abroad or learned how to navigate the treacherous waters that run in and around them, a man who has never negotiated a political deal that might, done badly or in haste, cost lives or damage the environment.

They have vested their disaffection with politicians, ‘the system’, the establishment, the elite, the ruling class - in this one man. We have never before witnessed quite such a triumph of style over substance. Equally, no politician has ever promised more than this so-called non-politician.

In a final irony, the American public got change alright, but not quite the one they intended on getting. Donald Trump himself is the change. Yes, he and Barack Obama are both men. Otherwise, he is white, older, a quasi-Republican, a businessman, a business failure, a TV star, a womaniser, misogynist a racist and a xenophobe.

Above all, it is his lack of political experience that sets him apart from President Obama. While he has enjoyed decades in the public eye, Trump has never been a public representative. Simply put, he has never been held to account by his peers, for his decisions and actions. More importantly, he has never had to make decisions on behalf of his community or his constituency, never mind his country. Everything he has done has been driven by one thing and one thing only: does it benefit Donald J Trump? Even to the extent of turning his name into a brand and auctioning it off to the highest bidder. His bottom line has always been himself; hardly the best qualification to take on board the myriad of complex problems facing the millions who have placed their trust in him.

I would love to believe that Donald Trump could lead the US and, in its slipstream, the rest of the world, to a better place, a more equal society that is healthy and prosperous. But I am not alone in knowing that the simple, sloganised, trumped-up and deftly packaged lies that were at the heart of Trump’s campaign, will lead instead to more despair, more destruction and ultimately to a more damaged and divided society.

Not immediately of course. For a while, we will be treated to white teeth, squeaky smiles and polite platitudes about the American dream, the benefit of co-operation and the need to support the new leader of the free world. Donald Trump will polish his comb-over and practise his presidential voice until the first challenging press conference, the first cabinet disagreement or the first advisor offering unsolicited information or advice. Then the blistering, bullying hectoring Trump will take his seat in the Oval office and the fireworks will commence.

Some things will be changed, of course, and this non-politician will cut his political teeth by cutting up Obama’s Democratic legacy. But Donald Trump’s kind of change can only be piecemeal and driven by gut, rather than by real knowledge or understanding. He has none of that, because his long 70 years have not been spent in the service of others, understanding the needs of others and how and where those needs can be reconciled. Trump cannot bring real, lasting change, because such a vision is built and nurtured over years, not months, and even then, would take years to implement.

And anyway, Trump cannot take on this Herculean task of change, because leopards’ spots are permanent. There was not a single hint during the last year of his campaigning that this narcissistic and arrogant man could be a team player, a skilled negotiator, a patient advocate or a humanitarian fighter, just some of the skills required to move mountains and change society. And not during his previous 69 years either.

Instead, he has played on the genuine fear of millions of Americans. In addition to his naïve promises to do things he does not understand, the Donald has perpetrated the great fraud of pretence; of declaring himself outside the system, yet somehow apparently knowing how to change that same system. Among all the lies he has spun and sold, that will stand as the greatest Trump lie of all. And on that lie, much else will fall.

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