In the 1930s, when some Americans met Hitler, their reaction was, “This guy is a clown. He’s like a caricature of himself.” Many went through this whole litany about how even if Hitler got into a position of power, other German politicians would somehow be able to control him [Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland, interviewed in The Atlantic].
That was how people reacted to Donald Trump when he flagged his run for president of the United States, and even after he became president. I warned my friends of this and how dangerous it was to underestimate this clown. Very few took it seriously. Then Trump started reshaping the security forces to his will, demonising the press to sabotage any dialogue critical of him, and playing to the crowds like a risqué buffoon, energising his base [word used advisedly] support.
While Trump was president, he effectively held the United States, and the rest of the world, to ransom. Now that he has lost the election, he is still holding everything to ransom. Meanwhile, other despots look on admiringly: even in defeat, Trump is still getting his way.
Even if it leads to actual armed conflict, Trump wants to stay in the White House, where he’s protected from civil suits on tax, accounting, business practice and sexual predation.
Meanwhile, Trump has embraced a theory he doesn’t understand or believe in because it gives a pivot to his supporters: ‘Trump’s a non-conformist disrupter? But Democrats drink blood and traffic children.’ As farcical and ridiculous as this appears to almost all sane people, that’s a basic tenet of the Q-Anon conspiracy, and yet Trump has been willing to embrace it simply because it seems to put him in a spotlight while making him seem more omniscient. To a self-obsessed fame-freak like Trump, throwing gasoline on the barbecue simply draws attention while speeding the conclusion, damn to the damage.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, we have Jacinda Adern asserting her authority over a party now beholden to the centre, since it’s the centre that gave her such a mandate. Only a very few – I think three? – electorates that had National candidates voted in also had their party votes go to National. In other words, lots of National supporters voted for their favourite conservative Nat candidate, then gave their party vote to Labour. Mostly this was done strategically to keep the Greens out.
They got their wish. The Greens (who actually do have left-wing social policies) have effectively been excluded from government with enough of a tidbit to be kept leashed.
It’s not all bad, of course. Not at all. Jacinda is a very effective leader, and she’s very good at choosing her words, saying the right thing and not giving too much away when she shouldn’t. I admire her. I think the make-up of caucus should be lauded for its breadth and diversity, fingers firmly crossed that any inexperience is nurtured through before it causes any lasting damage and fallout.
I have one complaint about Jacinda – why did she make unequivocal statements before the election? ‘There will be no wealth tax on my watch’ kind of thing. Why, why, why? Because that’s exactly what we need. Do we really want New Zealand children brought out of poverty? Are we then relying on a magical army of elves riding unicorns to do this for us? Come on! It’s going to take money, and we’re in recession, and most of our problems outside of the pandemic are due to the massive inequality that National fostered over nine years.