I think Americans are suffering under grave misapprehensions about the consequences of a Donald Trump presidency. The Trump regime has its obvious targets: immigrants, NFL players kneeling to protest racialized police brutality, marginalized groups, the poor. His ardent supporters don’t see anything wrong with what he’s doing until the mule they hired kicks them in the sternum. Some of them are learning the hard way that the escape hatch they thought their Whiteness would provide isn’t always available — the harm they wished on others is finding its way to their doorsteps. It is impossible for me to sympathize with these people, so I won’t pretend to. They’re not the only ones who’ve lost the plot, though. I’m coming to realize that some of Trump’s most passionate detractors are also unable to grasp reality fully.
This isn’t a situation mid-term and Presidential elections can rectify, no matter the size of the “blue wave.” America isn’t bouncing back from this when the balloons fall on election night. Setting aside the catastrophes that will have to be dealt with inside the country, there is an international relations component to this that isn’t getting enough column inches. Donald Trump is unstable, and his election has revealed that America, its institutions, and its political and civic life are unstable too.
Americans are having to claw and scratch for the amenities and services that are taken for granted as a part of life in other wealthy democracies. They don’t have access to affordable health care or higher education. Depending on where you live, clean water coming out of your pipes is hit or miss. There are more people imprisoned than in any other nation on the planet by a wide margin. Police can kill citizens indiscriminately. Congress has been gridlocked into uselessness for a generation.
None of this started with Donald Trump, but his election is the straw. The camel’s back has broken. No one can pretend anymore that America’s dysfunction is idiosyncratically quaint. The mask has slipped. We’ve all been made to look, and there’s no longer any point in denying what we see. America has been unstable for some time, and now it is collapsing. The country essentially has no leadership. There’s a bureaucracy whose institutional memory is keeping things going, but can what’s happening in Washington really be considered governing in any sense of the word? The longer things go, the more the supports of that bureaucracy will be chipped away at, in ways that will take decades to repair.
It’s only Wednesday, and we’ve spent the first two days of this week watching two villainous reality show grifters — Omarosa and Trump — duke it out over the contents of Omarosa’s tell-all book. I desperately want to cry “team no one!” and go on about my business, but one of them is the President of the United States and the other had been an advisor in his White House. We’ve all been strapped to our chairs and had our eyelids taped open as we’re forced to watch The Apprentice: White House Edition. (What if enough of us had refused to watch the original iterations in the first place? Could all this have been avoided?) We’re being compelled to bear witness to the President of the United States call a Black woman a “low-life” and a “dog”.
The vulgarity and indecency on display is only part of the problem, though. Don’t you get the sense that nothing else is happening at the White House while these tantrums are being thrown? Hasn’t it been made abundantly clear that Trump and his inner circle are all bunglers who are completely in over their heads? Can’t we see that every last one of them is an oathbreaker? Aren’t we trying to avoid admitting out loud that the lights are on but there’s nobody — nobody at all — home?
No one is minding the store.
If we’re honest, the presidency of Bush the Younger and the disastrous Operation Iraqi Freedom was when America’s honeymoon with much of the West ended. Trump’s volatile buffoonery picks up right where George W. Bush left off. There’s a straight line from that clown show that runs through the Tea Party to Sarah Palin to the Trumpocalypse. This isn’t a one-off, some unforeseeable, extraordinary event. This is the logical conclusion of decades of broken American politics. It was only a matter of time before the rest of the world threw up its hands and said, “enough.”
The United States has been violently bullying much of the world for decades. It has overthrown democratically elected governments to prop up strongmen. It has destabilized nations. It has started illegal wars that have killed, maimed, and traumatized millions. Even those it calls its friends in Western Europe are often shoved around and treated with slight regard. The volatility America has been fomenting all over the world is no longer tempered enough by counterbalancing benefits to be palatable to its allies. Everything’s gotten too nutty. Americans are denying climate change and refusing to repair their infrastructure (that’s socialism!), while Paris is mulling making the metro free to cut down on emissions. American health care policy makes insulin unaffordable for many diabetics, while Cuba (a tiny nation under a decades-long economic blockade) developed the world’s first lung cancer vaccine and delivered it to its population at a cost of one U.S. dollar per dose. I haven’t even mentioned America’s ocean of guns and the death and violence they bring and how intergalactically unhinged it makes the society look. Americans are in ever-escalating battles over issues most other nations have settled. Guns: bad, universal healthcare: good.
Do the grown-ups have any choice but to move on from America’s stubborn immaturity? Can anyone blame them for wanting relationships with other responsible adults?
While Trump and Omarosa battle for ratings, the rest of the world will have to find a new leader. America isn’t it anymore. And it won’t be even after Trump’s foolish reign ends. Americans have shown the world just how unstable their country is, and the world has taken heed. Germany seems to be taking the lead, and China will have to be reckoned with. Whatever the outcome, the sun seems to be setting on the American empire, and a resurgence is unlikely. While Trump starts food fights on Twitter, nations and peoples will wriggle out from under America’s thumb. No matter who takes the White House next, many will choose not to return to the fold. They will have found new partners, new protectors, and new allegiances. One of the most important things Trump is doing that is going largely unseen is giving the world permission to break up with America and the time to move on.