Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are

Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The joke was supposed to be over by now. Oh, look, we said. It’s another plutocrat running on the Republican platform, promising that all those tax cuts for the rich will kick in any day now, and promising to overturn every scrap of progress made in the name of liberalism. But he’s a fool. He’s been bragging about foreign business entanglements for 30 years. He’s been sued thousands of times. He doesn’t stand a chance.

Well, we know how that turned out. What felt in the beginning like a practical joke or social experiment is now a full-blown disaster not merely for America, but for democracy in general. It’s absurd, and it’s confusing — as much for us as it must be for our friends watching from across the pond.

The inevitable backlash

America has a history of relapse. We don’t learn from our mistakes as quickly as we used to. Our pattern is taking one leap forward and two steps back, but reality is beginning to sink in with even the staunchest Trump supporters. There now appear to be three kinds of Trumpists left.

The first kind is the folks who never knew anything about politics to begin with and who vote with their guts instead of their heads. They stopped listening to Trump after he promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and put ‘the people’ back in control of their own destinies. And because they stopped listening, they also didn’t notice when, mere moments after the inauguration, this administration began attempting to dismantle the Federal government.

Remember: Trump didn’t promise to end democracy in the West — he vowed to make it more accountable. These people voted for him because they heard him say things no other ‘professional’ politician had ever said and because he gave lip service to problems that have gone unsolved for generations. If they still consider themselves fans of Trump, it’s because they may not have the luxury of scrutinising his every move.

For the record, this is the type of voter the American Democratic Party has unforgivably been neglecting for a long while. If the politically clueless voted for Trump, it’s because the Democrats have a communication problem — not merely because Trump has learned to speak Populist.

The second type of Trump supporter you’ll find in the wild is, well, let’s be honest — they’re Hillary Clinton’s ‘deplorables’. Was it cruel of her to lump the first kind of Trump supporter (the merely mistaken) in with the second kind (the actively awful)? Yes — but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t partially right.

Any number of polls have confirmed that Trump’s supporters believe some truly heinous things. He didn’t accidentally call these people out of the woodwork — he specifically targeted them and their grievances deliberately, and either didn’t care about not having a plan or assumed he could make it up as he went. Either way, what he delivered was false hope.

But now, there’s a third type of Trump fan emerging. It’s one which our brothers and sisters in the UK know only too well right now: the heartbroken, the embarrassed and the regretful. Before Trump clinched the election, the global cause of democracy had already been dealt a savage blow by Britain’s EU referendum. The less said here about that quagmire the better, but it didn’t take long for Brexit regret to kick in after folks got wise to the fact that virtually the entire case for Brexit was built on a mountain of shameless lies.

Trump made similar grand and sweeping promises as a candidate — promises we never should have taken seriously, given the man’s long history of looking out exclusively for himself and the power brokers he surrounds himself with. If only a slightly larger bloc of American voters was inquisitive and interested in the truth, Candidate Trump would merely be an unsavory lingering aftertaste from the 2016 election.

But too many of us aren’t any of those things. And so here we are.

We all made the monster

Now, as we’ve watched Trump fill up the swamp he helped drain, choose appointee after appointee to helm government offices they hate and want to destroy, turn a blind eye toward the looming catastrophe of climate change and stump for a disgusting ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘plan’ that would leave a trail of dead and bankrupt Americans after promising coverage ‘for everybody’, even some of the most hard-headed Trump supporters are having second thoughts.

I wish it had happened sooner. I wish the media had done their due diligence and called Trump out for what he truly was instead of airing his poisonous speeches, treating him like a harmless cartoon character and giving him billions of dollars in free advertising.

Like it or not, we all made this monster — and to our friends across the pond, I’m truly sorry for that. I’m hurting, I’m embarrassed and I’m angry that reasonableness has flown the coop for a while. Americans have been failing at politics for a very long time, and Trump is merely the latest symptom.

In fact Trump himself now appears to be just as lost as the folks who got him elected, and seems just as susceptible to misinformation and propaganda. He is a walking, talking indictment of nearly everything that’s wrong with America.

Even us liberals who shouted the sky was falling are guilty to a certain degree — guilty of not taking the threat seriously and, in some cases, guilty of placing protest votes for impossible third-party candidates instead of taking our medicine and voting for a woman who, even if she could never have been a perfect president, would almost certainly not have delivered us to this threshold of calamity.

Friends, we’re sorry we’ve unleashed this brute on the world. With any luck, this is as dark as things will need to get for a while — because the silver lining of this is that people are waking up in a big way. Folks my age want to see a Social Security check sometime in our lifetimes, and we want a government that will help restore dignity to the people in the world who need our help the most.

We’ll get there. But first, we need to weather the storm and learn some important lessons from our own recent history, including what real resistance actually looks like in a nation that’s never had to deal with a true authoritarian before. One way or another, we’ll make it up to you.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead


3