Nightmare Scenario: The United States teeters precariously on a narrow ledge of sanity while POTUS, gargantuan and grinning, bids it step out into the abyss.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP is the Father of Nightmares. The logic of his administration is indistinguishable now from the logic of dreams: his White House minions prey to the same abrupt shifts of mood; the same lightning-fast transitions from elation to dread. America itself has become the prisoner of its President’s vagrant fancies: a place where trust and treachery grapple like celebrity wrestlers in front of a television audience of millions. The whole country teeters precariously on a narrow ledge of sanity while POTUS, gargantuan and grinning, bids it step out into the abyss.
Unwitting and unprepared, America and the world have been propelled back through time to the era of kings and emperors. Accustomed to living in a world from which the habits of obedience and obeisance have long been banished, the realisation that they are now as frightened and vulnerable as any of the inhabitants of those luckless nations on the margins of civilisation has come as quite a shock. Presidential pique can now upend lives as easily as presidential beneficence can redeem them. The world’s leaders have been reduced to mere courtiers in the planet-sized Versailles the USA has built for them.
How to respond when American foreign policy is driven by presidential whim? When international trade is reduced to a pile of chips in a testosterone-fuelled game of Texas hold-em? What to do when old allies are treated like the hired help and brutal dictators are treated to “The Donald’s” best real-estate advice? When the 400-year-old Westphalian System of sovereign states pursuing their national self-interest rationally and predictably is impatiently tossed aside? When did it become okay for the leader of the world’s “indispensable” nation to behave like a Mafia don?
It’s worse for those ordinary Americans who have yet to succumb to the fever-dream that is Trumpism. Americans with college degrees and what were once considered to be good manners. Americans who believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution and regard the Bible as a collection of moral metaphors. Americans who won’t have handguns anywhere near their children. Americans who read. For these Americans every heavy footfall in the public square sounds as close as their front door. They would call the Police if they weren’t so terrified that it’s the thud of policemen’s boots that woke them.
The true horror of Trump’s nightmares is that the people in them, the people doing the most monstrous things, don’t even know they’re monsters. Those Texas cops and border guards carrying the children away from their parents. Those minimum-wage workers in the camp canteens, dishing out the detainees’ food with friendly smiles. If asked, they would swear on a stack of Bibles that they are the good guys in their President’s movie. Except that it doesn’t pay to ask that sort of question, does it? Not unless the questioner wants to see the look of easy familiarity disappear from their eyes. Not unless he or she wants to see it replaced in an instant with the cold, gun-metal glare of hostility that Trump’s supporters reserve for his enemies.
That’s when the panic sets in. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, is asked to leave the Little Red Hen restaurant in Virginia and liberal America cheers. But then the awful thought strikes them. What if Trump’s supporters decide to do something similar?
“How hard is it to imagine,” asks the Washington Post’s editorial writer, “people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?” And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Knowing that whatever peaceful little protest the sort of Americans who watch The Handmaid’s Tale might make against Trump can be answered in an instant by bearded men with bulging beer-guts toting pump-action shotguns and wearing “Make America Great Again” baseball caps to hide their male pattern baldness.
The Father of Nightmares has sired too many nightmarish children.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 28 June 2018.
Great post Chris. Will America turn the on-off switch soon?
Faulty cause and effect logic Chris.
Trump is a symptom of the American malaise, not the cause. He epitomises the current state of the US, in a very real sense, he is the US
You've reached peak insanity Chris. The truth is that Trump is an appalling human being but then again so is Clinton and Obama rates scarcely any better.
The only difference is that Trump doesn't hide his appalling personality with a veneer of decency like others do.
I would have thought you of all people would have at least appreciated trump threatening to scrap NAFTA after Clinton helped implement it during her husbands tenure.
And then to suggest that Trump's supporters are nasty after what we have seen from the Dems in the last week is simply outrageous.
The truth is that both sides of the political spectrum are morally bankrupt and once upon a time you might have been able to recognize that .
"What if Trump’s supporters decide to do something similar?"
Trump's supporters have been doing something similar for some time now. Not only Trump's supporters, slightly more broadly – conservative Republicans. Seems to me, if you can refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple as they believe, you should be allowed to refuse service to someone who is helping to ruin the country.
Except of course that one is a protected class against whom you are not allowed to discriminate, and one isn't – in which case you can refuse them service if you so wish. Guess which is which.
The anonymous contributor above said it correctly about Trump being a symptom.
Your article just sadly seemed to be more of the same old liberal venting & lacked the kind of analysis that I've always enjoyed from you Chris (I still remember your post mortem on the 2011 general election & Labour's then woes, which was super insightful).
What's far far more important today is the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy retiring, Justice Ginsburg isn't too far off either, & will most certainly retire under a Trump administration if he wins a second term.
The election of a person on a populist platform, with less votes than what his 2012 Republican predecessor lost by speaks a lot about the dissatisfaction middle America has with the ruling elites of both parties, 10 Million fewer voters also turned out in 2016 than in 2008.
The losers of globalisation; the former factory workers, steel workers, & miners in the rustbelt states who'd been left to fend for themselves for several decades were given the chance to humiliate one of the ruling elite, to wipe her smug grin off her face, & to remind her of their existence.
If the choice had been Trump vs Sanders, many of them would have gone for Sanders.... in fact several months before in the Dem primary many of those same people (who voted Trump in Nov) HAD voted for Sanders.
Honestly Chris, your article seemed to be more of the same old left wing venting that I can read on the Huff. If I want to know how unhappy a bunch of privileged, whiney, overpaid white hipsters in their gentrified Brooklyn neighbourhoods are feeling; then yes I'll gladly read one of their posts that rail about how stupid all of those poor people are for not voting the way the well off wanted them to.
Honestly, for the mess which is to come over the next 2-6 years, & the lasting damage for the next 25-30 years post Trump in terms of the decisions of the Supreme Court; if there's only one person to blame, it's not "guy with a beer gut," it's Hillary Rodham Clinton, & the complete hubris with which she ran her 2016 campaign.
No concessions to disenfranchised Bernie Dems' in terms of her running mate choice, took key states like MI & WI for granted, not to mention her let them eat cake moment of describing alienated voters as "a basket of deplorables;" because nothing inspires confidence more in the disenfranchised of globalisation than being told by one of the political elite that they're essentially worthless to her.
Yeah the whole show's going to be a ground hog day of the same nightmare replaying continually Chris, but Trump is just the symptom from the illness of the political elites of both parties not listening, & of Clinton's Icarian born to rule delusions of grandeur.
Jays - thank you.
Chris - many of us sat quietly by and accepted that it was 'your turn'. Times like when Cullen spat his hateful bile (rich pricks, we won you lost etc) and smirked as he bankrupted the country. The fact that he played the sophisticated professor and invoked Savage means nowt.
I consider myself moderate, but can no longer engage with your 'side'. And you are proactively making it about sides and nothing to do with best, right, beneficial, advantageous.
You are becoming hateful Chris, because you a realising you are the minority, and owning the 6 o'clock news is not enough to win the argument anymore. Sad :-)
I feel your despair Chris, our mutual deep antipathy for the disruptive resident of the White House. Yet where in the last election cycle was there hope that anything else would occur? Do you really think that the Clinton's would have caused less mayhem?
If you check the record you will find the photos of separated children date from the sainted Obama era, the abusive border policies that Trump ramped up already extant. Talking Obama's record that peace prize winner dropped more bombs than Bush, destroyed more states, created a refugee flood.
I'd suggest our despair is not for Trumps actions but for the continuation of the habits of a nation that has been out of control and getting worse for decades. It's not Trump per second, he's just the latest incumbent President inheriting a pathologically destructive state.
On that note I'm resigned to more madness, and hoping that the States might throw up a Lincoln, and a new party as happened in 1860s. There is a crisis of legitimacy and a true division that the GOP-Dem-deep state nexus cannot cure. They are too sullied and soiled, to some extent I regard Trump as a protest vote against that system.
There are two years to prevent Trump being re-elected. Where can you see an alternative or hear a voice that can reconcile the failed politics classes with the people of America? I'm not hearing it, our media fail us.
Funny isn't it, we all thought that as soon as Trump did stupid things that negatively effected his base that they would turn on him. They haven't yet. Mind you, they didn't turn on Nixon for a year or so – but even so, I think they are there for the long haul. A bunch essentially of racists, but also with an authoritarian bent. This is beginning to look like the 1930s without the depression and the US seems to be due for a recession so things can only get worse.
Well maybe there is hope when a Democratic incumbent gets so totally rolled by a young socialist.
Donald Trump epitomises the free world;
bring on Europe;
bring on China;
bring on Russia.
Better the devil we know.
Ain't them the facts.
Well, I don't think trump epitomizes the free world.
However the fact that he could be elected over a presumptive dynasty certainly epitomizes the free world.
So too does the opportunity for America to vote him out in 3 years time .
It is important to understand that freedom of speech is the single most important asset the west has and attempts by anyone to suppress it is dangerous.
Unfortunately people on the extreme of both left and right attempt to do just that.
But it seems obvious to me that identity politics has resulted in the left being far more guilty of this than the right.
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