There was a Guardian interview with me earlier this week which had as its headline “We’ve been in decline for 40 years – Trump is a chance to rethink”. I didn’t use those words in that way (as reading the article would make clear), and they’ve been taken (particularly by some American websites) to suggest that I support Trump. Anybody familiar with my views will know that this is not true.
So: may I make something absolutely clear: I think Donald Trump is a complete disaster. And Brexit is a disaster too. That said, what I think is an even greater disaster is that we in the US and the UK – and increasingly the rest of the world – live inside political systems that can produce absurd results like these.
We now see political careers built upon lies and deceit and encouraged by openly biased media organisations, more concerned about revenue and ratings than giving the public real information. It’s this whole system that has to change: not just who leads the government but something deeper and more fundamental in our political and social processes. Democracy assumes an informed public: it doesn’t work if the media are corrupt. Changing the faces at the top doesn’t alter anything if the whole machinery beneath them stays the same – the rich become the super-rich, the middle class stagnates and the poor get poorer.
My hope – the only hope really – is that Trump in office will reveal himself for what he really is, and that the public will roundly and unequivocally reject him and everything he stands for – his terrible policies, his jingoism, his arrogance, his childishness, his lies, his prejudices and his small-mindedness. In rejecting Trump we’ll also start to take down the whole malignant media-political structure that so lovingly nurtured him.
As I’ve written before, I believe that Trump can turn out to be not the beginning of a long decline, but the end of one – the turning point. For 40 years we’ve been sliding into a deepening pit of inequality, fear-driven nationalism and conservatism, and mostly not noticing. Trump’s presidency could inadvertently change that – not because he’s going to do anything right but because his election is energising people to come to grips with the fact that their political system is fundamentally broken and it’s time to do something about it. The demonstrations that happened last weekend are a reflection of this new mood.
It would have been better if we hadn’t got to this point, but that’s where we are. My feeling is that a Clinton presidency (or even a ‘remain’ vote in Britain), though more comfortable in the short term, wouldn’t have dealt with the fundamental problems that beset both our political systems. Trump has proven beyond doubt that the system is broken, so let’s fix it.