The presidency is involved in incapacity and tragedy. So why arent his antagonists presenting a hopeful alternative? says Guardian editor-at-large Gary Younge
Even by Donald Trump’s standards, Tuesday was extraordinary. First came the tweet that “hes had” fired his secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Then a state department spokesman issued a statement claim Tillerson was ” unaware of the reason” for his removal, and had heard about it on Twitter. A few hours later the spokesman had been fired more. Meanwhile the lawyer of porn performer Stephanie Clifford( stage name: Stormy Daniels ), who allegedly had an affair with Trump, warned the country to” fasten up “ as Clifford sought to extract herself from her non-disclosure agreement so she could” publish any cloths, such as text contents, photos and/ or videos relating to the president that she may have in her self-possession “. Back in Washington, the Trump team announced it would be hiring John McEntee, Trump’s former personal assistant, as a elderly adviser for campaign enterprises. The day before, McEntee had been escorted from the White House because he is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.
While all this was going on, voters in south-west Pennsylvania’s 18 th territory came to the ballots in a byelection, in a region Republicans have held for the past 15 times. It was so safe that Democrats didn’t even fus contesting the last two elections. Trump flogged Hillary Clinton there by about 20 qualities. It should have been a shoo-in for the Republican. By the end of the night Democrat were celebrating a wafer-thin victory, though this may yet be challenged.
Witnessing Trump’s presidency unravel so spectacularly causes a perverse rejoice. The venality is so baroque, the profanity so ostentatious, the incompatibilities so stark, the incompetence so epic and the lies so brazen, it leaves you speechless. His vanity is without guile and the scandals that mire him without end. Almost everything he says and does has been publicly denied, by himself, often on Twitter. On Tuesday he said of Tillerson’s retirement:” Rex and I have been talking about this a long time … We were not really thoughts the same “.
On 1 December he tweeted:” The media has been supposing that I shot Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon- FAKE NEWS! He’s not entrust and while we disagree on particular themes,( I call the final shoots) we work well together and America is highly respected again !” It’s amazing to think he ever imagined he could get away with it. And with each test at the ballot box it seems he can’t. Republicans have been crushed in elections all over the country. Some overcomes, like that of the alleged paedophile Roy Moore in Alabama, are unlikely to be repeated; others, like the gains across Virginia in November, indicate more sustained progress. There has been a relatively consistent swing of about 15 drawn attention to Democrat in nation and congressional races that has seen them take over 40 posteriors from Republicans, be recorded in states such as Florida and Wisconsin where Clinton lost in 2016. Midterm elections are almost never good for the party in the White House. On continuing trend, this November will be a disasterfor Republicans.
And yet, even as voters rebuff him and he becomes increasingly isolated in his own fetid lair, the gloom that scowls over this moment remains far more imposing than any silver lining. There are two main reasons why progressives should refrain from revelry.
First of all, things are going to get worse before they get the hell out of here. Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, was a disastrous secretary of state. Ineffectual abroad, it soon becomes clear that he spoke with treasured little dominion. As he attempted to calm down strains between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Trump sided publicly with Saudi Arabia; when he tried to kick-start negotiations with North Korea, Trump tweeted that he was ” waste his time “. It seems the place where Tillerson had most impact was in his own district where, under his watch, morale has plummeted and there has been an exodus of aptitude and knowledge.
And yet it was, apparently, Tillerson who helped keep the US in the Iran nuclear treat and the Paris climate accord. Extreme as the last year of US foreign policy has been, ostensibly Trump was being reined in. That restraint has gone. Tillerson’s permutation, CIA director Mike Pompeo, is an Islamophobic climate-change denier who opposes the deal with Iran and has shaped nods towards regime change in North Korea.” With Mike Pompeo, we have a same thought process ,” said Trump. That is not encouraging. Replacing Pompeo at the CIA is Gina Haspel, who oversaw a CIA torture site in Thailand where detainees were interrogated. The scandal used to be that there were advocates of torture in the West Wing. Now its practitioners are in office.
But the problem is not simply that things will get worse. It’s that it’s not at all obvious that, electorally at least, there’s a clear sense of what “better” would look like, beyond going rid of Trump. Politically the country is clearly shifting leftwards. The nationally walkouts of schoolchildren against firearm brutality on Wednesday, the women’s rallies and coaches’ strikes, all suggest a swelling resistance to the Trump agenda. Pennsylvania is just the latest evidence that this has had an electoral impact.
But while the Democrats are happy to give the triumphs, they have not yet handled why they lost. They are beneficiaries of the frustration and wrath. But there is little evidence that they are shifting with it, let alone cohering or conducting it.
Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania was a progressive advance insofar as it was a setback for Trump. That’s great as far as it moves, but it doesn’t go roughly far enough away. He was introduced at one rally as a” God-fearing, union-supporting, gun-owning, job-protecting, pension-defending, social-security-believing, healthcare-greeting, sending-drug-dealers-to-jail Democrat “. That, arguably, is what you have to be to get elected in south-west Pennsylvania. But nationally Democrat need a more hopeful letter with a broader appeal.
They haven’t got one. On Wednesday the Senate passed a Republican bill that would add the most comprehensive rollback in bank regulation since the financial crisis, with substantial Democrat support. One would have assumed, in a period of growing inequality and stalling social mobility, that resisting it “wouldve been” obvious if you wanted to win back those disenchanted rust-belt voters in Michigan and Wisconsin who bided at home or backed Trump. Senate Democrats are instead partitioned, apparently baffled over whether they should advocate for their base or the banks.
The problem with Democrats seeming on Donald Trump’s presidency as a slow-motion car crash is that it admits the latter are witness at a moment when they should be in the driving seat- and that, when we come to survey the wreckage, there will be many innocent victims.
* Gary Younge is editor-at-large for the Guardian