Trump and Riding the Tiger of “Anti-Politics” in the UK and USA.
UKIP and Donald Trump did not, of course, bubble up from the streets as some spontaneous expression of popular resistance. So-called “anti-politics” is itself a cynical political initiative. The relationship between UKIP and the ruling Conservative party is not dissimilar to the relationship between Trump and the mainstream Republican party. In both cases, xenophobia has been deliberately cultivated as political capital by supposedly “respectable” politicians. Trump and Brexit represent the fulfillment of the logic of a xenophobic trajectory that has been fueled by those who have no commitment to anything other than their own political ambitions and egos. Boris Johnson, of course, didn’t believe in Brexit at all, and nor did he want Brexit to happen – but he joined the campaign because he was convinced that Brexit would fail nationally but succeed among Tory voters, allowing himself to become the next Prime Minister. As as result,
Britain will not and should not last for much longer. Boris Johnson doesn’t mind, because he has no concept of a national interest or any interest that does not serve his own gargantuan ego. So far, Theresa May has demonstrated that her only concern is to retain control of her own party and her only strategy for doing so is to outflank the Europhobes within it – thereby feeding the same tiger and endeavoring to hang on tight.
Trump is eschewed by respectable Republican grandees who allowed their party to be hi-jacked by extreme right wing lunacies that seemed to recruit effectively. They cultivated Trumpish attitudes for political advantage and now cannot control the tiger they fed and nurtured. And now we find that such is the power of “anti-politics” politics, that even denying Trump endorsements has no effect. Just as the fact that all the main British political leaders opposed Brexit only added to the perverse appeal of Brexit, so Trump’s pariah status among Republican grandees only serves to fuel his campaign.
Anti-politics pretends to be democratic, because it looks as though it’s taking on some powerful enemy. But the attack on all politics and all politicians as inherently depraved is profoundly anti-democratic. You cannot have democracy without politics. Without the arts of debate and persuasion, you can have no democracy. And the worst of elected politicians retain something plutocrats do not have – the precious quality of getriddability. Politicians have to survive public scrutiny at regular intervals – something plutocrats are protected from.
Trump, a disgusting, sociopathically selfish, serial sexual predator who has failed to demonstrate any special business acumen and who owes all of his power to hereditary advantage and who gloats over the power that gives him to cheat harder working and more gifted people than himself… Trump who is incapable of opening his mouth without saying something factually untrue, logically impossible, or in direct opposition to one of his recent previous statements – is still regarded as more “honest” than Clinton. Why? Because Clinton is a politician.
The yearning for a “strong man” who will somehow sort everything out is, of course, profoundly anti-American in any definitional sense. The USA was founded on the basis that a representative process and balanced political structures ought to prevent demagoguery and the rule of “strong men”. When all politics is assumed to be “dirty” and even the most disgusting and treacherous of plutocrats (i.e. Trump) is assumed to be cleaner than any politician, just because they’re not one, then democracy is not safe.
When people give up on all politics in favour of the tough guy who sounds as though he says what’s on his mind (even if that mind changes five minutes later), it means that people have become too lazy and/or frightened to exercise the responsibilities of freedom or indeed adulthood. Adults who want to participate in a political process should feel an obligation to choose between flawed alternatives. If you can’t choose between flawed alternatives then you have yet to admit any kind of “reality principle”. Arrested development is not good for democracy, but it’s a great for that peculiarly cynical form of politics known as anti-politics and as long as the tiger delivers votes, that tiger will be ridden again, and ridden far before it’s ridden to death.