The Personification of Chaos

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By TOM ENGLHARDT*

From the start, Donald Trump was imperial America's fading candidate

In 2016, as now, he was the chaos candidate. Yes, he was a billionaire (or aspiring billionaire, or debt-ridden billionaire; not to mention a liar, cheat, and scoundrel, too), but from the start, he appealed to the forces of law and order in America who were also, coincidentally, forces of law and order. chaos. Donald Trump entered the presidential lottery, or, to be completely accurate, got to it on the escalator, through the aisle on the right. In another universe, he could have walked in through the aisle on the left and, this way or that, he wouldn't have cared.

After all, there was never a left, right or center for the king of apprentices. There has never been anything other than the imposing figure known as The Donald, the man of the hour, any time, past, present or future. Whatever his political stance at the time, he reflected one thing above all else: the underlying chaos and malice of a world of wealth, power and growing inequality. A world that happened to be waiting for its collapse.

Now that he's defeated, you can count on one thing: he'll take as much of this country with him as he can. If he can have his way, when he finally jumps off the ship, cash in hand, he'll leave us in a vast rally of people without masks and with death running rampant around us. From the beginning, he has always been the orange-faced, yellow-haired personification of chaos. Now, just as the Republican party did in 2016, this country takes its chaos upon itself and, in the wake of the recent election, an obvious question is: Do we also have an appointment with the breather of history?

Do I sound extreme? I really hope so. We are in a deadlocked post-election moment, under previously unimaginable extremism, in an increasingly armed and divided country that used to be known as “the last superpower” in the world. It is important (but not enough) that the aging centrist Democrat Joe Biden has won the presidency and, if all goes at least as expected, he will be on his way to the White House. Without a Senate majority, though, and with a slim majority in Congress, without the Democrats having taken over a single state legislature from the Republicans, and with Donald Trump's America still fully mobilized and ready for... well, who knows what? that… don't count on good tides ahead.

The Personification of Carnage

From the beginning, Trump was the candidate of imperial America in decline, even if few recognized him at the time. Even so, it should have been obvious enough in 2016 – it was to me anyway – that his trademark slogan Make America Great Again, was nothing more than an admission that this “exceptional” and “indispensable” nation of ours, the greatest superpower in history (at least as its politicians then liked to believe) had indeed seen better days.

Donald Trump was, and remains, a vengeful conceited peacock sent by God knows who to make reality obvious once and for all. That was definitely true of the share of working white, rural Americans who decided to join the bankrupt billionaire and reality TV host. In a land already scarred by staggering inequality, he was the only one who would somehow give them back their lost status, their lost sense of American well-being and a future they could choose for their children and grandchildren. And if he didn't do it for them, he could at least serve as emotional revenge when it came to all the despicable powers that be 'out there' in Washington who would, they felt, have brought them down.

His 'base', as they became known in the media, whom he abhorred, adored and played like an accordion, joined the man who, in the end, would surely leave them empty-handed without the slightest remorse. In those years they became US property, their apprentices themselves, as well as the political party he also absorbed without a second thought.

When it comes to that base, he became, in a sense, its god or perhaps its demon, and so it continues to this day, even in defeat. Of course, he doesn't care if he ends up bankrupting them, leaving them in a ditch, or if he continues to goad them into future rallies that, however they spread death, leave him feeling whole, good, and happy. major.

On the other hand, when Joe Biden – the definition of an old white man – finally limps into the Oval Office, he will represent a return to normalcy in Washington, the resumption of America before. The only problem: the previous America – if you'll pardon the repetition of the word – was an America in decline, however much its leaders didn't know it. It was a country on course for an un-American version of inequality, and therefore instability, that would once have been unimaginable.

Who can doubt that Donald Trump himself would be the personification of hell on Earth? He was the witch inside the wardrobe. He was the satanic art of the negotiator (each deal, by definition, designated just for him). He was what this country spewed from the depths of its guts as a purely token president. From the moment he delivered that January 20, 2017 Inaugural Address, he too would be carnage personified.

Yes, push me further, and believe me, I can go on. But you get the point, right?

And yet, give Trump the credit he deserves. Yet intuitively, he understood exactly where this country was and where it was going (and, of course, how he could benefit from it). He understood his breaking lines in a way that no one else did. He even understood how to run a campaign in defense of – rather than against – a pandemic in a way that should have left him 20 leagues under the sea, not floating in a heated pool at Mar-a-Lago.

American history couldn't have a more sinister moral: he knew us far better than we know ourselves. For many Americans, he spoke what appeared to be reality itself. It didn't matter what he looked like, what impression he made, that he was a crook in the purest American tradition, or that he cheated the government out of paying those taxes he would never reveal. At the end of the day, whatever he really was, he was the real (fraudulent) thing in a world where increasing numbers of Americans felt duped by the 1% politics of a Washington full of crooks of a different kind.

Now, despite the mass of lawyers he engaged to derail the efforts, Donald Trump has missed the chance of a second round in the Oval Office, and as a result, rest assured, we will all be left empty-handed. In the midst of a hellish pandemic – don't doubt it for a moment – ​​this will be another kind of hell on earth.

A vote for doom

Now, let's look on the bright side, because at this point who wants to just read a barrage of negativity? So here's the good news: thanks to President Trump's defeat in the 2020 election (however long it takes to resolve everything in court), the world will fall more slowly, albeit how much slower is yet to be discovered. After all, there was only one factor in any second Trump term that would be entirely different.

As much as it may not seem to us, the rest of what we would have seen in a second Trump term – autocratic behavior, pure racism, a heated version of nationalism (white or otherwise), fragile masculinity, everything in the midst of the pandemic of the century – would have been just another chapter crossed in the history of mankind. In this long history, autocrats and nationalists of the darkest kinds have been normal and even the most horrible pandemics anything but unknown. Give it a decade, a century, a millennium, and it would be as if nothing had changed. Who but historians (if they still exist) would even remember?

Unfortunately, this is not true when it comes to a factor of the 2020 elections, although this did not play a secondary role in the campaigns. This is certainly the phenomenon of climate change, human warming of the planet through the endless emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (and into the oceans) from the burning of fossil fuels.

Of course, ever since the coal-fired industrial revolution began in eighteenth-century England, the warming of this planet has been caused and fed by us humans, but it is not, in fact, part of human history. It will take place on a timescale that will likely turn this story to dust. Once released, and if not kept under some reasonable control (which is still possible), it will be a phenomenon that will persist, in the most devastating form possible, once it truly takes hold. Give it a decade, a century, even a millennium, and it will still be operating to ensure that Earth, in one way or another, becomes a planet distinctly hostile to humanity.

It gets a little strange – you could even call it suicidal – that Donald Trump (and the team he brought to power) were so intent on not just ignoring or 'denying' climate change, as they are often accused, but to amplify it by, in essence, actively setting this planet on fire. The term used by the President to describe this was "unleashing American Energy Domination." How odd, though, that his intent to destroy a habitable planet has proven so popular, not just once, but twice – and perhaps a third time in 2024.

After all, a vote for Trump was, essentially, a vote for doom. To some extent this wasn't even a complicated question, but coming from a base that seemed to glorify itself in its maskless festivals, full of love for its One and only, it is possible that none of this should have come as a great surprise.

If Donald Trump has become something of a god to his supporters, then it might be helpful to ask what kind of god would be so assertive about setting the planet on fire (and, while tending to that, murdering his own apprentices with Covid-19)? We may have to think of him, in fact, as our own ferryman Charon on the River Styx, rowing us all into what could someday literally be hell on earth.

Because, after all, I am writing this article in New York City on a November day when it is 23ºC outside.[I] (and no, this is not a misprint). Yet another tropical storm in a record year has drenched parts of Florida, a place that is no longer a swing state but, like Mar-a-Lago, it is owned by the Donald. Meanwhile, parts of the West – having burned, smoked and ignited in a historic situation, across millions and millions of hectares, amidst abundant heatwaves – are still burning (although hardly anyone notices). , and the world could not be less united.

In a Senate controlled by Mitch McConnell, new green deals or two trillion dollar plans will become more fantastic than Donald Trump himself. Still, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at least leading a deeply divided country amidst a pandemic and an economy gone to hell, the pyromania will, to some extent, subside. Some modest steps can even be taken towards alternative forms of energy, and some more to save the environment as well as a suffering humanity. It won't be what is really needed, but it won't be another flame either, and that's the best thing to say about our moment and why it really mattered that Donald Trump didn't get re-elected.

Now, let's go back to 1991 for a moment, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, imploded. The agents of American power (including Joe Biden), believing themselves to be alone on Planet Earth and powerful beyond imagination, believing themselves to be the heirs of everything that happened, started what would be disastrous eternal wars, certain that this planet belonged to them , even when the story itself – imagine! – was running out.

Nearly three decades later, the same last superpower is a democracy in decline, not to say in chaos; an imperialist power in global decline; a military power that cannot find a war to win (although Congress, regardless of who the president is, appropriates more and more money to finance the military-industrial complex). We have a 78-year-old man preparing to occupy the Oval Office and another 78-year-old man preparing to oppose him in the Senate, while an 80-year-old man runs Congress. Doesn't that say something about a country swept by a pandemic – 100 cases or more a day – and, despite Donald Trump's assurances, with no possible 'exit' in sight? And none of this would be the end of the world, so to speak, if it weren't for climate change.

It is true that Covid-19 has turned this country into a kind of hell on Earth, having been left, by the president, free to roam it in an unprecedented way. Cases are rising, hospitals are overwhelmed, deaths are rising, and nearly half of America can think of nothing more than to flock to Presidential rallies, live their lives without masks, and 'open up' the economy.

Trumpism has split America in two in a way unimaginable since the Civil War. The President and the Senate are about to deadlock; the judiciary, a party issue of the first order; the national security state, a shadowy money-devouring empire; the citizens, armed to the teeth; racism on the rise, and life everywhere in a growing state of chaos.

Welcome to the (Un)United States. Donald Trump has led the way, and whatever he does, I suspect that this, at least for a while, is still, in some ways, his world, not Joe Biden's. He was the man and, like it or not, we are all his apprentices in a performance of first-rate destructive power that is still awaiting its true end.

*Tom Engelhardt is a journalist and editor. Author, among other books, of A Nation Unmade by War(Haymarket Books, 2018).

Translation: Daniel Pavan

Originally published on Salon Portal.

[I]      74ºF, in the original. The average New York temperature in November normally fluctuates between 13°C and 6°C.

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