Don’t Panic | Pakistan Today

Don’t Panic

Trump as the President elect – who would have thought it?

It’s difficult to resist despondency, but the orange cloud may yet have a silver lining.

It hasn’t been very long since Trump won the Presidential election, and hope has already been abandoned by many a pundit. While the right and center-right airs smug songs of togetherness and healing the divide (as if they displayed nothing but poise and grace upon Obama’s Presidential victory), the liberal media is inundated by doomsday articles and tweets that offer no comfort to the average citizen.

There’s plenty to complain about with Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative past; her closeness to Wall Street; her support for fracking; her unbound support for Israeli aggression; and her Kissingerian foreign policies. But make no mistake: Trump is miles to the right of Hillary Clinton in nearly all of these issues. His victory is, indubitably, the worst case scenario.

Israel’s minister of education has celebrated Trump’s victory, claiming that the era of a Palestinian state is “over”. Former leader of the KKK, David Duke, has deemed the beginning of the Trump Presidency as “one of the most exciting nights” of his life. Trump has picked Myron Ebell – a notorious climate change skeptic who has frequently criticised Obama’s interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – to lead the EPA transition. Shares of renewable energy companies in the US have plummeted, and more humorously, the Canadian immigration website crashed due to massive number of horrified American citizens looking to move up North.

There is little need to feign shock at Trump’s victory. It has been obvious enough from the beginning that this election season has not been about reinforcing an existing system, and electing an insider to efficiently maintain an untrustworthy edifice. This election has been about wrecking an intolerable political structure that has failed the working class; and Hillary Clinton represented nearly everything that the average American voter found unappealing. Regrettably, not least among the list of features that the average American voter finds unappealing, is Ms. Clinton’s womanhood and unapologetic feminism. Surely, white corporate feminism – the kind once championed by Margaret Thatcher – isn’t worth more than an impassionate nod. But there is no denying that sexism is real, and most definitely hurt Hillary’s chances of winning.

Bernie Sanders offered the undecided voters precisely what lured them into the Trump camp: the promise of a wrecking ball being swung at an obsolete political system. Moreover, Bernie offered a revolution free from racism and misogyny. This is important as most Trump voters aren’t overtly hostile to women and minorities; they simply appear willing to sacrifice the marginalised for the greater good of “‘making America great again”. The ignorant expectation is that the short term harm to, say, women and black people would eventually be overridden by a better economy that would ultimately benefit everyone.

Regardless, Bernie Sanders was defeated in the primaries – and with him, walked away a bulk of enthusiasm that had initially backed the Democratic Party. And while the Bernie supporters may be blamed for dividing the vote bank and refusing to uncritically support Hillary Clinton, I tend to empathise with a demographic that was being forced to vote for a candidate simply because of the Trump pistol to the head, rather than a genuine passion in the candidate they’re meant to be cheering for. This lack of enthusiasm is, of course, evident by the fact the a little less than half the American population did not even cast its vote – an entirely expected scenario.

All is not lost, however. As Zizek notes, liberals have an awful habit of becoming complacent when the candidate of their choice is elected, even when beneath the progressive veneer, the candidate is towing the same neoliberal and pro-war line as his or her opponent. Under the ‘liberal’ administration of President Obama, drone strikes increased exponentially, banks continue to enjoy wild privileges, Gitmo remains open, and the Palestinian people hang in a limbo as always. More disturbingly, none of this irks the American liberal senses since the culprit is a guy from their own team. Hillary Clinton’s oft unconscionable acts too are aggressively defended by liberals and half-feminists as ‘Russian conspiracy’ against her – a kind of paranoia once only prevalent among the political right.

With Donald Trump in power, the liberal – or even the centrist – cannot afford to go on a political vacation. There is no more solace of knowing that one of their own sits in the cockpit, which ensures that they’ll be keenly watching Trump every step of the way. Protests will likely become more common, and the people will rediscover a democratic power that does not terminate at the Presidential election. There has never been a better opportunity for the people to wedge themselves into the political machinery, and not leave it up to their favourite oligarchs.

It’s true that few less competent than Trump could’ve assumed the Oval Office. But perhaps with some luck, and sheer error, the incompetent new President may be able to shake up the entire system, rather than allowing it to solidify in its current inglorious form.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat is a medical doctor from Rawalpindi and an ardent traveller who writes frequently about science, social politics and international relations.