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Trump is a global anomaly rather than the new normal

But, in the Republican Party, he is utterly representative: the symptom and not the disease. 

Andrew Harrer-Pool/PA Images. All rights reserved.We have a problem. We also have an unprecedented opportunity to solve it. Recently, at the Women for Women Summit in New York City, Hillary Clinton went on the record to say that she is "part of the resistance." Though she's emphasized on several occasions that she will not be running for political office in future, her statement contains a profound promise. It comes with the backing of the vast majority of American voters: a 66 million-strong army of supporters. 

We must first diagnose our national problem clearly. Despite what some of my friends might say, the Democrats, having run an impressive 2016 campaign and earned the second largest number of votes in US history have not "lost their way." 

Then there's the other side. 

Last year, I wrote that: “the Republicans are no longer a political party. They have grown into a cancer that infects the body-politic of this nation.” My statement was controversial at the time. I’d like to double down on it.

The United States does not have two parties with major flaws. It has one party with flaws (the Democrats) and another that has provided a central platform for the lunatic fringe of the American political spectrum (the GOP). The problem lies squarely with the Republican Party.

Whatever issues exist within the Democratic Party’s infrastructure, I can only hope that the majority of Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton supporters, and everyone else who understands the danger of the huge incompetence that a vote for Trump brings to the Oval Office, can set aside their differences. We’re going to need all the unity we can muster for the nascent resistance.

And this resistance cannot be one of liberals vs conservatives, left vs right, or red states vs blue. It has to embrace every American who believes we require a kind of leadership Donald Trump is unable to provide.  

To be clear, the Democrats could deliver a “win” in 2020 – but it would most likely look like Hillary’s “win” of 2016, which saw her accruing millions of votes more than her opponent and made her the second most popular candidate in recent history, after Obama in ’08. Of course she then found herself conceding to an unpopular candidate who edged over the finish line by a margin of 70,000 votes in three electoral districts.

I am not arguing against the Electoral College at this stage. I am concerned about a much larger issue.

Donald Trump has found a natural home in the grotesque caricature of conservatism that has replaced the GOP.

The Republican Party has moved to another planet, and Donald Trump, who found a natural home in the grotesque caricature of conservatism that has replaced the GOP, is a symptom of this problem, not the disease itself. 

We need to stop clinging to any "intervention" fantasy that entails Republicans curbing Trump. We may have once thought that he was the anomaly but this is the party that has put a forward a candidate who brutally bullied a gay classmate (Mitt Romney); another who has been flirting with its lunatic fringe despite our continued hopes that he'll one day come back to his senses (McCain/Palin); and then there's the one who presented alternative facts to the United Nations in order to justify beginning a deeply costly war (George W Bush).

To be sure, some of the ideas that Trump has articulated could easily be seen as the seeds for a perfectly respectable doctrine of governance: "we are adopting a principled realism, rooted in common values and shared interests," he said in recent speech in Riyadh. 

But, in the spirit of realism, one is forced to confront the obvious question: how can any doctrine be developed by a president who seems to have no command of situational awareness let alone the strategic thinking that could lead to an administrative outlook? The Republican party, who for a long time served us masterclasses after masterclass on how to not run a country have now given us a president who seems to have a 30 second attention span, shows a level of corruption we've never seen on such open display in Washington, leaks classified intelligence to adversaries rather than share this information through the regular channels of the intelligence community while chairing an administration that leaks intelligence that damages the national security of our closest allies and causes them to doubt whether vital intelligence can be safely shared with the United States. I could go on but add the weekly scandals and constitutional crises to the mix and you get the idea. 

Trump's disregard for policy and the very lowest standards of good statecraft link him to the GOP. But his character does too.

We might have liked to believe that Trump's vicious mockery of a disabled reporter marked him out as an anomaly, the GOP's latest experiment with a "healthcare bill" should leave no doubt about their true nature: they are ready to defund vital programmes for children with disabilities. 

Trump fits in like a glove. 

Coming back to the 2016 election, let’s set aside well-sourced Russian involvement, even though the attacks on the US democratic system were the largest since the Cold War. Forget the daily Wikileaks dumps that came at strategic times and targeted specific states in sophisticated ways. Never mind that they exclusively targeted the Democrats. Ignore the weaponisation of a supposedly non-partisan law enforcement agency that was filled with pro-Trump advocates of the obsessive and recursive "let's investigate Hillary Clinton" variety.

The truth is that this fight wasn't fair from the moment Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders released their tax returns to the American people. The Republicans entertained a candidate who would not abide by that basic norm. They are playing an entirely different game, and we won’t be able to prevail if we don't figure out how to compete – the next Democratic candidate will be as doomed as Hillary Clinton, Merrick Garland or the obstructed Obama Administration which endured two shutdowns of the federal government. 

When we hear that the left must “reclaim” its ideals, let’s not forget that the Republicans did not win this election on the basis of ideals or, frankly, popular appeal.

And forget about the “forgotten man” narrative. Hillary Clinton consistently acknowledged the plight of rural, working class voters. She wrote about them in 1969 just as she spoke about them consistently through 2016: 

“And yes, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Donald Trump’s supporters. We may disagree on the causes and the solutions to the challenges we face – but I believe, like anyone else, they’re trying to figure out their place in a fast-changing America. They want to know how to make a good living and how to give their kids better futures and opportunities. That’s why we’ve got to reclaim the promise of America for all our people, no matter who they vote for.” 

When we hear that the left must “reclaim” its ideals, let’s not forget that the Republicans did not win this election on the basis of ideals or, frankly, popular appeal. 

On top of all that, votes in places like New York and California count for a small fraction of the determining vote compared to rural (and largely red) states. Blue states are the economic drivers in our country, accumulating a GDP that’s worth twice as much as the states that went for Trump. And now we have to respond to threats to cut federal funding to sanctuary states and cities. 

Are you starting to seethe? You're not alone. In the last month, we have been witnessing the biggest protests in US history.

Local governments have most at stake here. We will need a coordinated effort from governors and mayors as the Trump administration continues to test the limits. If we take a page out of the foreign policy playbook, our response to the threat should be to call Trump’s bluff. Governor Jerry Brown of California would be a natural choice to mouthpiece this effort given his record and recent activity.

We have them surrounded and outnumbered. Trump entered the White House with record low approval ratings and spends most his time in two cities that voted overwhelmingly against him. We’ve got economic leverage too. Let’s unify and call on our leaders to act like it. Let’s call their bluff by reciprocating the sanctions. “65 Million Americans Should Threaten to Not Pay Taxes” called Time Magazine – but I don’t think it’ll come to that.

Whenever foreign leaders, Xi Jinping and Enrique Peña Nieto among them, called Trump’s bluff, it worked out for them quite nicely. The president of the United States is, as he has been throughout his life, all bluster and no substance. 

Small wonder Trump has taken to the American political system with such enthusiasm he has found the one system that's so broken that it pays dividends to fail in it.   

Small wonder Trump has taken to the American political system with such enthusiasm. For the first time in his long career of bankruptcies and failures, he has found the one system that's so broken that it pays dividends to fail in it.  

As people celebrate the fact the French avoided the lunatic fringe, they should remember that in the United States, we narrowly missed the same outcome. Macron's election doesn't prove that a "tide against globalism" is receding throughout the world. It should be clear that, following bitter defeats of xenophobic/protectionist movements from Austria to the Netherlands and now France, Trump is an American embarrassment, not a global phenomenon. 

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton threw Republican leadership a lifeline. It was a pragmatic measure. These were men she needed to work with. But pragmatism or goodwill aside, she was wrong to do so. The GOP is beyond salvation or repair. 

It must be reiterated: the Republicans gave a platform to someone who started his campaign by calling Mexicans "rapists." The sheer cruelty of the healthcare bill that the Republicans pushed through Congress reveals a lot. Even if it dies on the Senate floor, the bill reveals a party unashamed to cruelly punish the most vulnerable.

The GOP nominated one of their own. They stuck with him through the election and they will unify to keep his unpopular administration afloat for as long as it serves their needs.

“This man is the nominee of the party of Lincoln,” said Hillary Clinton back in August. “We are watching it become the party of Trump. And that’s not just a huge loss for our democracy - it is a threat to it.”

Indeed: that threat is existential. We must respond to it in creative ways. Most counter-intuitively of all, we must work to rebuild a strong conservative party in the United States. No grassroots movement, especially in the face of ancient and ossified US institutions, will likely succeed in solving our problem.

There should be no doubt that true American conservatives, who realise the Republican Party is no longer their home, must be part of this resistance. Figures like Evan McMullan have emerged as true champions of conservative values, values which uphold the fundamental democratic ability to collaborate with those on opposing sides of the political spectrum, as well as the basic vision required to identify the incendiary currents that fall outside our spectrum entirely

We need a Conservative party that can serve as a home to figures like McMullin and others without tainting them with the brand of social lunacy, legislative cruelty or political incompetence. What's the point of impeaching Trump if there's nothing viable to replace him? 

The GOP has turned into something cruel and unusual. Where there once stood a strong conservative party, there is now a vacuum. We must all help to fill that void if we are to stand any chance at survival.

If we succeed, if we realise that we must all ‘Feel the Bern’ as well as be ‘Stronger Together,’ and imagine what slogan may have captured the spirit of a normal American Republican candidate in 2016, then we may galvanise unprecedented forces, leading to greater economic justice and social equality than ever before. If we fail, we’ve had a good 240 years and that’s all we get.

About the author

Mohammed Fairouz, born in 1985, is one of the most frequently performed, commissioned, and recorded composers of his generation. His large-scale symphonies, operas and oratorios all engage major geopolitical and philosophical themes. He lives in New York City and tweets at @MohammedFairouz.

 


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