This is a short but unconventional 4th of July, Independence Day, message directed at American friends and friends of America. Ordinarily, with a normal Democrat or a normal Republican in the White House, this would be a day for avoiding politics. America’s national day, celebrating a highly successful experiment in self-government, is a time to reflect admiringly on the Declaration of Independence, and to celebrate Britain having been so damned sporting that we lost the war and got over it quickly.
This year, looking in from abroad, the 4th of July feels different, and that’s down to Donald Trump. This is not another attempted demolition of the man and his presidency. David Waywell already wrote a terrific piece for Reaction on that subject today.
Globally, Trump hangs heavy partly because of social media, where he can pop up being unpresidential at any moment. The effect is both oppressive and depressing. The grandeur and protocols of office are supposed to be there to provide reassurance and a sense of stability, or they were. It still jars when the supposed leader of the free world is a spoilt man-child who subverts those norms – dignity of office, coherence of communication, acceptable language and behaviour – with such enthusiasm. It creates unease. If he has no boundaries in term of respect for his office or personal standing among decent people, we wonder if he has any boundaries at all when it comes to use of power or weapons?
But there is good news, I am pleased to say. Donald Trump will not be in the Oval Office for ever. That much is certain. The world will continue (*) long after he retires to play golf in Florida.
For a start, he might be defeated at the next US presidential election in 2020, if the Democrats can get their stuff together, and it is still early days. Or an independent Republican might run to split the vote with the aim of turfing the Donald out. Failing that, Trump wins in 2020 and is then gone by 2024, and we will never have to listen to him burble on boastfully ever again. Only seven more years to go!
Alternatively, the American system – which works with remorseless, relentless, legal logic – might get him out first, on the basis of his associates and Russia or on the allegations of obstruction of justice.
As an admirer of America, it grieves me and many other non-Americans. I have never known a time when its reputation had sunk so low, and I include the aftermath of the Iraq War. There, American policy failed but the impulse at least had its roots in attempts to defend the West after 9/11 and to spread democracy in the face of the rise of Islamo-fascism.
Today, what is going on in the White House is just pure muppetry. Carnival huckster chicanery and world of wrestling weirdness. But we know there is much more to a country chock full of great universities, innovators, scientists, musicians and writers than Trump. It will rise again from this embarrassing interlude, in which the blowhard at the bar took control of the karaoke machine and started shouting “hey, look at me everybody.”
America’s friends know that this unfortunate business is temporary. It is a terrific country. It – and we – just have to make it through the Trump era to 2024 in one piece. And then there will be the inauguration of America’s first woman commander in-chief. President Ivanka Trump…
(*) As long as he doesn’t start a nuclear war.