‘It’s a shame the White House has be­come an adult day care cen­tre’

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

celebrity, an el­e­vated re­gard for wealth and a some­what dev­il­ish de­sire to toss the dice and try some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent.

“For­got­ten Amer­i­cans,” in Trump’s phrase, saw him as some­one of suc­cess who might re­store the coun­try to its pre­vi­ous eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural po­si­tion af­ter the for­eign and do­mes­tic crises that be­lea­guered the na­tion in re­cent decades.

Shortly af­ter John F Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion in 1963, trust in the US fed­eral govern­ment stood at 77pc. Today the level of trust lan­guishes at 20pc.

With­out trust in govern­ment, peo­ple form a jaun­diced opin­ion of pol­i­tics — and want some­thing or some­one new and not con­nected to the cir­cum­stances that cre­ated the na­tional un­ease and dis­tress.

More­over, about two-thirds of the US cit­i­zenry today think the coun­try is on the wrong track, another in­di­ca­tion of Yan­kee funk, and this is oc­cur­ring at a time of low un­em­ploy­ment, a boom­ing stock mar­ket and rel­a­tively strong con­sumer con­fi­dence.

“We live by sym­bols,” the leg­endary US Supreme Court Jus­tice Oliver Wen­dell Holmes ob­served over a cen­tury ago. Don­ald Trump is, in­deed, president, but he is also a sym­bol of the di­vided states of Amer­ica and of a his­tor­i­cal mo­ment when pol­i­tics across the At­lantic seems so bro­ken, an in­ex­pe­ri­enced yet fa­mous out­sider can be­come ap­peal­ing to mil­lions of vot­ers.

Is he the har­bin­ger of a new age of govern­men­tal lead­er­ship or a one-time lark of pop­ulist petu­lance? It will take longer than a year to learn the an­swer to that ques­tion.

Robert Schmuhl is a pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Notre Dame in In­di­ana and an ad­junct pro­fes­sor in the School of Law and Govern­ment at Dublin City Univer­sity. He’s cur­rently a Vis­it­ing Re­search Fel­low at the Rother­mere Amer­i­can In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford

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