It’s all a question of character
True reform is more likely to be the product of anger
P resident-elect Donald Trump is a brutish, unsavoury man with a mission – to shake up the complacent Washington machine.
At least, that is fervently to be hoped – because if he fails to pursue his self-appointed mission then he is merely a brutish, unsavoury man with a set of nuclear codes.
The gossamer thin silver lining on Trump’s presidency is his narcissistic, prickly character – his greatest weakness is his greatest strength, as is so often the case.
For that flaw contains the possibility that he will sweep away the business-as-usual hegemony – vested interests, a supine press, an indulgent Congress and the rest – and truly go to town on the Washington elites and their paymasters.
That is not to say his presidency won’t be a tragedy for many. But if something can be salvaged from a Trump White House then it might be that his scorched earth policy leaves the field clear for more appetising reformers in years to come.
Too often an outsider candidate promises to take on the Establishment only to find themselves overwhelmed by sclerotic institutions, outmanoeuvred by the self-interested or, more likely, flattered by the trappings that the Establishment enjoys.
President-elect Trump does not appear to fit that mould (or any mould). This is not because he is a billionaire with a helicopter and a golden lift (although it helps) but because his restless trouble-making fills the hole where his soul should be.
One perceived slight, one off-colour op-ed and he’d be up in the dead of night plotting his revenge and tweeting its outcome. Psychologically, he needs to win. Whatever the cost.
Winston Churchill’s creed was this: “In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.”
For Trump, the first one counts, the rest are for losers.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has taken a leaf out of the Trump playbook. As part of his insurgency relaunch he seized upon Trump’s campaign trigger word – “rigged” – to make claims about pay inequality, the broken system and the overlooked majority.
“We’re going to call time on this rigged system because power is in the wrong hands,” he said in a recent speech.
It is a powerful cut-through message reinforced spectacularly by the Brexit vote, which amounted to a howl of protest from the forgotten millions. His derided “maximum pay cap” may have crash-landed but it found resonance with the disaffected to whom it had all the hallmarks of traditional fair play and common sense.
But here’s the problem with that strategy. Corbyn is no Trump. For Corbyn is entirely settled in his beliefs, snug in his socialist bubble.
He is unruffled by personal attacks, unthreatened by rivals, unaffected by opinion polls and unmoved by the very real prospect of electoral armageddon.
Trump is a bundle of neuroses. Corbyn is comfortable in his skin. Trump is furious; Corbyn is content. Trump is raging; Corbyn is measured. One is vulgar; the other pleasant. One hunts fresh meat. The other makes jam. One requires bloody sacrifices to silence his dark demons. The other is happy to potter about impotently.
Corbyn affects to smash the system, Trump simply must.
Trump has to win to keep his demons quiet