Anti-Trump ‘‘blue wave’’ barely causes a ripple RICHARD GRIFFIN
The United States midterm election result will leave a swathe of liberal observers around the world politically deflated.
Even those American commentators close to the action appeared to be a tad out of sorts when it became clear that President Donald Trump’s eight weeks of political barnstorming had been successful in ensuring the predicted ‘‘blue wave’’ of opposition to his Republican policies faltered well before it hit the beach.
Republicans increased their grip on the Senate and, while the historically predictable swing away from the administration in the House of Representatives was significant, the suggested tsunami of opposition to the Trump administration failed to materialise.
For a president who gives the impression he regards himself as a latter-day man of destiny and, on occasion, behaves like a modernday Nero, the fact he will now be forced to bang heads with a Democrat majority in the House is likely to elicit even more bizarre behaviour than has been the case to date.
Donald Trump appears to revel in an environment of challenge and controversy, so it has to be presumed he will welcome the opportunity to strut in a more combative playground.
His attempt to figuratively throw CNN’s Jim Acosta to the lions at the very first presidential news conference after the election is the stuff of slapstick, but the implications are ominous. While few politicians have lost momentum by reviling political journalists, the personal invective directed at elements of the news media by the president is way beyond the norm for the leader of a democracy. On the other hand, his extraordinary penchant to turn feral at the drop of a hat and savage critics and former allies alike is breathtaking, even from afar.
But then so, too, is his sometime embracing and sometime coldshouldering of a range of world leaders – depending, it seems, on the phases of the moon.
The record list of sackings, resignations and appointments of top administration officials in government and the White House is likely to now take on a new momentum, and the revolving door of entrances and exits of major players in the political game show is unlikely to abate.
However, Donald Trump appears to harbour deep resentments, and former friendships mean little to him, as the harassing and final exit of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions immediately after the polls closed illustrates in high relief.
So, as exhilarating as it may be for political enthusiasts to argue, analyse and predict the future direction of American politics, the exercise now appears to depend on the complexities of reading the psyche of a man whose most profound experience of public decision-making had its gestation on a TV game show.
‘‘You’re fired!’’ resonated around the world when Trump was at the helm of The Apprentice. The extraordinary showmanship has not diminished in high office, and it seems that attempts to restrain his behaviour are dismissed out of hand by the president.
It seems his predecessors did not understand that political experience is a handicap to decision-making, and they now realise they might have been better off taking a course in crystal ballgazing rather than wrestling their way up the political ladder before taking office in the White House.
However, criticisms aside, the US president has proved he can not just survive but that he, and those closest to him, can soar above the skeptics and put critics to the sword.
He has proved to the world there is no traction in profound handwringing, long-term international relations, or insightful understanding of the human condition. In fact, given his proclivity to constantly campaign on the back of cliche´ s and threats, there seems no reason to believe he cannot go into the next presidential campaign as an odds-on winner.
Which makes political oversight in our country seem so mundane.
Despite relative inexperience and some extraordinarily inept behaviour by one or two, or maybe even three, former Labour opposition MPs who somehow made the cut and found themselves in Cabinet, the checks and balances ensured it was not going to be a long-term commitment.
The prime minister reluctantly but definitively cut the cord and moved on. Jacinda Ardern’s ability to measure the realities and reluctantly take action when there is no alternative belies her relative lack of experience, and serves to enhance her long-term reputation.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Opposition, faced with the prospect of containing a clearly disturbed and manipulative senior MP, managed to put the prime minister’s measured, thoughtful and relentlessly positive leadership into high relief by colluding with his deputy to make Jami-Lee Ross disappear.
Good intentions, maybe, but the exercise, no matter what the intent, screamed collusion and cover-up – and the fact that Simon Bridges did not have the measure of his man far earlier in the piece and, for whatever reason, chose to obfuscate rather than disassociate, raises questions of leadership competency.
Unlike Donald Trump, Bridges is a man of decency and compassion, but in the game of politics that’s often not enough.
The National leader’s decision to turn a blind eye to Ross’s overbearing behaviour may have resulted in a much-needed lesson in human behaviour, or it may have kneecapped his own political career – and that would be a pity. Given the proclivity of men like Trump to rule the world, we need all the good men and women we can muster.
Donald Trump’s attempt to figuratively throw CNN’s Jim Acosta to the lions at the very first presidential news conference after the election is the stuff of slapstick, but the implications are ominous. Donald Trump appears to revel in an environment of challenge and controversy, so it has to be presumed he will welcome the opportunity to strut in a more combative playground.