• America

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    21 October 2016

    It was Joseph de Maistre a late 18th / early 19th century philosopher from Savoy who said that ‘people get the governments they deserve’. By which, in the context of a democracy, I guess he would have meant that if we are wise and thoughtful at the ballot box then we will end up with sound government. If we are foolish then we live with the consequences. He would, I think, be interested in the choice now facing America. Donald Trump has been much in the news – it is his style to be so. Thin-skinned, brash, sometimes sneering, his offerings have included building a wall between the USA and Mexico (with the Mexicans paying for it), some appalling comments about women (not to be repeated here), suggestions that immigrants to the US are rapists and more recently some extraordinarily disturbing outtake recordings that he dismisses as mere ‘locker room’ banter. Surely this man stands no chance of being elected, right? Well, I certainly hope not because not only does he seem to subscribe to some whacky ideas, he also appears to many to be one of those types that might do something crazy if he felt sufficiently slighted – not exactly what you want in a President with a finger on the nuclear trigger. But Hillary has not proved an uncontroversial alternative and there is really no one else in the race – the late independent entrant Evan McMullin will not prevail. So is it possible that the US might actually elect him? In previous decades the answer would have been no. But times have changed. In 2013 a clown (yes a real clown) Beppe Grillo came within one per cent of the votes achieved by the winning party in the Italian general election. The far right and left across Europe ride of popular dissatisfactions and a strong public sense of dislocation from the so-called elites. And the way information is dispensed – its tone and content – has changed greatly in recent times. In the US particularly, people seem too often to lose focus on the issues beyond the superficial and many are now distrustful of just about anything authority has to say – wound up in the instant nature of news and a competition for attention that is about ratings, entertainment and sometimes shock as much as a desire to impartially inform with depth. Every age of course has its real challenges. In the US today there are many who have been left behind with stagnating real wages and declining industries – jobs lost to low wage foreign competitors. Trump is channelling that and rightly so, but within the overall maelstrom of this extraordinary campaign the danger is that folks get carried away with style over substance, emotion over thought, fear over reason. My hope is that de Maistre is proved right. America is a truly great nation – imperfect but great – and it follows that her people deserve better than Donald Trump.