Wednesday 9 November 2016

As a life-long Americaphile I can’t let the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA go by without comment.  Before I do that it is worth explaining that my affection for America came originally from following the space programme, (landing a man on the moon was America at its best), but soon grew into something much wider.  The bottom line is that America was founded on some great principles and ideals, admittedly principles and ideals that are often not lived up to, but nevertheless they are important and have had global significance.  They were formed in the 18th century by giants like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison.  These men were people of their age and need to be viewed as such, but that was an age that welcomed rationality and knowledge – the Age of Enlightenment – a world we now seem to be rapidly moving away from.  I have long followed American politics with all its craziness closely, I stayed up to the early hours of the morning to watch Nixon’s resignation speech in August 1974 – I don’t think many British 15 year old school boys did that.  I have always argued that whatever dimension you look at, people, culture, technology, science, geography, whatever you want, America has the best and the worst in the world, and everything in-between.  It is the land of extremes.  The US often gets criticized because of the worst end of the spectrum.  Unfortunately we now seem to be entering an era when some of the worst elements have the upper hand.


So what is going on in the US (and I am afraid in many other countries)?  There is clearly anger and backlash at the mainstream politicians for not addressing problems that worry many people.  Globalisation has brought enormous benefits but the problems of adjustment to de-industrialisation have not been properly addressed.  Over the last ten to twenty years most of the increase in wealth has been concentrated in the hands of a few, whereas from WW2 on until the 1980s most of it benefited the working and middle class.  Immigration, or rather mass migration, has caused and will continue to cause massive social, ethical and practical problems in the US and Europe.  The perception (real or not) that immigration is uncontrolled is a huge issue and leads to xenophobia which can be exploited.


“Making America Great Again” is code for all these things as well as extreme views harking back to some imagined past when America really was the top dog and there were no problems in America.  (Dumbest quote of the campaign: “there was no racism in America before Obama”). The reality is that America is still great but the world has changed and like everywhere it has a number of significant problems on the home front and internationally.  The likelihood of a Trump presidency really solving these problems is extremely unlikely – the very few policies promoted during the campaign show little understanding of the issues.


The scariest aspects of a Trump presidency, and current trends in general, include:

  • The rise of fact free debate and belief in crazy conspiracy theories.
  • The rise of being able to repeat a lie multiple times and have it become a “truth” – despite evidence to the contrary.
  • The rise of not trusting experts – “I know more about ISIS than the generals”. Really – how can that be?
  • The links to Russia and comments about NATO are really worrying. I hope we never see it happen but the Baltics are really at risk.
  • The rise of a bullying and misogynistic culture – remember that culture in any organization comes from the top.
  • The rise of the idea that business is an “I win – you lose” game.
  • The idea that Mike Pence may become President.


Hillary Clinton was clearly not a good candidate.  Given her well known long-standing ambition to be President you would have thought she would have been more careful over things like emails.  Using a home server was a seriously bad decision even though the actual security implications were probably very small.  It shows a high degree of arrogance.  It was interesting that we never got to see RNC emails or Trump’s tax returns – and now probably we never will.  We will see what comes out of the Trump University case and other actions.  The reality of a woman President will have to wait – probably for a long time.  President Obama has done a good job in most areas but I don’t agree with all of his foreign policy shifts.  He took office in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s but somehow that has been forgotten.  The healthcare reform, for all of its problems, was a great achievement and if (when) it is rolled back people may look back fondly on the benefits they had for a few years.


In a number of his science fiction books set in the 2050s or beyond Arthur C. Clarke referred back to a global “time of troubles” between the 2010s and the 2040s before a return to rationality and global prosperity and peace.  It seems as if he may have been right.


The expression “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else” is attributed to Winston Churchill, although as with many sayings there is doubt he actually said it. Anyway it seems as if we may have to wait a long time while they are trying everything else – and hope the consequences aren’t catastrophic.


There are 2 comments on “Bye bye miss American pie”:

  • Juan Pablo Garcia on November 9th, 2016 at 4:30 pm said:

    The only common tie between Clinton and Trump (and for most of their American citizens) is that they don’t have a clue about how to “make America great again” in a world with scarce resources.

    And what about all the “__exits”? They are all brilliant and perfect moves to solve an imaginary problem: the problem is not how we divide the pie, is that the pie is an hologram. All the fuel they put into the economy just to make it survive one more year, in the form of fresh printed money with no value, can’t be the forever trick and run forward.

  • miriam maes on November 9th, 2016 at 4:59 pm said:

    Dear Steve,

    I SO agree with you! I am utterly gutted by the US choice of its new President (can’t even start to say his name).
    Thank you very much for your blog. I continue to read them with great interest.

    Trust you and Cathy are doing well.
    Best wishes,

Dr Steven Fawkes

Welcome to my blog on energy efficiency and energy efficiency financing. The first question people ask is why my blog is called 'only eleven percent' - the answer is here. I look forward to engaging with you!

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