President Trump: Irish writers have their say
As Donald Trump becomes US president, we republish this reaction piece by a host of writers from last November to his election
While we were sleeping, first we voted into office the ones who watch you drown while very articulately expressing concern; then we tried voting for the ones who kind of like to see you drown. – from Litany, Kindertotenwald by Franz Wright
It’s probably a primeval fear that bad things will happen when we are asleep. When I woke up yesterday morning, having gone to bed with Florida looking promising for Hillary Clinton, I consciously put off turning on my phone, fearing that in a repeat of my Brexit experience I would discover Donald Trump on his way to the White House. We all know how that worked out for me. Déjà GUBU.
I asked a wide range of writers to discuss what Trump’s election as President of the United States meant to them and for the world and also, if possible, to provide a quotation or a recommended read that either summed up the situation or might offer some solace.
It is 26 years since the Irish people elected Mary Robinson as President of Ireland. I still remember that day. I was five years of age and I thought this was proof that women could be or do anything they wanted as long as they worked hard and believed in themselves. When I went to bed on Tuesday night, I hoped that an entire generation of young girls in the United States would understand what that felt like when they watched Hillary Clinton take her rightful place as President on November 9th.
I cannot overstate how devastated I am that this is not to happen. I am thinking of all the little girls and boys waking up in a new America and I’m wondering what sort of messages they will have internalised as a result. They will have seen that someone can make jokes about sexually assaulting a woman and be accused of raping a thirteen year old girl and still convince 59 million people to vote for him. They will have seen his competitor, a brilliantly intelligent woman who is vastly qualified and experienced be ridiculed, mocked, and ultimately, passed over for a job that should have been hers.
I am also thinking about the survivors of sexual violence who contacted me during the campaign to tell me how triggering and deeply upsetting they found Trump’s behaviour and words to be. I don’t know how they must be feeling today; facing into another four years of seeing his face in newspapers and magazines and on the TV when they know what he’s capable of. When they know that the women who spoke out about him will more than likely never see any justice, that yet another perpetrator will never have to suffer any repercussions. This is a story that these women know all too well.
I feel frightened today. Frightened for women, for people of colour, for the LGBT community, for immigrants, for people with disabilities. This is particularly devastating for us because too often we have wondered if society truly hates us, if it truly believes that we’re subordinate and deserve to be kept in our place. And when millions of people vote for Trump, vote for racism and misogyny and homophobia and fear and hatred - it’s very difficult to see that as anything but an attempt to marginalise those of us who don’t adhere to the ‘standard’ of white, straight, cis-gender, able bodied man. And that makes the world feel like a very frightening place today.
There is so much work to be done. Every time we stay quiet when someone is racist or sexist or homophobic, when they make jokes about people with disabilities, when they mutter under their breath that ‘we should be taking care of our own’ in a conversation immigrants and refugees, we are part of the problem. Every time we fail to challenge these beliefs, we are complicit.
We need to keep fighting. Until we are all equal, none of us are.
Louise O’ Neill is the author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It
Donald Trump is a creature of virtual TV shows, shock-jock radio and internet\twitter spats---all a reversion to a medieval culture based on humiliation and shaming. He illustrates Walter Benjamin’s contention that “we are still the barbarians of the new electronic order”, which we have yet to put to more positive cultural uses. Despite some great movies and internet narratives, most exponents of the new digital media have brought about a decline in civility: few people savour the complexities of thought practised by opponents in public or cultural life. Most despise rather than engage with the experiences and philosophies of their antagonists. The problem of casual sexism was never “solved” in the US as elsewhere in the world but made worse by the new media: and the extreme kinds of feminism practised on some US campuses is an understandable but despairing response to the failure to find solutions in the wider society. Many women feel exploited in low-paid jobs and probably overlooked Trump’s sexism in order to make the point. There is an anti-foreign bias among many Americans, who remain self-enclosed, don’t learn a second language or see any need to. Trump’s overt case against Obama was not that he was black but that he wasn’t really a true American---and,of course,the spectacle of a very competent African-American president brought certain forms of racism back to the surface. Older people feel overwhelmed by the speed of all the technical changes---they deal with the ‘symptoms’ rather than feeling confident about reshaping the new media for humane purposes. A lot of people are materially less well off and expect “less” rather than “more” for their children. The old optimism is gone: Trump called the US “a Third World country” and clearly many fellow-citizens agree with him. One of the most interesting books explaining this cultural shift (without in any ways seeking to justify Trumpism) is J D Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.
Declan Kiberd teaches at University of Notre Dame
I returned from the US last night with voting still underway and the much-voiced fear of what a Trump victory would mean for many Americans still ringing in my ears. In the early hours I woke to the appalling news of its increasing probability then listened, with all the disbelief of a witness to a terrorist incident who can only describe what they have seen in terms of images from disaster movies, until the truth of it was confirmed. We are now living in the era of the triumph of ‘reality’ TV with all the dishonesty, cruelty and shock-addiction that implies. The vicious, racist, misogynistic and delusional rhetoric of the campaign Trump has run has not only given comfort to but actively encouraged people to indulge the worst aspects of themselves. It is becoming increasingly obvious that, beyond the baying mobs at his rallies, there has also been significant, non-vocal support for Trump. But it is in this very shame-facedness, this knowledge that they should be greater than the sum of their fears and their desire not to be seen indulging themselves in all the indecency of what Trump represents, that I see the only glimmer of hope for the future. Perhaps, once confronted by the real time consequences of their actions, these voters will remember what kind of country they truly want for themselves and their families. I must believe this is possible because I cannot bear the thought of what this self-indulging, self-deluding maniac will inflict upon us all if he is permitted to run riot across international diplomacy unopposed.
The power of the soundbite has contributed so greatly to this idiotic situation coming to pass that I cannot, in conscience, offer a quote as summation. I do not believe serious thought is best expressed in a hundred and forty characters. As for something to read by way of comfort? The time for comfort is over and, tempting though it is, this situation will not be improved by looking away. We must all be witnesses now.
Eimear McBride’s new novel is called The Lesser Bohemians
I think the result finishes America as a serious entity - I mean morally serious, intellectually serious - and establishes it as something else: it is now clearly a dangerous entity.
But the trend there is just the same as it is elsewhere, as it is in Europe, as it is in the UK - the whiteskins in the north fear the migration of the brownskins from the south, and they have voted accordingly.
I think the most calamitous possible outcome over the next while would be if there was no calamity - if a year or 18 months passes without America falling spectacularly apart, a Trump Presidency will come to be seen as something normal or acceptable, and then we will truly be at the end of knowable history.
JG Ballard predicted all this in his 1968 short story ‘Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan’. Commenting on the story later, he said: “He realised that no-one in this huge television audience was listening to what he was saying - all they were interested in was his body language … He instinctively took the lowest common estimate of the electorate … He pitched an extreme right-wing image that picked out all the phobias and fears in his audience.”
We need finally to state and recognise the existence of the gigantic elephant in the room - the Internet, and our addiction to its currents, has dehumanized us, has made us much more stupid, and has been the critical tool in the rise of an ogre like Trump.
Kevin Barry is a writer based in Co Sligo
Trump is such a liar that if he actually came out and admitted that he was a lying, racist, misogynist I don’t know if I’d believe him. I sincerely hope that he was lying about almost everything he said and promised during his campaign - not so much sound bites as sound dribbles. His inarticulacy is contagious. Every time you hear him speak you end up spluttering incoherently. You get so upset, you end up looking a bit like him.
His triumph is being widely hailed as a rebellion against ‘elites’ - against Washington and Wall St. It’s staggering that America’s poor and disenfranchised see Trump in any way as their salvation. He is elitist to the core of his being - the ultimate insider, a rich man who inherited his father’s fortune, best friends with bankers and politicians, a tax-dodger who has never, ever in his long career shown the slightest concern for those less well off than himself. He is the most obvious beneficiary of wealth inequality I can think of, which, let’s face it, is the bogey issue that has brought us to this pretty pass.
I’ve no idea what economic effect a Trump presidency will have have on Ireland, in terms of trade and his threats to American companies who invest here, but I have no doubt that his success will give confidence to our own resident populists who routinely and recklessly undermine our fragile democracy.
Would a better opponent have made a difference? Hillary, in the end, wasn’t much liked by women, or by men. Even her pneumonia didn’t hang around for long. She rightly or wrongly had come to represent all that is broken, and bloated and tired and corrupt about politics. There’s no doubt that ‘Politics’ worldwide is failing and that Democracy is in peril but I do believe, once the initial shock subsides, that we’ll probably be grand.
The sky won’t fall in. Although he is the screeching face of late capitalism, a bully and a bigot, he is not as crazy as he seems. An opportunist and egomaniac, he will ultimately do what is in in his own interest, which may, fingers crossed, occasionally overlap with the interest of the American people and even the world. Either way, we must respect the American electorate and give the man a chance, mustn’t we?
For consolation in these troubled times, I would probably turn to contemporary American writers like Jess Walter, Willy Vautrin, Philip Meyer and George Saunders, all of whom have been articulating their country’s woes with wit and humanity for some time now. On the other hand I’d probably avoid one of my favourite dystopian movies, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), for the time being.
Ardal O’Hanlon is a comedian, actor and writer
To paraphrase Churchill’s dictum on democracy, the United States has for many years been the worst possible power to occupy the post of leader of the planet – apart from all the others.
Now we are left with those others. Donald Trump’s vacuous and hate-fueled victory will create a military, economic and political vacuum into which will move China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel - in fact, any global or regional power that is willing and able to impose violent diktats on those who oppose them, those who just happen to be in their way, those who have something they want, or those whom they just plain hate.
A working majority of people in the world’s only superpower has now repudiated not only the haphazard practice of fairness, truth, lawfulness and decency, but the very belief in those ideals. Hypocrisy may well be the tribute which vice pays to virtue, but it is better than the bare-faced celebration of hatred and brute force and lies.
It is a particularly bad day to be a Ukrainian, or a Uighur, or a democracy campaigner in Hong Kong, or a Sunni in Syria, or a Shia in Saudi. It is a bad day to be a Palestinian anywhere, and it is a bad day to be Jewish or black or female or Mexican or foreign or gay or disabled or well-meaning in America. If the contagion spreads, a bad day will also come for such people here.
Are there any consolations? As that great American rebel, Iggy Pop, once sang: “I’m looking for the joke with a microscope”. It is quite possible that, grotesque misogyny aside, Trump is not as hate-filled as many of his supporters - he simply told them what they wanted to hear because he wanted to be elected. That’s not much, but it’s something.
If American democracy, such as it is, can last another four years without being suppressed by Trump’s thuggish followers there is a chance of an almighty backlash against Trumpism, nativism and the long-con-artists of the Republican party: by 2020 many of those poverty-stricken Americans who voted for Trump out of desperation rather than hate will have learned how mistaken they were in their choice of an escape route. And unless the purges and pogroms begin in earnest, the number of minority voters in the USA will continue to rise relative to the numbers of angry, aging whites.
Finally - and this isn’t nothing - Trump’s victory, following hard on the heels of Brexit, has driven a stake through the heart of globalised corporate financial capitalism, that international shell game in which the wealth generated by billions of ordinary citizens is always somewhere else when they themselves need it. If thoughtful people of good will can come together and build a better, more progressive and just system on the ruins of financial capitalism - and it’s not rocket science, we’ve been there before, with the old-fashioned social democracy that all of us grew up with - then perhaps the next four years may not prove as hideous as they threaten to be now.
The editor has asked us to recommend a quotation or read that sums up the situation, or offers some solace. For an emergency dose of good cheer I would prescribe PG Wodehouse’s peerless Code of the Woosters, a joyous soufflé of light-hearted living published on the eve of the second world war. If bumbling Bertie Wooster could get the better of the odious Roderick Spode and his fascistic Black Shorts, there’s hope for us too. We just need to find ourselves a new Jeeves or two.
Ed O’Loughlin is a former foreign correspondent in Africa and the Middle East for the Irish Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age of Melbourne. His third novel, Minds of Winter, was published this autumn
The headlines this morning look unreal, the kinds of headlines that spin on the screen during cartoon montages.
They couldn’t be more real.
Some of the things that are now real: If you don’t have health insurance in this country, and if you get sick, which we all do, you will either sink into debt from which you can never recover, or you will die because your wallet can only buy death, not treatment. If you are a person of colour in this country, if you are a minority, if you are an immigrant or from an immigrant family, you will look at your neighbours this morning and know that some of them voted against you, not against Hillary Clinton, and that, actually, they wish you harm. Nothing personal; they just want to punish you because they despised the fact of a black President. Same if you are not straight, if you are in a same-sex marriage, if you are trans. Nothing personal; they just want you to lose your rights. It’s not that they expressly want you to be scared, at least not all of them; they just want you to either stop being the way you are, and be like them (or their image of themselves), or get out, to some nebulous other zone that won’t have to be accounted for in their notion of what they like to think of as a country.
If you are a woman, if you are a girl, if you are, like my young neighbour Ellie, ten years old and from a mixed-race family and trying hard at school and still holding onto your Hillary badge - well, fuck you, so many of these voters have said. You have been dealing with misogyny and sexually predatory behavior and with a culture that judges you in terms of your body most of your life, even if you are ten years old, and you don’t get to escape that. Why would you? It’s fun for some men, and fun for some women who’ve internalised misogyny so deeply it’s become a parasite. Here’s what’s real: the incoming Vice President created abortion laws which saw a woman sentenced to decades in prison because someone suspected she might have caused her own miscarriage. Here’s what’s real: the incoming President treated policy like a subject the other kids could waste their time studying; he knew how to prey so perfectly on the teacher’s jitters and insecurities that he’d pass, more than pass, without turning a page. Impossible not to believe that until around three months ago, he thought Mosul was a spice, if even that.
I’m thinking of my friend who is about to give birth to her first child. She’s due in three days. It’s a girl. My friend is spending today organizing a protest gathering to raise funds to split between organisations defending reproductive choice, fighting Islamophobia, fighting for undocumented immigrants.
I’m listening to the radio right now, Hillary Clinton is about to make her concession speech. They’re playing Bruce Springsteen in the venue; We Take Care of Our Own. That’s a darkly satirical song, but we can’t hide in satire now. We have to look out for one another, for our neighbours, even - maybe especially - if today it feels hard to look them in the eye.
Belinda McKeon is the author of Tender and Solace
It’s not xenophobic to want to renegotiate injurious trade deals, to care about your country! It’s not xenophobic to talk about border security, to identify a subclass of illegal immigration that has gone unchecked and undermined working class jobs for decades! It’s not xenophobic to speak openly of an Islamic-inspired revolution that actively wants to destroy the West!
Of course, the above issues cannot be discussed openly in America’s so-called “liberal media” where political correctness has gone awry, where freedom of speech has been undermined by a hyper-sensitive political correctness that disallows any discourse on the aforementioned issues of immigration, religious war and trade deals.
In this subversive political correctness, “openness” is defined by celebrating diversity which ultimately allows minority influences to control the national dialogue.
The Trump movement operated outside the legitimized, sanctioned narrative. It is a triumph of a populist revolution that ultimately organized without the apparatus of the political machines of both the Democratic and Republican Parties and proved that the underlying voice and national sentiment of over half the people in the country galvanized around a leader who had the brashness and financial resources to work outside the system.
This is why I live in America – Its descendants celebrate and cherish freedom. They hold certain inalienable rights, constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, for example the right to bear arms. From an outsider’s perspective, or from a politically correct posture, this might seem extreme, but for the majority of the South and up through the Rust Belt states, there’s a suspicion of government, and the struggle to wrest guns from ordinary citizens has galvanized in a movement that has quietly assembled in a meeting of the hearts that registered resoundingly at the ballot box.
This is not a movement of hate – it is the beginning of an articulation of a subverted voice that seeks to enter the national dialogue, that seeks to energize America, not at the expense of others, but through the “Art of the Deal!”
I took on this struggle in my Booker-shortlisted novel, The Keepers of Truth, which begins with the lines:
I call this one “Ode to a Trainee Manager.”
When you enter this town of ours, I would want you to read the following, to enlighten you as to how it is here with us at this time in history. It seems only right. Even in medieval times they used to put up signs that said, “Plague! Keep out!”
This is what I’d say….
No New York publisher wanted to hear this “Ode to America”. The book went unpublished until it found an audience in Europe. This eulogy to the Rust Belt was disallowed, but, in the collapse of the Blue firewall of the Midwest, the truth is self-evident!
Michael Collins’s latest novel is The Death of All Things Seen. From Limerick, he lives in Indiana
As a sometimes historian, I am more worried about the fate of the world than at any time in my lifetime.
It seems to me that the principles of liberal democracy which have served Western societies well since the Second World War are breaking down and nobody knows what is going to replace them. Multilateral organisations such as the EU and NATO which have been essential to the stability we now take for granted are under attack. A sense of disillusionment and abandonment sweeps the world.
When Martin Doyle opened this forum for writers to comment on Brexit, he received responses from 24 writers, both Irish and British. In the Brexit referendum 52 per cent, amounting to 17,410,742 people, voted to leave the European Union. Of the 24 writers, 0 per cent thought Brexit was a good idea.
There are dozens of contributions on this forum too, but not one which supports the election of Donald Trump as president.
Was there ever a time when the liberal establishment, writers, academics, artists and opinion formers etc, was so estranged from majority opinion?
As an exercise in competitive outrage, these contributions are useful. Telling us that Trump’s supporters are uneducated, xenophobic, racist, bigoted, insert your own epithet here, tells us nothing new.
Like any self-described liberal, I was appalled by Trump’s election. He is as unsavoury a character as any democracy has ever thrown up.
I desperately wanted to be able to tell my nine-year-old daughter that a woman had finally become the most powerful person in the world.
Yet, apart from the novelty of being America’s first female President, what had Hillary Clinton to offer? She was a dismally uninspiring choice, the ultimate insider. The hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees she received for speaking to the loathsome Goldman Sachs, a financial institution complicit in the financial meltdown of 2008, ought to have made her ineligible for consideration if there was a suitable alternative on offer. Bernie Saunders would have made the better candidate.
If you live in a deadbeat town in the mid-west that has seen better days or in a rural area where people are struggling to get by, why would her greatest asset, her experience, have mattered? Why would you want more of the same if more of the same left you struggling?
Clinton adopted the principals of Project Fear which stymied the Remain campaign. She told us how terrible things would be if Trump was elected instead of articulating a positive vision.
Trump gave his supporters hope. It might turn out to be a chimera, he might well turn out to be the charlatan a lot of right-thinking people believe him to be, but he fought a brilliant campaign. His election has been a disaster for mainstream media in the United States. Trump triumphed without getting the endorsement of a single major newspaper.
The success of Brexit and Trump ought to give the liberal establishment pause for thought, but it is unlikely that it will. The sense of moral and intellectual superiority is so entrenched.
George Orwell, nobody’s idea of a reactionary, understood this estrangement well. “It is all very well to be 'advanced' and 'enlightened,' to snigger at Colonel Blimp and proclaim your emancipation from all traditional loyalties, but a time comes when the sand of the desert is sodden red and what have I done for thee, England, my England? As I was brought up in this tradition myself I can recognise it under strange disguises, and also sympathise with it, for even at its stupidest and most sentimental it is a comelier thing than the shallow self-righteousness of the left-wing intelligentsia.”
Liberalism used to mean open-mindedness. Now it equates to a set of assumptions that cannot be challenged.
Liberals need to assert that the values of hard work, family, faith, self-reliance and patriotism are not conservative values but ones important to a functioning society.
Liberals need to stop thinking their way is the only way and that other points of view are invalid. Nobody has all the answers. They need to judge a lot less and emphasise a lot more.
In his victory speech Trump struck a conciliatory note at odds with the partisan campaign he ran. If he carries on in the same vein, he may not be the disaster most people on this forum think he will be.
If Hillary Clinton was elected, she would have faced a hostile Senate and House of Representatives and you would have more of the legislative gridlock which has dogged the second term of President Barack Obama.
At least Trump will not have an excuse for inaction. For better or worse, he has a chance to shape America’s future. As the democratically elected President of the United States, we owe him the benefit of the doubt.
Those who hope Trump fails should be careful for what they wish for. If he fails, America fails and where America fails, so goes the rest of the world.
Ronan McGreevy is the author of Wherever the Firing Line Extends: Ireland and the Western Front. He is also the editor of The Irish Times book Was it for this? Reflections on the Easter Rising
When my dad died in 2013 after what should have been a routine surgery, I felt shocked, heartsick, and for a time outraged. It shouldn’t have happened. Today, as America and the world awoke to the news that Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States, I’m struggling with similar, if not worse, feelings. This shouldn’t have happened.
I emigrated from Dublin to San Francisco in 1992, intending to stay for a summer. Twenty-four years later I’m still here, a dual Irish and US citizen, and married with two daughters. I stayed for many reasons, not least of which was love for my adopted country and its ideals of democracy and the American Dream. I was free to be anybody and do anything I set my mind to. We all could.
Over two-plus decades, the veil lifted. This is overwhelmingly the Promised Land for the white and the wealthy, and not so much for women and minorities. Until Trump, though, I did not realize just how insidious the levels of racism, bigotry, and misogyny are here. The depths of fear and hate. Trump rode and won on the mantra, “Make America Great Again.” His and his supporters’ vision for a Great America is divisive and dangerous and will wreak havoc. We have given the kingdom to the monster.
When my dad died, I also felt scared. His death was further confirmation that the world is cruel and no one is spared its punishments at one time or another. Today I’m afraid again. Worse, I feel betrayed. It is one thing for fate to make us suffer, it is another for our brethren to strike us down. I cannot fathom how so many voted for Trump and Pence. How so many voted without an intellectual and moral compass.
This morning, during Hillary Clinton’s gracious, galvanizing, and inspirational concession speech, my daughters watched me cry. I believed I was raising them in a better America, a better world. “Are we going to leave America now?” my youngest daughter asked nervously. I shook my head. “We’re not running anywhere. We’re staying right here. We’re going to keep fighting.” Despite my devastation today, I do believe in the ideals of a Great America, and a Great World. Not as utopian states we’ll ever arrive at (“great” is a myth for the masses like the emperor’s new clothes), but as idylls to strive toward. My family and I will stay in America. We will keep chipping away at the glass ceiling, and at glass hearts, demanding equality for all. Someday the former at least will shatter and let in the heavens.
Ethel Rohan’s first novel, The Weight of Him, will publish in the US on February 14, 2017 (St. Martin’s Press) and in the UK & Ireland on June 1, 2017 (Atlantic Books).
On Tuesday night, I couldn’t sleep. The baby was giving fluttery kicks against my belly, so at four a.m, I got up. It was only when my bare feet hit the cold kitchen tiles, I admitted the real reason for my sleeplessness. I dug my mobile from the pocket of my dressing gown and googled ‘US election.’ Politics feels irrelevant compared with the task of bringing a new life into the world. Lately, I’ve been inclined to shun the news in favour of looking up ‘maternity jeans’ and ‘active birth techniques,’ but on Tuesday night, our sanctum was breached.
What terrifies me most about Trump is his relentless scapegoating of the outsider. As a second-generation immigrant child, my parents having emigrated when I was young, and working daily with people from all over the world who have chosen to make Ireland their home, I have seen first-hand how much immigrant communities enrich their societies. Anti-apartheid, Civil Rights; a child of the eighties, I grew up believing that humanity’s innate forward momentum towards justice was inevitable as a fairy tale. In some ways I’m glad my son or daughter hasn’t been born yet. Children ask the most astute questions, and I’m not sure how I would sit in the interrogative gaze of a seven or eight year old and explain coherently what has just happened.
I never wanted our child to grow up in a world becoming so galvanised into separate corners, where rationalism and the middle ground seems to be slipping away. I recoil instinctively from the maelstrom of virulent prejudice and anti-immigrant sentiment represented by the far right. Yet there is also a brand of extreme liberalism, whose over-zealous policing I myself have fallen victim to, which has played its part in sowing the seeds of this crimson tide. In Ireland, we have an opportunity to learn from all this; to guard against extremities of both left and right. When I think about the future of the world our child will enter, I find consolation in the small and often-left-out word at the heart of Martin Luther King’s great vision. The word is: still. I still have a dream. That word has always spoken to me of persevering in the face of prejudice and persecution and in the face of what seems like a hopeless situation. This is our duty to the future generations. Still.
Roisín O'Donnell is a short story writer whose work has appeared in Hennessy New Irish Writing, The Stinging Fly and elsewhere. Her debut short story collection Wild Quiet is published by New Island Books
Like many others I suspected that Donald Trump’s only interest in running for president was to pump up his monster ego rather than for any altruistic desire to lead his nation and to improve the lot of the American people.
It appears to me that this is a victory for shamelessness and narcissism, qualities which thrive in the shallow Reality TV culture that helped to make Trump a star. But people didn’t vote for him just because he was famous, did they?
We need to ask why so many millions of American voters felt that Donald Trump might have the answer to their problems, and why they felt so alienated from Hilary Clinton and the Democrats.
And now that the contest is decided, it is important to respect the democratically expressed will of the people, whilst perhaps hinting that the electoral college system might be due for an overhaul.
President-elect Trump made conciliatory overtures in his victory speech and it would be nice to think that he might really want to be a president who will bind up the wounds of division, and that he might surprise us by becoming a president for all the people of the United States.
I really hope he will, but judging by his performance during the election campaign it seems unlikely.
Whist I am nervous of what a Trump presidency might hold in store for the world, I do still have faith in the American people and I hope that the tolerance, compassion, and decency of the majority there will rise above the boorishness that threatens to dominate.
Here is an apt quotation from a president who I think will be much missed.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.
Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama
PJ Lynch, the current Laureate na nÓg, is an illustrator and author of children’s books. childrenslaureate.ie
Brexit has been followed by Amerexit. On Nov 9, America chose a President threatening to abandon several crucial commitments to the international community – from the Paris Climate Agreement and Nato to Free Trade Agreements and Asian and Middle-Eastern alliances. More immediately, on the home front, a majority of caucuses – especially in the so-called American ‘heartland’ - voted against their own class and welfare interests in electing a leader who promises to make America Great by magical fiat. So doing, the United States became a Disunited Nation: Red middle America seceding from blue Coastal America with its media, financial and administrative elites – the so called ‘Establishment’ of Washington. Why, one asks, would so many citizens of an advanced free democracy deny themselves the provision of basic health care, social welfare, cross-border mobility, subsidized education and great federal redistribution of wealth? Why would a nation of emigrants want to cut itself off from emigrants?
One of the reasons must surely lie in the fact that for all its progress on the world stage of history, the USA still suffers from a huge education crisis, with over 68% of its citizens over the age of 25 with no college degree, and grossly unequal access to primary and secondary schooling. The great anti-war protester, Dan Berrigan SJ, said that whenever he visited a country, he would read their poets and visit their schools and prisons. While America still passes the poetry test, the state of its schools and prisons (with vast incarceration of African-Americans and Hispanics and the death penalty still standing) says it all. Or as another American poet, Groucho Marx, put it: ‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog its too dark to read’.
The current carving of this country into two incommunicable twins is, I believe, at root a national crisis of understanding – the inability to grasp and apprehend the real causes of fear, frustration, anger and delusion that delivered the highest levers of power to a demagogical Wizard of Oz. The inability to discern the whitelash (angry while male) against a black President and growing minority population. And a lack of real vision to imagine ways beyond.
One small hope: that the old US Constitution with its trusted checks and balances may serve as a containing Reality Principle to the Pleasure Principle of the new President Elect.
Richard Kearney is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and author of several books on Imagination, religion and culture
A bad day dawns. Trump’s deluded followers, raging for a messiah, will discover in the next four years their folly in imagining that a non-tax paying billionaire will be on their side. It is sobering to realise that there is now an extreme right majority in America, in Britain, probably in France - Marine Le Pen will gain by Trump’s win - and in numerous other European countries, probably even Germany, if Merkel’s declining support is anything to go by. We have entered upon the Age of Kitsch. Jean Baudrillard was right: reality has been replaced by representation. An instructive text for the times? Perhaps Auden’s September 1 1939. Here is the final stanza:
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
John Banville’s latest work is Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir
I cried when I came down to breakfast this morning and my husband said Trump was in. I had lain in bed, afraid to check Twitter on my mobile just in case, but I’d chastised myself for being silly, truly feeling that it would be Hillary all the way. I cried because a capable, qualified woman lost, and women lose far too often, in every walk of life, to unworthy men.
I cried because Trump is fascist, sexist and racist, and his values and actions will influence my world - and my children’s world - for the next four years. This juvenile, abusive man will have dominion not only over America, but over many aspects of our lives here in Ireland too. Will my friends who work for American companies retain their jobs? Will Trump’s racism and sexism incite further violence, in the States and all over? Will his fluid relationship with the truth stoke ever more turbulence and conflict?
In The New Yorker, editor David Remnick labels Trump’s win ‘a tragedy’ and ‘a sickening event in the history of the United States’. He goes on to say that people ‘can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory.’
The USA has found its demagogue in Trump, a truly awful candidate who cannot deliver on his campaign promises and who will fail the people of his country for sure. For me, anxiety and despair are the dominant feelings today. But hope will return, as it always does, and maybe, just maybe, this terrible news will provoke us all to positive action.
Nuala O’Connor is a writer; her latest novel, Miss Emily, is about the American poet Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid
As somebody who has witnessed a severe deterioration in the political culture of my own country since the Brexit referendum, my first reaction is concern about the licence which Trump’s victory gives to intolerance in the United States. Many of Obama’s signal achievements, such as healthcare reform, are unlikely to survive. Domestically, the idea of Trump, a Republican Congress and a long-term right wing Supreme Court gives me apocalyptic shivers.
As regards his foreign policy, it is too early to say. He has no experience of the subject and we do not know who will be advising him. It is one thing saying you are going to bomb Islamic State to smithereens during a campaign. It is another thing to work out a strategy in real life. I am deeply worried about Trump’s various promises in the past to tear up the Iran deal (a disaster) and the Paris Climate Change deal (the same). Obviously, his developing relationship with Russia will be very important in trying to gauge whether there are real links between him and Putin or various oligarchs. But in general I would say that the prospect of a nationalist, misogynist, climate-change denying, populist man in the White House, surrounded by a group of self-serving nasties like Giuliani, Gingrich, Palin and, presumably, Comey, is something that all sane people should be seriously concerned about, regardless of where they live. With Trump’s election, much of the long-term responsibility for the maintenance of liberal democratic principles lies on Germany’s shoulders. The Allies which rid Germany of Nazism are abandoning those principles in a sudden rush of populist nationalism, leaving exposed Merkel’s rational humane approach to the crises triggered by Iraq and 2008. It will be a heavy burden. For my part, I am relieved to discover my paternal grandfather was born in Newry, Co. Down and so I am eligible for Irish citizenship.
For solace read Private Eye.
Misha Glenny’s book, McMafia: Seriously Organised Crime, is currently being filmed as a major drama series for the BBC.
Trump is not a demagogue – he is a camp follower. The damage is already done. The battle has been fought and the war has moved on. The apostles of Ayn Rand have other fish to fry. Trump is at carrion work, stripping corpses on the battlefield after nightfall, making booty out of what is left. Women’s rights, minority rights, the rights of immigrants. Hilary, not much better, was at work in another part of the battlefield.
The liberal young feel the hurt most in the matter of gender. If not yet gained the uplands of equality seemed to be visible. Bargains had been struck. Sixty years ago in America Allen Ginsberg wrote
It’s true I don’t want to join the army or turn lathes in precision
parts factories, I’m near-sighted and psychopathic anyway
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel
Ginsberg implied a deal with America. The young thought they were living up to their side of it. Not any more. It feels irremedial, a matter of blind hurt, the deliberate spread of bad faith, men and women betraying their children. They are left with James Wright:
Dead riches, dead hands, the moon
And I am lost in the beautiful white ruins
Eoin McNamee is author of the Blue trilogy
It’s perhaps a most predictable choice, but I keep coming back to Auden’s inexorable lines:
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
Don Share is the editor of POETRY
To an extent, Trump is irrelevant. He’s but the tangerine avatar of a poisonous nationalism that separates us from our humanity and binds us instead to ideas like tribal exceptionalism and keeps us behind lines drawn by loons in the sand. This US election wasn’t about issues or strategies; it was about white supremacy, the inevitable corrupted culmination of nationalist ideology in Western countries. This was an election in which largely white voters voted to maintain their white privilege, even if it eroded some of their own rights. Trump was just the bloated, arse-faced bugle who sucked in their vicious mood, assessed how it might benefit him, and spat it back out on television. And we cannot take any grim pleasure in Americans being made to reap the whirlwind because we have friends and loved ones and kindred spirits in the United States who are now faced with the most profoundly anti-American authority imaginable. And I am worried for the rest of us, especially for those of us in the eastern European states. I am worried that our poor, fragile planet cannot take much more superpower-sanctioned abuse.
It’s said such social strife is good for artists, grist for the mill and all that. I don’t feel very inspired. I feel like playing through my Fallout games again, this time taking copious drunken notes. But if there’s fighting words at all appropriate for this horror show, it’s the following, from Terry Pratchett in Men at Arms: “Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.”
Lisa McInerney is the author of The Glorious Heresies, winner of the Baileys Prize and Desmond Ellliott Prize
I loved this election.
Fox News was always on. Every time Trump would say something hateful or inflammatory or bigoted I’d gasp, laugh, and wait for it to destroy his campaign. And as the months went on it just got worse. And scarier. And more disturbing. As a writer, it was something I could never have imagined. It was too ridiculous for fiction. My love for the election started to waver. My appreciation of it, as a piece of entertainment, started to sour.
I woke up this morning to hear about the new reality. The world has changed. The world is no longer progressive. The lowest common denominator has dominated. This isn’t how it’s meant to be. This isn’t the way things happen. We’re supposed to go forward. We’re supposed to make things better. We’re supposed to offer hope and love and understanding. These are the things that make us who we are.
We have to fight now. The bigots have been validated and we have to fight. We have to fight with art and with education and with tolerance. We can’t let them win. We’re on the precipice of an age of darkness and we cannot, we must not, topple.
“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” - Lemony Snicket
Derek Landy is the author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series and the Demon Road trilogy, and he is very, very sad.
That’s twice this year I’ve gone to bed thinking the world was bobbing along at a steady pace, and twice I’ve woken up shrieking. The first time was Brexit and the second was when Trump emerged as Commander-in-Chief.
Maybe I should stop going to bed.
There is no up side to Brexit, but the latter scenario is what really has the potential to give me nightmares. Donald ‘shoots from the hip’ Trump has his finger on the nuclear button.
The man who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, thinks women love it when he feels them up, doesn’t believe in paying tax, called Hillary Clinton a criminal nearly every time he mentioned her and had his supporters chant “jail her” is the President Elect of the world’s most powerful democracy.
Farce just mutated into tragedy.
This win tells us people are weary of politics as usual. Unfortunately, voters opted for a radical solution. If he’s the face of democracy then we must presume it needs surgical intervention.
Possibly he will prove to be a more measured President than his election campaign suggests. But that combustible language which became his hallmark - those appeals to the lowest common denominator - are difficult to take back.
I advise readers to reach for Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ to see what happens when a monster is unleashed. And then hope that fiction doesn’t foreshadow truth in this case.
Martina Devlin is a writer and journalist. Her latest novel is About Sisterland
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, in which Martin Sheen plays an ignorant, demagogic candidate for President of the United States. Christopher Walken’s psychic Johnny shakes his hand and in that moment sees a future where the victorious candidate, in a combined act of hubris and lunacy, decides to start World War III. The irony of Sheen playing an abominable US President when he would go on to play the sainted Jed Bartlet in The West Wing might make a contemporary viewer smile but the notion of someone potentially insane having the power to destroy the planet finally came true on Tuesday night.
This morning’s birdsong was drowned out by the cries of outrage, hysteria and indignation swirling around the streets but truthfully, while the result is both disappointing and worrying, very little will change. The sun will still rise in the east, the Earth will continue to rotate on its axis and the Americans will spend the next four years squabbling amongst themselves in an orgy of blue and red pugilism rather than trying to solve their multitudinous political and social problems.
If Trump’s message of isolationism offended us in the campaign, then perhaps we should embrace it in his victory. There is no ‘Leader of the Free World’ and no one looks to America as a beacon of hope in the way that its citizens like to believe we do. If they want to isolate themselves, them let them be isolated. If they want to ignore other countries, then we should stop turning in their direction when we speak. For what is America, after all, except another dwindling empire that has chosen to expedite its decline by electing a reality TV star to guide its future ratings. The country will prosper or fail and neither result will have much to do with the abilities or weaknesses of Donald J Trump.
On a lighter note, should Melania Trump need any tips on being First Lady, I know someone who has both experience of the job and time on her hands who might be able to help out.
John Boyne’s tenth novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, will be published in February (Doubleday).
It is a dark morning in America. Trump’s success despite so much explicit misogyny and racism is a shocking blow to the American idea of ‘progress’, fuelling bigotry in a country already beset by violence, racial division, and social polarisation. America’s standing in the world, and its position of global leadership, are significantly diminished.
Trump’s victory was built on the white working people of the ‘rustbelt’, his anti-trade, anti-immigration, anti-establishment nationalism resonating with those who feel anxious or angry at social and cultural change, left behind by out-of-touch ‘elites’, corporate excess, and foreign entanglements. Such dynamics have deep roots: the ‘Silent Majority’ struck back against the 1960s; opposition to immigration fuelled the Ku Klux Klan and ‘nativist’ politics in the 1920s; the 1890s saw isolationism, racism, and populist ‘bimetallism’; the anti-Catholic ‘Know-Nothings’ were ascendant in the 1850s; and in the 1820s Andrew Jackson’s populism brought ruthless western expansion and mass politics. The ‘idea’ of America has always been contested.
Yet Trump’s unique position as the only man (and they remain all men) to become President with no governmental or military experience - and his links to the far-right fringe and Russia - sets him apart. We must hope that his threats to jail political opponents, attack the free press, persecute religious groups, commit war crimes, and so on and on turn out to be bombast not foreshadowing.
Dr Christopher Kissane is a historian at the LSE, and a BBC New Generation Thinker. He is both an Irish and US citizen
John Ruskin once wrote: “words if they are not watched, will do deadly work sometimes. There are masked words droning and skulking about us in Europe just now”. Today, this mask of language has slipped. It should be plain to see we are in a period of unravelling. Epochs come and go. Things fall apart. Today we awoke and found ourselves in a new era.
I read Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf in my early 20s and wondered what it would be like to live in a period of such disquiet. Hesse’s novel was published in 1927 but it was prophetic of the Germany to come, affording an early glimpse at the public unrest, the fragmenting of politics, the free-spoken racism and xenophobia. I reread that book recently and felt down my back the chill of recognition.
We have taken the post-war era of peace for granted. We forget that civilization is an ideal, but tribalism is an instinct. (Trump’s motto could have been: “Let’s make America white again”). What share have we in all this? It is hard to say. Ireland is thrown about by geo-political winds. But here, now, we must be vigilant, and keep hold, as Lincoln put it, of the “better angels of our nature”.
Paul Lynch is the author of The Black Snow and Red Sky in Morning
For all that has been said against this man who represents the ugliness and shadow of the great United States, there is one huge defect that I have never seen remarked upon: his seemingly absolute philistinism. Not once have I heard him mention, however passingly or allusively, a novel, poem, song, play, or any work of art at all. Donald Trump, leader of the free world, might well be - as Slavoj Žižek said of Katie Price - someone who has written more books than he has read. I see a man whose inner world has never been touched or softened by the light of art, who respects only the pursuit of power and money, loves only the image of himself reflected across a world he can now lord over like a Latino underling. For all the smokescreens of media manipulation, Barack Obama is a man who knows what it is to be humbled and moved by poetry, music and the written word. Now is inaugurated a dark new America where all these things will be dismissed with a frat-boy’s sneer, while the chants of of U-S-A! U-S-A! resound and the torture chambers reopen. This will be a time of bullies, of power to the petty.
The question now may be whether Trump, beyond awakening the beast of hate and fury beneath the United States, will serve as the vessel for a planetary death-wish, the bestower of oblivion on a world that’s becoming too frightening and bewildering to bear. The Christian America that has elected Trump its leader has in common with the Islamic State that he promised to ‘bomb the shit’ out of a longing for apocalypse, a holocaust that will usher in the day of judgement. This petulant, small-hearted man, who now has control over enough nuclear weapons to annihilate all life on earth, might be the one to give them what they want.
Rob Doyle’s latest book, This Is the Ritual, is published by Bloomsbury and the Lilliput Press
From the days when the blustering absurd figure of Donald Trump first appeared in the arena I feared in my bones that his rise to triumph was America’s and the world’s destiny. Our culture and civilization has taken a downward plunge into a new version of barbarism in the last few decades and he soon revealed himself as a perfect exemplar of the excesses of that decline. The more dangerous aspects of human nature are rising to the surface, made visible to us via technology, are encouraged by the technology and technology gives them free rein to be expressed. The solipsism, the narcissism, the casual contempt for each other, as well as often the hatred, combined with sentimentality, platitude and empty aspirations are his, but they are also ours. Of course many of us are horrified by this development and struggle against it. His victory suggests however that we can no longer hope to be in the majority. If only he were simply the buffoon he first seemed - but he is also cunning, manipulative, deeply limited, and hostile to the humanitarian values we used to take for granted. Today, I can see the future only as a story of at best ugliness, at worst a horror story. As for the naive hopes for an improvement in their lot that some of those who voted for him are voicing, he has shown no capacity whatsoever to deliver.
Yeats’s The Second Coming, written in the post-war desolation of 1919, is an obvious reading of our situation. ‘The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned…. The best lack all conviction while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.’ Surely, he asks, ‘some revelation is at hand’. If only we could hope for it - but today we can only hope that the revelation might not be quite as awful as we fear.
Anne Haverty is a novelist and poet. A revised edition of her biography, Constance Markievicz: Irish Revolutionary was recently published
There is a phrase that adults use when their children start to plan outlandish revenge attacks on their bullies: Don’t sink to their level. With this in mind, I was surprised to see those TV clips of President Obama at a White House Dinner, using his position of power to publically humiliate Donald Trump. Trump’s unsmiling face was – shockingly – more dignified than the laughing faces all around him. How could they have thought that making jokes would weaken, rather than strengthen Trump’s resolve? Perhaps one good thing that might come from this deeply disturbing election is that this clip could be used to illustrate the importance of never making jokes at another’s expense. We, of all cultures, should know that.
As for recommended reading, Hilary Clinton’s speech mentioned the pain of failure, which made me think of Emily Dickinson’s poem After Great Pain a Formal Feeling Comes. It’s an odd poem, but the last verse is especially interesting to read in the light of Trump’s victory:
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –
Tara Bergin is a poet
I’m profoundly saddened by this result. It’s like when you hear that a friend has a terminal illness and then they actually die. You’re never prepared for it. It is a win for misogyny, racism and bigotry. On a personal level, I’m quite scared, because if Brexit can happen, and Trump can win (a man who admits to never reading a book), what the hell is going to happen next? We needn’t be too smug here in Ireland either. Let’s look to our own corner and see the walls that we are metaphorically building. We need to examine our own attitude to immigrants and women. Repeal the 8th. Open our borders. Build a society based on compassion and tolerance, and show the world what can be done. This is an opportunity for us to lead by example.
On a global scale, I think we are seeing the end of an Empire. They all fall eventually and maybe it’s just America’s turn. Putin’s Russia is on the rise, and western Europe will be cut loose if Trump’s America is no longer an ally. Maybe it will force us out of the well of complacency we’re been floating in. Maybe it is time for a new world order, but all I see is extremism and that is worrying.
It is really hard to be optimistic on a day like today but I’m going with this quote: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. - Julian of Norwich
Liz Nugent’s debut novel Unravelling Oliver won the 2014 Crime Novel of the Year and her current novel, Lying in Wait is currently nominated in two categories for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards.
I’m in New York. It’s in mourning. Sanitation trucks are parked in front of the Trump tower presumably to stop attacks but a fine metaphor spelling out the poisonous garbage that we have woken up to. Not since 9/11 have such toxins filled the air here in this great democratic island. The great critic IA Richards wrote: “what is required in civilisation is an improvement of response -– and the degradation, the lowering of response, is the only calamity”. Trump has lowered all the moral response bars . Calamitous times.
I stayed up watching and then when it started to happen I stared to panic – truly panic – cold skin, short breath, gut terror, so switched off but was wakened early by calls from Europe. All my friends who knew I was here ringing, reaching out, verifying that it had actually happened here. We are stunned, like zombies, arms dangling. The stupidity of it, the sheer stupidity.
I can find no solace – Trump is literally not of a mind to employ intelligent moral people to advise him.
Polly Devlin is a writer and broadcaster
For the past few weeks, a line from Frank O’Connor’s translation of Aodhagan O Rathaille’s poem Cabhair Ni Ghoirfeadh has been running through my head: “No matter what be trumps, their knave shall beat our king” (or queen, if you like).
What has happened in America is a victory for xenophobia, illiberalism, philistinism and sexism. It feels like Brexit all over again, to the power of ten.
It is a dark moment in the history of the West.
Patricia Craig is an author and critic
Katherine A Powers
Like most people who live on the Northeast and West coasts of the United States, I am stunned by Donald Trump’s victory. I was no fan of Hillary Clinton to say the least, but was so sure that she would win that I had laid $60 on that outcome. The unexpectedness and size of Trump’s victory make it clear that many people were keeping their intention to vote for him secret-and who could blame them for not wishing to be counted in the “basket of deplorables”--as Hillary styled them in her highhanded, contemptuous manner. Indeed, her failure owes much to that manner. She never honestly addressed the state of decay, joblessness, and despair which deforms great swaths of the country, a condition which many perceive as being the direct result of the neo-liberal policies that have held sway since Bill Clinton’s presidency. Hillary’s cosy and lucrative relationship with the financial industry, her mealy-mouthed rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“as it stands”), her smoke-and-mirrors approach to a federal minimum wage, and her silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline are among the damaging expressions of this outlook. Her chances were also blighted by the fact that details of the next year’s medical insurance plans come out in October and many went up in cost as much as 70%, shining a lurid light on the Democratic Party’s nurturing friendliness towards insurance companies. It may be that some voters rejected Clinton because of her appetite for foreign intervention, but I would say that economic factors and the sense of impotent rage they kindled, the desire to tear down the house, were key, and this Trump capitalized on. He is a bully and a blowhard, possessing not a shred of decency-for which many Americans have developed a taste, thanks to reality TV. He has whipped up racial hatred and xenophobia in the grand old American style-as well as misogyny, another American staple. Bernie Sanders would have beaten him, as would Joe Biden. But the Democratic National Committee and most of the mainstream media wanted Clinton, mistaking their own interests and desires for reality and their ridicule and scolding of their opponents for persuasion. It is impossible to imagine what a Trump presidency will be like-except for embarrassing us before the world. One good thing is that he will have little power as he has no experience in government and has no allies to speak of in Congress. He’ll be playing with the big boys and they play a very deep game.
I would like to recommend two pieces of writing pertinent to this ghastly situation, neither of which will bring succor, but both explain a lot. James Parker’s brilliant, over-the-top essay in the October, 2016 issue of The Atlantic magazine: “Donald Trump, Sex Pistol” (“For Trump to be revealed as a salvational figure, the conditions around him must be dire. Trumpism-like fascism, like a certain kind of smash-it-up punk rock-begins in apprehensions of apocalypse.”)
The other is Thomas Frank’s excellent new book Listen Liberal: or whatever happened to the party of the people (Scribe, UK). His general outlook is expressed in this Guardian piece.
Katherine A Powers is a life-long Democrat. She grew up in Minnesota and Ireland and now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she writes about books. She is on the Board of the National Book Critics Circle and is the editor of Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life - The Letters of JF Powers, 1942-1963
All day yesterday it looked like snow. Like the sky was too heavy for people to bear. Brexit taught me that, whoever wins, the release of hatred and suspicion does not dilute. So even if Clinton took the Electoral College, the well of democracy was already poisoned. We had all lost and I wanted to record that.
I also spent three years working on Capitol Hill but never with one party controlling both Houses of Congress and the Presidency. With the Supreme Court tending Republican, there is no constitutional check on Trump’s power. That may be the most profoundly unAmerican aspect to this debacle.
8th November, 2016
Something made us smaller today,
pushed under scudding bulletins.
TV polls predict a humbling.
You can already see the landslide
burying light behind the eyes
that sell us flat whites and pastries.
You can nose out the rot of hope
in burger bars and betting shops
where we snack out on fat and luck.
Even the bus-stop tastes of Trump
here in my newly foreign land.
In other news they forecast snow.
We’re just grateful for the blanket.
Mark Fiddes launched his first full collection The Rainbow Factory (Templar Poetry) last month at the Dromineer Literary Festival
Despite Slavoj Žižek’s assurances that a Trump victory makes the world a safer place for us all, and other friends on the left who see it as damaging neoliberalism, I don’t feel it easy to run off a ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ list. If I did, number one on it would be Michelle Obama: please God let her consider running next time! Number two would be the same as number one and so on but eventually I return to the fact that we have to be if we are to be useful to defending what is important to us in our society. I know nothing comes across as quite so irritatingly glib as enjoining Gramscian willed optimism on the demoralised on occasions like this, but a text I think that acknowledges the difficulty of achieving this is Unamuno’s short story about Saint Emmanuel, the unbelieving priest who continued his ministry because of its importance to his remote village flock at a practical as much as a spiritual level. Unamuno was an interesting figure for the interesting times we live in and I fear they are only going to get more interesting.
Ian Duhig’s latest book of poems ‘The Blind Roadmaker’ has been shortlisted for the Roehampton, Forward and TS Eliot Poetry Prizes
I thought I was good with change. I actually thought I thrived on new experiences. Then, the World threw the last twelve months at me: Brexit, brutal cuts to the arts budget, Bowie, Rickman and Elie Wiesel, terrorist atrocities occurring with frightening regularity in places I’ve actually visited, BHS closing its doors and politicians passing the buck even more frequently than usual. And now, this morning, the devastating news that Donald Trump is to be the next American President. It seems like the bad guys can actually win, like lying pays and everything won’t automatically turn out alright in the end. I am more than a little fearful about the future.
I spent four of the most formative years of my life in Portland, Oregon. I arrived as a reader and, nurtured and challenged by the city’s vibrant artistic community, left, an established writer. I know just how inspiring and kind and inclusive America can be. At best it is a country built on the notion that anything and anyone is possible. I am a better person because of the possibilities it offered me. This morning it feels as if a large, restrictive wall has come down on the American possible. If Trump’s rhetoric is realised America will no longer be a country which champions equality, freedom and diversity. The powerful will become more powerful, the vulnerable downtrodden and diversity of all kinds, repressed and vilified. It would be naïve to believe the rest of the World won’t feel the repercussions. It is almost impossible not to feel overwhelmed this morning, or inclined to spend the next decade in bed, waiting for the World to turn itself off and on again at the source. I’m finding it difficult to write anything or even harbor the hope that I’ll want to write again. What could words possibly achieve when everything feels as if it’s falling apart? What is expected of a writer when it seems as if there’s nothing solid left to lean upon?
This year it has been difficult to write well in the space between despair and honesty. Hope seems somewhat trite, enthusiasm exhausting. Yet I know, as all writers know, that the only thing we’re really good for is writing. We write in difficult times and we write in easier times. We write because we don’t know what else to do with our hands. We don’t write to make meaning out of meaninglessness or sense in the absence of sense. We just tell it as honestly as possible in our own words. Then, we give the words room to breathe. Sometimes, but not always, they help. They comfort or challenge or tell it slant enough to allow room for empathy. As Flannery O’Connor, more eloquently puts it, “if the writer hopes to reveal mysteries, he will have to do it by describing truthfully what he sees from where he is.” Today is a day for mourning. Tomorrow we start writing again.
Jan Carson is a writer based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her first novel, Malcolm Orange Disappears was published by Liberties Press in 2014, followed by a short story collection, Children’s Children in 2016. Her flash fiction anthology, Postcard Stories, is forthcoming from the Emma Press in 2017
I confess to bursting into tears when I saw the results in the early hours; not a particularly mature response, I accept. But I felt suddenly helpless. That a campaign so utterly rooted in hate, in misogyny, racism and greed, should succeed in what purports to be the world’s greatest democracy, makes me terribly frightened for the future. At best, it’s a huge backward step for the US, at worst it could lead to further chaos and instability world-wide.
On a personal level, I felt sad too for a friend who dreaded having to tell her three daughters the result when they got up for school this morning. What kind of a world awaits them with someone like Donald Trump at the helm? Someone who has invited the world to admire his own daughter’s body?
I think the American writer Barbara Kingsolver got it right when she said that ‘If anyone still doubts that the inexperienced man gets promoted ahead of the qualified woman, you can wake up now’. But she also said, ‘No one really imagines Donald Trump applying himself to the disciplines of presidency, staying up late reading reams of legislation, instead of firing off juvenile tweets.’
So maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is: who will really wield power?
Andrea Carter the author of Death at Whitewater Church and Treacherous Strand.
At the Edinburgh Book Festival in August 2000, Norman Mailer was asked who would win the upcoming American presidential election, to be fought between the Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. My recollection is that the veteran writer replied that the winner would be Bush, simply because the American people would only trust someone who ‘looks comfortable in his chair’. He was right: Bush’s second-hand presidential moves and third-hand cowboy movie shtick helped him to edge that election, and the next one too. Mailer’s apparently throwaway statement still resonates.
Donald Trump’s chaircraft had been established on the Apprentice TV show, where he sat in a thronelike leather office chair pretending to order wannabe entrepreneurs around. He subsequently marketed a variety of Trump-branded chairs in association with office-supply company Staples. During the election campaign he made himself at home by wandering across the stage during one ‘town hall’ presidential debate looking like, well, a pyjama-clad billionaire mooching around his penthouse in the middle of the night trying to remember which one of his fridges he left the ice cream in. I thought the effect of his perambulations was deeply unnerving, creepy, but maybe he instinctively knew that many people - those who believed he spoke to them directly and who cheered his words and violently policed his rallies - wouldn’t care? That all they wanted to hear was that he was a political outsider. That he would bring back the industry that once made them great. And they liked that he was profane and offensive. That he was, on some level, one of them. White like them. That he said Mexicans and African-Americans and Muslims were criminals. That he was for guns and against abortion. That he had nothing to do with the years of Obama, and that he would, in fact, attempt to overturn Obama’s legacy. That he would bring the troops home and keep them there. That he said his opponent was crooked. That he told them he would send her to prison. That, unlike his opponent, he was not a woman, and not a Democrat. (And if he harassed women, what of it?) And when you heard these things maybe you could believe that a rough, unfinished, poorly realised sketch - a joke of a candidate who didn’t seem to care that much either way - was better than what you had been getting for the last eight years. And why wouldn’t you trust him? He could sit in his chair and look like he hadn’t a thought in his head, while Hillary Clinton always seemed to have something on her mind.
Karl Whitney is the author of Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin (Penguin)
At 44, I’m too young to be saying this but I nonetheless find myself seriously doubting the wisdom of democracy. I accept that Fine Gael deserved to be whipped for its useless election campaign in February. I accept the Brexit vote, albeit bearing in mind that this was the same electorate that had bestowed the name ‘’Boaty McBoatface” on the new £200 million British Antarctic Survey research vessel in a public poll three months earlier. And, much as I deplore the man, I accept that Mr Trump will be the next US President. Taken together, these results do adhere to the notion of Democracy being the “rule of the commoners”, as conceived by the Greeks 2500 years ago. However, as the Greeks later worked out, humans are a notoriously stupid species, prone to going around and around in circles like the Earth to the Sun. Despite the immense efforts of many, we also seem to have an immortal instinct for cruelty that resurfaces time and again, in all walks of life. I can’t see Trump’s America being anything other than cruel, scary, disunited, divisive and ultimately depressing. That said, the one good thing about George W Bush’s administration was that his circus came complete with cowboys like Donald Rumselfd and Dick Cheney, ensuring people like me had a proper cabinet of made-for-TV baddies to loath. I’ve no notion who Mr Trump’s privy council will comprise of but, having beheld his name in those massive letters on the Trump Tower in Chicago last month, I fear his villainous credentials will, at the very least, provide first-rate source material for another decade of Marvel superhero movies. Bring on the aliens, say I.
Quote: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ? Isaac Asimov.
Uplifting Books: The Flashman Papers by George McDonald Fraser, to lose yourself in a 19th century world that, believe it or not, was arguably madder than ours.
Turtle Bunbury’s new book, 1847 - A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity & Savagery is published by Gill
At a poetry festival I attended in New York’s Irish Arts Centre last weekend, there was talk about, in this order: the Chicago Cubs; the unnaturally warm weather; the upcoming election.
The locals were sick of the latter topic. We visitors to New York were most struck by the ferocity of the tv ads, which punctuated the Cubs game and the news and weather channels. They felt completely unreal, like a spoof on talk radio, or from a WWF wrestling set-up.
Watching the candidates pulverise their opponents, it was clear that their teams seemed to credit the fact that voters would, in Christopher Hitchen’s phrase, “prefer insincerity to no sincerity at all.” And Trump’s apparent certainty and aggression had left no one any room for manoeuvre. Such bullyboy tactics can fill no one with hope.
In my hotel on 52nd Street, it was all too possible to read into this moment Auden’s first great New York poem, September 1st, 1939, or to hear again the silence imagined by Frank O’Hara’s The Day Lady Died, or the church-attending atheist of Daisy Fried’s No God in Us But Song, but then there’s Robert Frost.
Frost wrote a poem for John F Kennedy’s inauguration. Who will write the inauguration poem for Donal Trump? Maybe someone will recite his poem, Mending Wall, as a caution about what happens to such controlling, ignorant figures: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” that poem begins, “That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, / And spills the upper boulders in the sun.” And here’s Frost’s image of the poem’s wall-building maniac:
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
John McAuliffe is a poet, lecturer and critic
Winston Churchill said in 1947: ‘Democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’ Its superiority has been sorely tried in recent months: first the Brexit referendum, and now the election as American President of a lying, foul-mouthed, racist, sexist bully, Donald Trump. His obnoxiousness has been put in stark relief by following into the White House the graceful, broad-minded liberalism of Barack and Michelle Obama. Is the flaw in the particularly complicated variety of democracy used in American presidential elections? We can’t just blame that system which, after all, gave us Obama and Jimmy Carter and FDR. So we have to stick with it, for the time being through gritted teeth. Or we can blame ‘reality TV’, that classic antonym for a pretence that stupidity and aggression is what real people believe in as an ideal of behaviour.
So where can we turn for comfort? For an unlikely comparison to the graceless Trump, we might remember Tom and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby: ‘They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.’ It is not a great stretch of the imagination to see Trump breaking the nose of one of his sexual conquests, as Tom does; he favours violent threats as an oratorical device and torture as a method of detection. The comparison indeed is hard on the Buchanans, but ‘vast carelessness’ is a good phrase for the ugly, pathological self-interest of Trump.
In our own times, Gary Shteyngart’s 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story is a New York dystopia which fits the Trump world: Wikipedia says ‘In the background of what appears to be a love story that oscillates between superficiality and despair, a grim political situation unravels. America is on the brink of economic collapse, threated by its Chinese creditors. In the meantime, the totalitarian Bipartisan government’s main mission is to encourage and promote consumerism while eliminating political dissidents.’ A text for our times indeed!
Bernard O’Donoghue is a poet and Oxford University academic. His latest work is The Seasons of Cullen Church
There’s obviously a seismic gap between our perception of Donald Trump and the perception of the millions of people who voted for him because they think he will bring about changes that will make their lives better. They must not have heard the things we heard him say - about women, for example - because we know that women voted for him in droves. Maybe the big mistake was referring to those people as ‘deplorables’, because democracy is, or should be, about recognising that every citizen matters and - crucially - making citizens feel that their lives and their participation matter. Rightly or wrongly, this narrative of disempowerment, alienation, despair and rage feels similar to the one we heard during the Brexit referendum. Who is feeling those emotions in Ireland right now? Who’s about to step out of the shadows and harness them?
What genuinely terrifies me are the parallels between what seems to be happening in world politics and the rise of the right in Europe in the first half of the last century. But we have absolutely no right to be smug: we deplore the rise of xenophobia and intolerance across the world, but what about Direct Provision? And how many Syrian refugees have we actually welcomed or supported to date? If we think truth, objectivity and reason are casualties of this election we need to look at our own record in those areas. When are our politicians ever held to account for breaking populist election promises or for abandoning their own (previously clearly stated) principles for the sake of holding on to power?
Quote: From My Name is Lucy Barton (Elizabeth Strout):
‘It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it’s the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.’ 95
Lia Mills writes fiction and literary non-fiction. Her most recent novel, Fallen, was the Dublin/Belfast Two Cities One Book selection for 2016
We spent the twentieth century trying to escape the embrace of barbarism, demagoguery, tyranny, xenophobia and all manner of other miseries that flowed from extreme political ideologies of both the left and right. We managed. We escaped. Sort of. It was an imperfect world that was fashioned when the values of the ideologues of the left and right were shown the door but it was a better world than the world they had created.
Now, fresh in to the twenty first century, we see the right and its values and especially its emphasis on narrow nationalist self-interest and its intolerance of the other, any kind of other, of Syrians, of asylum seekers, of members of the LBGT community, of socialists, of climate change campaigners, of Mexicans, of women, of EU enthusiasts, of judges, the list is long, far longer than I have expressed here, are in the ascent in countries as varied as India, Hungary, Poland, the United Kingdom, and now, with the election of Donald Trump, the United States of America.
When I look at what is happening the writer to whom I turn is Antonio Gramsci (1891 - 1937), Italian writer, politician, political theorist, founding member and one-time leader of the Italian Communist party who of course was imprisoned by Mussolini’s Fascist regime, and particularly this often quoted but still all to relevant observation which remains as pertinent today as it was in 1930 when Gramsci first expressed it:
‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born: in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’
We are living in the age, I believe, of morbid symptoms and those symptoms have expressed themselves politically by the re-embrace of the right wing extremism we thought we had largely derogated from and which various elections and especially Trump’s have confirmed we have not derogated from. What has been re-embraced will not make the world
better: it will make it worse and one reason why that is so, as we need to remember, is that Trump is not the leader of a campaign but a movement, a right-wing movement and movements are inimical to compromise. But then of course I would say that wouldn’t I? I am not of the right. I am of the other persuasion.
My mood is low but for consolation again I turn to. Gramsci. On
19 December 1929, he wrote in a letter from prison, ‘I am a pessimist because of intelligence but an optimist because of will,’ a phrase which has sometimes been re-stated as the mantra, ‘Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will’, meaning the preferred position of the beleaguered progressive or liberal must be to see the world as the dark place it is yet to hope nonetheless that it can be improved, it can be better. The light can be let in. So my intelligence is signalling the situation is dire but my will is trying to stay optimistic.
(Gramsci’s phrase has sometimes been attributed to Romain Rolland but I believe it was Gramsci’s.)
Carlo Gébler is a writer and prison teacher. His most recent book is The Wing Orderly’s Tales is published by New Island
I wonder what Barack and Michelle Obama were thinking as they sat on their couch last night and watched their two terms of arduous work handed over to the most unworthy of successors? It seems like a long eight years since we saw them step out into a blue night in Chicago with their message of hope. Among all the fancy graphics served up on our tv screens this election night, there was one graph missing and that was the one that monitors the state of humanity. For a while there, it was possible to believe that human civilisation was moving towards a place of greater kindness and decency. The unfathomable tragedy of Syria alone would be enough to give the lie to that notion. So might Brexit. Now America has elected a demagogue who held the day by feeding the anger and fear of many millions of Americans and turning it to his own ends. As I watched Donald J. Trump and his motley crew bask in the cheers of a rapturous crowd in New York this morning, I felt none of my usual craving to feast on the big story. I felt only sadness, and a curling inwards. The desire to hold family and friends close. To seek solace in beautiful things. To restore my faith in humanity, I sought out Ben Watt’s sweet voice singing “The Night I heard Caruso Sing.”
“It’s time to hold your loved ones while the chains are loose and the world runs wild.”
Kathleen MacMahon is the author of This is How it Ends and The Long Hot Summer
I thought Trump had so repetitively disqualified himself and on so many different agendas that he was unelectable. I have always believed that election night broadcasting and its capacity to engage young voters helps to embed democratic values. But on this occasion a candidate who approached the election, as if it were a television game show, proved to be the winner.
If one considers the president as a role model for young Americans, then the support enjoyed by Trump result must be considered a disaster. Instead of electing the first woman as president, the country has voted for a chauvinist bully whose locker-room language about women rendered him unworthy of the office. His victory has diminished and coarsened American politics. One must hope that the party of Abraham Lincoln will recognise his limitations and move to save their party from Trumpism - whatever that might be.
One regrets that Richard Hofstadter is no longer with us to add a chapter on Trump to his political masterpiece, The American Political Tradition. How he would have relished the copy which Trump has strewn in the path of any biographer.
John Bowman is a broadcaster and historian. His latest book , Ireland: The Autobiography, has just been published
For the past fortnight the weather in Washington has been in full Fall fig. But today, the morning after the night before, it’s raining. That’s only the most trivial sign of the upheaval in political climate and ecology that has taken place. Of course, it’s a turn of events that hasn’t happened overnight. And it’s unlikely to consist of a few passing clouds, either. But although there’s no shortage of figurative language to suggest the character of this triumph of the American national id, it’s very hard to say what it amounts to, not least because not only has it been a developing event it still has to declare itself in deeds. These will be seen here in Washington in appointments, initiatives, laws and so on. But they will also be seen in how the society at large now regards itself. Will Washington’s lead - in deportations, the administration of justice, protection of rights (all central to the victorious candidate’s rhetoric) - that will be followed up locally in all the many desolate places whose citizens have chosen him as their saviour by even more rampant incivility, prejudice, and hate-thy-neighbour? The shift in the political base will no doubt be reflected in the moral base as well. The types of permission that the new president has unapologetically given himself in his life-long career of self-serving don’t exactly bode well for how his adherents may act on their own entitlement to getting whatever they want, by hook or by crook. So, it’s possible that the public scene will become more polarised, that is, scarier. Or that scariness - bullying, sexism, ignorance - will not so much invade our suburban street but the recent rising tide of it will keep lapping at the door, tainting all it touches. In this indifference to the possibility of the oft-mentioned desideratum of ‘a more perfect union’ we also have a political first. And as at home, nobody knows. It’s the uncertainty that’s corrosive. Does the new leader of the free world believe his own rhetoric? Or is the vision of society and the international order that he has expressed just what he figured he should say to pull the punters into his P.T. Barnum show of a campaign, featuring himself as the freak attraction, a moral and intellectual Tom Thumb? He has said he likes war and that the nuclear version is a kind of turn-on. Is this for real? Will the rest of the world shortly feel that here we have a power maniac who lives up to his conquering word - ‘I can onto her like a bitch’? America always tried, naively maybe but often in good faith, to show the world and itself its best profile. It’s depressing to think that in daily life, in the public realm, and in the larger world, that generosity of disposition will no longer appear quite so worthy of trust as it historically has been. And so, the year of surprises continues. Seven seas of ink have already been spilled trying to assess and explain not just Trump but the apparently equally ugly ‘ism’ at the back of him. Like it or not, though, Trumpism is a reality, never more so than this cloudy morning. Among the countless commentaries available, a really interesting and worthwhile diagnostician r is Mark Greif, whose recent book of essays, Against Everything, is a must for a long view (those interested might also check out N+1, the periodical he co-founded. And of the many articles I’ve seen, the picture by Larissa McFarquhar in the New Yorker of October 3 last of what sort of a genuinely living thing Trumpism is stays with me.
George O’Brien is a Professor Emeritus of English at Georgetown University, Washington, DC
It was the economy, stupid, not racism and misogyny, nor glass ceilings. This year I taught a class of adults from Springfield, Massachussets, once a prosperous industrial city, now destroyed by unemployment, poverty, drugs and hopelessness. My students were hurt and angry, and Sanders supporters to a man - but they also made it clear that they would never vote for Hillary Clinton, the Wall St-loving creature of the Democratic establishment, with her sense of privilege and entitlement. She had nothing to offer, yet she was imposed on them by an elite. Therefore, Trump’s victory doesn’t seem unexpected to me, despite the endless New York Times editorials telling me it was impossible. Trump is a populist focussing that anger on the Other, a Messianic figure promising things he can’t deliver: America will not be great again, nor will it be white again. I suspect American society is robust enough to survive Trump - it survived Nixon, Reagan and Bush. I am more concerned about his knock on effect in Europe and its growing right wing populist movements and its real problems with immigration and Islam. No wonder Marine Le Pen is laughing. At moments like these I always reach for Louis MacNeice’s great poem Autumn Journal, written in 1938, that moment between a calamity and a catasthrophe:
‘And we think ‘This must be wrong, it has happened before,
Just like this before, we must be dreaming.’
Michael O’Loughlin is a poet and critic.
As a child on the streets of Limerick, I often had to fill in for Gary Cooper in High Noon. I grew up wanting to be a cowboy. America, through its movies, inculcated ideas of self-reliance and moral rectitude in me. The vastness of the plains, the size of the cities, allowed us, the children born after WW2, to imagine a world bigger and more colourful than the grey streets of Ireland. And when I finally got to visit, it was everything I hoped, warm and welcoming.
Today I feel I have lost an old friend. I don’t blame anyone. It’s too sad a day for blame. I would rather take the stance of a lady who has gone way up in my estimation; this was Angela Merkel’s message to Donald Trump - “Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position,” she added. “On the basis of these values, I offer the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation.” That this message comes from Germany should give everyone hope. If only Enda Kenny was strong enough to say the same.
The American people are afraid. It is pointless asking ‘what’ or ‘why’ or ‘who,’ fear mutates in everyone it touches and makes idiots of us all. Donald Trump knows this better than most. I have friends in America who are decent people, in that old-fashioned sense of the word. They will have their day.
Ron Carey is a Limerick-born poet. His debut collection Distance was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection 2016
My husband, a US citizen, has been staring at his laptop in stunned silence. My sister, who lives in France, just emailed that she is looking into getting French citizenship so she can vote against Le Pen when it’s France’s turn. The west has taken a wrong turn, and it’s hard to know what to do about it.
Like many others, my first thought was how to explain it to our kids. How do you tell your seven year old boys that America has chosen an ignorant, vulgar man for its leader, whose ‘special power’ is the manipulation of baser human instincts? It’s not what they look for in their super-heroes. Even harder is waking our teenage girl to tell her that American men and women have elected a president who brags about sexually assaulting women. Stay indoors forever, I want to tell her, and don’t bother with all that education stuff, because some thick boy, with his hands down his trousers -- and hers, if he feels like it -- will always get the job.
We need to find new responses to these new levels of sexism and misogyny, and racism, and all the other expressions of hatred that Donald Trump represents. We need to figure out what tools to use to dismantle what he and his ilk are creating, because the ones we’ve been using just aren’t working.
I’m naturally optimistic, but today, I’m struggling. For solace, and maybe some creative solutions, I’ve turned to Julia Kristeva’s book, Strangers to Ourselves. For Kristeva, writing in France in the early nineties, the antidote to xenophobia, racism, and other weapons against outsiders is to recognise that “the foreigner is within us.” She argues powerfully for a radical examination of self, beginning with the realisation that what is moest fearful to us in the stranger may be the very quality we do not want to recognise in ourselves. Only through this reconciliation with our estranged self. . . can we begin to give fair treatment to others. (from cover blurb)
Paula McGrath is the author of Generation. Her second novel, A Difficult History, is forthcoming in 2017. She is a doctoral student in the Department of English at the University of Limerick
Donald Trump is a liar, a bully and a preacher of hate. I feel like running off somewhere beautiful and remote like the Great Blasket, but if he becomes the most powerful man on the planet we will all be in danger, wherever we are. Yet when I kissed my children before school this morning I told them not to be afraid. The world is better than this, I said. People are better than this. As Desmond Tutu says, love is stronger than hate. I hope that is true.
The people of the Great Blasket thought of America as the next parish west and like the rest of Ireland they sent their beloved sons and daughters there. They prized hard work, fairness, community and generosity of spirit, putting them at odds with the new president. I honestly think they would have wanted to throw Donald Trump into the sea.
Lines from The Second Coming by WB Yeats came to mind as soon as I heard the news.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
To misquote Prince, tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1939. For those who are irony free, I mean we have no occasion to party at all. WH Auden wrote of what feels like a similar moment in September 1, 1939, declaring himself “uncertain and afraid” as he sat in a dive on 52nd Street, but his last lines urge us anyway to show an affirming flame.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Cole Moreton is the author of Hungry for Home (Penguin) and two other books, as well as a journalist and broadcaster for the Mail on Sunday and BBC Radio 4. www.colemoreton.com
There’s no rush on my day’s work to-day, the world has gone back a century and a half, without any of the civility of that time. And we share it with some strange people. They cannot claim ignorance, as many did in England and Wales when they got caught up in the Tory cockfight that plunged Britain into its own particular conundrum. The Republican Party in the USA has foisted this man upon us. The voters knew what he is. From the very beginning he has been proud of his ignorance, his racism. He made the crudest forms of misogyny his very own and so gave widespread licence to that particular brand of hatred. But remember the numbers who voted against him. I will return today to the writers that I read in the 1970s and 1980s, because, from the point of view of women, rest assured that is where we are. But with added voice rights for the vulgar ignoramus coming well out from the corner to-day. In particular I will look at the American writers who had optimism while also naming the truth, among them Tillie Olsen and Toni Cade Bambara. I will search out any poet who could name the meaning of bereft. I will ransack my library for mad feminists and their supporters - I have shelves upon shelves of them, some of them gone a bit dusty. While I’m at it I will take down the Civil Rights writers, the thinkers. And perhaps the Korean poet Ko Un. I will return to the real meaning of political correctness which was a wonderful ideal before it became an insult.
Evelyn Conlon researched widely in the US for her novel Skin of Dreams
“I always think,” said the poet Robert Lowell, “there are two great symbolic figures that stand behind American ambition and culture. One is Milton’s Lucifer and the other is Captain Ahab; those two sublime ambitions are doomed and ready, for their idealism, to face any amount of violence.”
Recommended reading ; Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
Harry Clifton’s The Holding Centre: Selected Poems 1974-2004 is published by Wake Forest University Press and Bloodaxe Books
As I listened with growing dread through the night I thought it is so important that in our reaction to Trump’s victory we do not descend into more hate, division and blame. Trump won because so many people felt ignored by the political establishment which they saw as a self-serving elite. Let us not put our energy into condemning millions of voters. Instead put our energy into standing up for peace and unity and human rights. We have to make the case for our shared humanity.
‘Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.’
Wilfred Owen Strange Meeting
Jane Lythell has written three novels published by Head of Zeus: The Lie of You, After The Storm and Woman of the Hour
As a life-long Democrat activist (from Boston mayoralty to Massachusetts Congressional & Senate and two US Presidential races) I’m absolutely gutted by Trump’s victory. However, it also pains me hugely to have had so little enthusiasm for Hillary – our first-ever woman Presidential candidate-whose Wall Street and armed warfare proclivities struck me as part & parcel of the multi-national corporate/industrial/military complex that arguably all but governs our globe.
The possibility that a billionaire reality show star-and paid up member of the 1% might strike such a resonant chord with the white, American working-class poor of the 99% may have escaped the US pollsters, but it’s an outcome American writer Neil Postman saw coming thirty years ago in his brilliant study of the American media Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985). We reap what we laugh at it seems, never mind needing a planet five times the size of our Earth to sustain our current lifestyles. Climate change is the elephant in the TV studio, but who’s to say Trump’s victory might not scramble the deck for a revolutionary change in our thinking and actions, and one last chance to see ourselves – whatever skin colour or creed – as sisters and brothers on the very same bus?
Boston-born Anthony Glavin is a novelist, short-story writer and critic
-For fuck sake.
-Did you ever think it would happen?
-He’d get elected.
-Trump – Donald fuckin’ Trump.
-What about him?
-Did yeh not see it?
-The election – last night.
-The American election – where were yeh? He’s after gettin’ elected.
-Trump – I told yeh.
-No, hang on – fuckin’ hang on. How long are yeh goin’ to keep goin’ on like this?
-Ah, Jesus - .
My quote might seem a bit facetious but it did strike me when I was listening to the news at lunch time:
‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.’
Dr Seuss – from Horton Hears a Who
Roddy Doyle is an award-winning author
A couple of friends have already told me they don’t know how they’re going to explain this to their children. Luckily for her, my daughter is too young to have any idea what’s happened, but I still can’t help trying to find the words I might offer her. Right now, this is the best I can do.
“There’ll be times in life when people will ask, ‘Who wants to be in charge?’ And it’s very easy to wait for someone else to put their hand up. But if too many good people do that, then you might end up with a nasty person in charge, someone who isn’t interested in helping at all, but just wants to boss people around and feel important. So when they ask who wants to be in charge, even if you don’t want to, even if you’re scared that you won’t know what to do, try saying, ‘Me, please!’ Then the other good people will see you, and maybe next time, they’ll do the same.”
Michael Hughes is the author of the novel The Countenance Divine. Originally from Keady in Northern Ireland, he now lives in London with his family
My latest project, a post-post-modern crime anti-thriller set on the clean streets of Dublin’s leafiest suburb, may well be a satire on neo-liberal capitalism. Difficult to tell. It does, however, being that sort of book, contain books within the book. Here, our hero or, if you will, anti-hero, picks a paperback from a box bound for Oxfam:
‘An American Toddler,’ said Hayden.
Bram nodded approval.
‘Good one,’ he grinned. ‘Three year old psycho. Little Charlton. Blows his mother away with her own gun. Can’t be held culpable at three. No charge. We’re talking land of the free here, right? So he starts popping other people’s mothers. Contract stuff. Screw you to the judge; he’s got the gun lobby behind him. Finished it a while back. I won’t spoil the ending for you.’ He gave it the thumbs up. ‘I think that cowboy actor fella’s directing the fillum. Next?’
After the election result I’m thinking of abandoning the clever stuff and writing the above. It’s got everything. Guns. The role of women in the free world. Clint Eastwood.
If you can’t wait for that, might I heartily recommend Leni Reifenstahl’s fascist propaganda film of the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, Triumph of the Will. Hitler as good guy. Like all the best comedy, it’s unintentional, and I think we may be slouching towards the colour version. Different cast, same story.
Ian Macpherson won the first London Time Out award for comedy. His one-man show, The Everlasting Book Tour, is intentionally funny. ianmacpherson.net
As it happened, I was in America on the eve of the election. I had gone over for the vow renewal ceremony of two dear friends. At the celebration dinner, I asked the people sitting at my table who they thought was going to win. This being a nice, liberal-minded group of guests, almost everyone thought Hillary would edge it. Two disagreed - a highly-educated, eloquent black woman and a gay man who had emigrated from Europe and made America his home for the last 15 years.
Looking back, I suppose I have drawn the dispiriting conclusion that those two people knew what it was to feel marginalised in their own country. They weren’t surprised by it. Depressed, yes, but not surprised. The election of Donald Trump as President (and even as I type those words, I flinch) was simply further evidence of the existence of certain ugly truths. These two people knew that a sizeable proportion of the American electorate would respond positively to a candidate whose rhetoric was a litany of misogyny, racism and homophobia.
That this candidate was up against the first female Presidential hopeful heaps further insult onto injury. Hillary Clinton had over 30 years experience in politics. Forget her gender for a minute: Clinton was one of the most qualified Presidential contenders of all time. And yet, here we are, left with a single horrible realisation: that America would rather vote in a man who has boasted about sexually assaulting women, a man who wants to build a wall to keep foreigners out, a man who refused to release his tax returns, who openly mocked the disabled, who condemned an entire religion, a man who believes that those who have undergone abortions should be punished, a man with no political experience, who made his name on a reality TV show and who actually managed to lose money while running a casino, America would rather vote this man into office than a woman.
So yes, I find the result of the American election profoundly disturbing. Not just because of what it means for the future of the free world, but because of how far we still have to go in stemming the bloody flow of sexism that gushes through the body politic. I had so much hope for Hillary. I had so much hope for women. Now, I worry for them - and for America and its divided future.
In these desperate times, I counsel some light relief. Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander centres around a family man discovering an elderly Anne Frank in his attic and is one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read. It’s also a raging polemic on the inescapability of history and the ambiguous nature of hope. Perfect for the Trump era.
Elizabeth Day is a journalist and author. Her latest book, Paradise City, is out now and published by Bloomsbury
It is tempting to believe that we are going through a cultural revolution in the West, probably a reaction to the economic crash of 2008, a loss of faith in the major parties.
Against that we also have the fact that the big crises of Brexit and Trump can be traced back also to gross mismanagement and ghastly mistakes made by political leaders who should have known better. The Democrats thought that Clinton would walk it, as Cameron had thought that the people would vote to stay in the EU so did not even plan for how a Brexit might be delivered.
They could have anticipated the mood of the country better, foreseen the outworking of poverty, anger and disillusionment, but they coasted through as if the crash hadn’t happened and they hadn’t major credibility problems.
I am worried. The writer who impressed me most after the result was David Remnick of the New Yorker who described the Trump victory as ‘a sickening event’ that one could only respond to with ‘revulsion and profound anxiety’.
When the best minds of the US have been saying for months that Trump was unfit for pubic office, we have an unprecedented situation of a president taking office with good and wise people having no faith in him.
He is a buffoon and now he is a dangerous buffoon but he’s the boss.
Previous presidents have been worrying and dangerous too, but never has there been one that was opposed on the grounds that he was a morally obtuse and intellectually inadequate.
The fear now is that this is a seismic shift in western political consciousness, a rebound against the liberal baby boomers and their failure to grasp the importance of identity the fear of the Other. And we now look with greater apprehension to how the Right will fare in France and Germany.
With a bit of luck he will crash against his own idiocy, blunder so badly that he gets impeached without doing too much damage first.
Then those who are mature political thinkers, capable to calculation and insight, will have to find ways to give people much of what they put their hopes in this monstrous man to achieve.
Malachi O’Doherty is the author of a forthcoming biography of Gerry Adams. He has published six other books, including works of memoir and histories of the Northern Ireland Troubles, like The Trouble With Guns and The Telling Year
1. I understand why working class voters supported Trump. Had I been in their position I would have been tempted to do the same - as a protest against the inequities of the form of capitalism that now prevails in the west.
2. The demonization of Trump has to stop now - otherwise he will surely turn into the devil. A Trump presidency is not the apocalypse or the end of American liberal democracy or, even, a new era of protectionism and isolationism. Like all presidencies, Trump’s will be constrained by political and economic realities.
3. Trump’s presidency could be hugely disruptive and destabilising of international order but let’s wait and see what happens. His policy and action may be less radical than his rhetoric. His acceptance speech was a good sign in that respect.
4. One good thing that may come from a Trump presidency is an American rapprochement with Russia and a diminution of Russian-Western conflicts. In what could become an unpredictable and uncertain world politics the west will need Putin as a partner more than ever.
5. Trump’s victory will be welcomed by public opinion in Russia but I doubt that is a consensus view among the policy-making elite. I suspect that among wise-heads in Moscow Trump is viewed as an unreliable ally.
6. Personally, I won’t be betting against Marine Le Pen winning the French presidency next year. If that happens then it surely means the end of the EU as we know it.
7. The combination of Trump and Brexit will be hugely challenging for Ireland. A colleague of mine predicts that its negative economic impact will compel Ireland to leave the EU within a decade. Like most of the rest of us his predictions about both Brexit and the US elections were wrong. He might be right this time, though.
Geoffrey Roberts is Professor of History at UCC and author of Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War 1939-1953
A chasm has opened at our feet and for the second time this year we see just how little control we have over our lives. It’s terrifying moment, waiting to see what happens next, knowing that anything that affects America will affect us. Will all the hard-won victories won against racism and misogyny be totally swept away? Trump doesn’t even believe in climate change and his irresponsibility doesn’t stop there. Hitler and Stalin were something that happened in the dark days of history books, we just couldn’t imagine that we would find ourselves on that kind of page - yet a lying bigoted madmen is about to enter the most powerful office on the planet. A few weeks ago, Jill Pack, poet and activist brought this witty poem to my New Narrative Poetry class at the City Lit in Covent Garden. We thought the poem would be out-of-date in a short time as Trump became a footnote in history. How wrong we were.
Very bad news for gorillas
by Jill Pack
Holed up in the Zoological Gardens
1960s Guy, a private creature,
a leading man
for the gawping thousands -
intimidating kids like me
didn’t stop to wonder
what he made of us.
Now Sir David tells me
A gorilla is not a fish -
I mistook the bars for an aquarium.
Unwittingly Guy seeped into
the unconscious of some -
future leaders of the silverback troop,
and their hangers-on.
You know them -
they are a distinct breed,
suited, booted, sometimes knighted.
Why visit the zoo?
And now one of these hominids
is world leader, no less.
Martina Evans is a poet and novelist
Trump’s victory is a political tragedy. The most powerful democracy of our time has elected a fascist - a racist, misogynistic, islamophobic, homophobic oligarch - who will cut taxes for the mega-rich, repeal Obamacare, and aggravate global warming. I think three major factors explain his success: white supremacy, misogyny and class inequality. The picture just doesn’t make sense without any of those elements - as much as people will try to tell us it’s all about class, rich white people were more likely to vote Trump; as much as people will try to tell us it’s all about race, some of the whites who voted Trump were stalwart Obama supporters last time; and as much as people will try to tell us it’s all about gender, Trump wasn’t promising to build a wall to keep women in the kitchen (although maybe that’s coming). These issues are interrelated in complicated ways, and we on the left have to work through the internal contradictions of our movement so that we can fight on all three fronts. I don’t know if today is a day when I feel much equipped to offer solace or clarity. Perhaps I can issue a plea instead: do not be complacent - we are living in dangerous times.
Emer O’Toole is author of Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently and is Assistant Professor of Irish Performance Studies, School of Irish Studies, Concordia University
‘What a day it is!’
cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
as she spoke with their ancient misery:
‘We’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it!’
From Scotland by Alastair Reid
“I put lipstick on a pig.” In a recent New Yorker article, Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal regretted his part in Donald Trump’s success. The Art of the Deal sold by the truckload, made them both plenty of money, and essentially created the Donald-Trump-as-supreme-businessman myth. When Trump declared he was running for the presidency, he did so with the words, ‘We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal.’ I wish Tony Schwartz had run instead.
Yet, Trump winning isn’t what bothers me most right now (though it bothers me plenty). What is worrying me most today is the suspicion that, when alone in the hollow air of the ballot box, the choice came down to: the hair or the her. And people - millions of people! - decided that having a frog for president was preferable to having a woman. I hope that one day (and, please, can that day be absolutely no longer than four years’ from today) the choice will be between two equally great women, because only then can gender be removed from the decision. Doubtless, hair, make-up and pantsuits will have been pushed to fill the void left behind, but we’ll deal with them if we have to. When we have to.
Henrietta McKervey is the author of What Becomes of Us and The Heart of Everything
The wisest text about this disastrous election was written 102 years ago by Robert Frost.
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Joseph O’Connor is Frank McCourt Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick and is a founder of the UL/Frank McCourt Creative Writing Summer School, Glucksman House, New York University. He will be reading at the Dublin Book Festival this Saturday at 6pm at Smock Alley Theatre, with Colin Barrett, Tara Flynn and Mary O’Donnell, from Looking At The Stars, a limited edition anthology of Irish writing edited by Kerrie O’Brien which aims to raise €15,000 for the Rough Sleepers Team of the Dublin Simon Community.
As they say in Tibet, the earth has changed places with the sky. Or has it? The one glimmer of hope is that you cannot believe a word Trump says so he may not have meant anything he said during the course of the campaign. In the longer term given that he has stirred up so much fear and loathing, how are his supporters going to behave when they discover that their lives remain unchanged?
Chris Mullin is the author of Error of Judgment and Hinterland
I’ve long thought of America as a miracle. That population and geography, those differences and inequalities, present a recipe for anarchy and yet, somehow, it works. It works because of good people, doing good work.
I hesitate to think of Trump’s as a ‘victory’. What’s happened has sullied anything noble that might be associated with that word. But even in such terrifying darkness as the prospect of the next four years we must hope, and a reason to hope resides in the good people of America, people we all know, who share their gifts in small and large ways.
Almost a century ago Hemingway wrote in A Farewell to Arms (well, we may dream) of people who were ‘strong in the broken places’. I will count now on that strength to prevail.
Let people read and listen to Wendell Berry.
Peter Fallon’s collection of poems, Strong, My Love appeared in 2014. He has recently completed Deeds and Their Days (after Hesiod)
Exactly eight years ago, I travelled to Boston where my friend Una told me a story. Every morning, out walking, she’d meet the same people: joggers, fellow-walkers. Usually they avoided eye-contact, as city-people do. One jogger was a tall African-American. The day Obama became President, this man met Una’s eyes and they smiled at each other. This encounter might read as twee, but it was real. A celebration, but also a representation of what America had appeared to choose in electing Obama. My grandmother was in her twenties when Hitler came to power in Germany. Her sister was a physiotherapist; their set were smart professionals. They laughed at Hitler, called him a ‘buffoon’. I’m aware this analogy might seem exaggerated - the very thing the President-elect would decry as liberal media twaddle or ‘female’ hysteria. All morning I’ve been crying: the ‘hysteria’ diagnosis must be right. It’s easy to hate on a day like this. But Trump isn’t the problem. The problem is that so many people voted for him, like so many voted for Hitler. What do you do with that fear, that hate? Here’s a letter of love and hope by Zen practitioner Russell Delman, who spent last week in Auschwitz.
Mia Gallagher’s latest novel is Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland (New Island, 2016), recently longlisted for the inaugural Republic of Consciousness prize. She is guest editor of the Stinging Fly’s special ‘Fear & Fantasy’ issue
In the year 523 the Roman Senator and consul Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, now customarily known as Boethius, fell from high office after being accused of treason. During a period of imprisonment he composed a long text in which, through dialogue with an imaginary figure called Lady Philosophy, he examined his altered situation and what it might teach him. His conclusions remain relevant to the modern reader because Boethius proposes that nothing in our lives should be taken for granted, that our circumstances can change with astonishing rapidity, that happiness and wealth are transitory, and that however reluctantly we must accept the inexorability of change.
Donald Trump’s election demonstrates the same truths, unpalatable as many will find them. Along with other events over the past decade, not least the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, Mr Trump’s elevation to the highest office in the United States shows change ought not to be confused with progress. Change is inevitable: progress is not. Our inclination is to muddle the two, with disheartening consequences. One has only to look at what has happened across the Middle East since the 1970s to see how easy it is for progress to falter and then fail. The same can occur in any other part of the globe: history is replete with examples of once-powerful and sophisticated civilizations falling. This is change without progress. Accordingly when gains are made they must never be taken for granted because, as Boethius declared, fortune is mutable and we cannot hold back ‘the impetus of her rolling wheel.’ It is a mistake to assume wheels only move forward.
Boethius’ ultimate consolation lay in recognising both the impermanence of good fortune, and the necessity to cultivate our own goodness since unlike almost everything else the latter cannot be taken away from us. He needed that wisdom since after a year in gaol he was condemned and summarily executed.
Robert O’Byrne is a writer specialising in the fine and decorative arts, and blogs at theirishaesthete.com
I have never been as distressed by the result of any election as I am today. Trump’s triumph, overwhelmingly the result of white votes both male and female, is a victory for explicit racism and misogyny in the form of a boorish ignorant fascist who behaves like a vapid, hateful child. His victory legitimises public hate and cruelty against marginalized people, and I fear for the mental and physical health of some of my American friends and their families. What to read in response? I first read Lion Feuchtwanger’s superb 1933 book Die Geschwister Oppermann 22 years ago as part of my German degree . The novel, which is available in English as The Oppermanns in a U.S. edition, begins in November 1932 and tells the story of a comfortable upper-middle class Jewish family in Berlin whose lives are steadily destroyed by the victory of a man most of them never took seriously until he became the most powerful person in the country. Feuchtwanger wrote it in 1933, almost in real time, and it has an incredible vividness unmatched in fiction. I wish I didn’t feel like rereading it now, but I do.
Anna Carey’s latest book is The Making of Mollie is published by the O’Brien Press
Trump and Brexit are twin sides of same coin - isolationist, xenophobic, and leading to the Balkanisation of the Euro-Atlantic community. Putin has scored two big wins with Brexit and Trump. Instead of celebrating Brexit Prime Minister May should unite the nation to have the least damaging form of Brexit so that Britain stands firm against the nationalist chauvinism now growing in strength.
Denis MacShane is a former Europe minister in Britain and author of Brexit: How Britain Left Europe
I’m trying like hell to look on the bright side. It will be a bonanza for Bunker builders, protest songwriters and anti-nausea tablet factories. I was about to add it will also be a great time for political cartoonists but actually this isn’t funny any more.
Poor old Willy Yeats. If only he were alive today he’d be raking in the royalties on all those quotes about rough beasts and slouching and terrible beauties and everything I’m sure loads of people will use those. But I’m going with Jerry Seinfeld:
“I’m just laughing [about] what he thinks being president is. ‘This company’s going to do that, you’re going to go over here. I can make other countries do whatever I say.’ It’s a kid’s image of being president. It’s like if you were ten, and they would make you president of your house, you would start ordering the dog around not realizing no one’s going to listen to you.”
Annie West is an illustrator and cartoonist. Her latest book is, ironically, titled What if? A chronicle of what might have been, published by New Island Books
On Tuesday, my seven-year-old son was drawing his plans for a Lego White House (the one you can buy in the shops isn’t big enough, apparently), complete with “a dungeon for Donald Trump.” This morning I got up wondering how I am going to explain, without frightening him, that Trump is the one who’ll be in charge of the dungeon. In the end I went to work and left it to my wife, which is the sort of leadership you’re going to have to get used to.
Remember Saparmurat Niyazov, the President of Turkmenistan until 2006? He’s the one who banned beards and car radios, had rotating gold statues of himself and renamed the months of the year after his family. It seems to me that we now have a man of that level of personal vainglory and unpredictability in the most powerful position in the world. And so we have a new high water mark for things that would be funny if they weren’t so frightening.
It has always been possible to see, even in US presidential candidates you disagree with, a sense of integrity and desire to do what they think is right for their country. There’s none of that in Trump, whose entire life has been a hungry pursuit of his own personal myth. I wonder why Trump’s supporters think he has changed and that he will do any of the things he promised to? Unfortunately, they are dragging us along the bumpy road with them to find out.
The quote that sprang most readily to mind this morning when the news broke is from Joseph Heller’s blackest of all comedies, Something Happened: “The world just doesn’t work. It’s an idea whose time is gone.” But let’s not be too defeatist - for light relief I am going to finally get around to reading Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, about a totalitarian US president who rises to power on populist promises of economic and social reforms. I’m pretty sure it’s going to have a happy ending. I’ll let you know in 2024.
John Self is a book reviewer. He lives in Belfast
People who know Donald Trump say he is not racist or misogynist, but what he says and does suggests otherwise. He is a dark master of TV and social media, his own personal burlesque, shocking in his utterances as our own dear Rubber Bandits - the difference being that their intention is purely satire. His victory speech sounds conciliatory, but can he really repair the fractured society whose divisions his campaign has deepened? If indeed he can bring some prosperity to the impoverished citizens of the trailer parks and work to the rust belt or “the battered heart of Chevrolet” as Leonard Cohen sang, that can’t be bad. Help could be forthcoming from the likes of Paul Ryan, current Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives. If, however, Trump holds with the extreme right, we’re fecked, as Fr. Jack was wont to utter in times of stress. When Ronald Reagan was elected, the thought of a B-Movie star in the highest office evinced widespread incredulity. Yet now his Presidency is looked on fondly by many Americans. With Trump - bearing in mind his words and behaviour thus far - we can only hope for the best while looking through our fingers in dread.
Poet Patrick Deeley’s memoir, The Hurley Maker’s Son, is on the shortlist of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards, 2016
I suppose the overriding emotion at the moment is a sense of anger at the US body politic - and specifically the Democratic party - for having allowed this to happen. What really rankles is the hubristic complacency of the Clinton campaign, which offered no vision, just a lot of platitudinous hot air. Its central plank was the loathsomeness of the rival candidate - in this respect it was even more negative than the Trump campaign, which at least had an economic message, however specious.
There’s been a lot of talk about demographics - about sex and race in particular - but it seems to me that the crux of the Trump phenomenon was really economic: what we’re seeing is the deindustrialisation policies of the 1970s and 80s coming home to roost. This is at the core of the decline of the centre-left in Europe too: recall that, in the UK, the strongest support for Brexit came in former industrial towns that had been neglected by decades of neoliberalism. (I have misgivings about using the term ‘centre-left’ to denote the Democrats, but it will have to do.) Let us see if Trump brings those manufacturing jobs back to the US. I doubt it, somehow.
So it’s important to see it, not as some kind of peculiarly American aberration, but as part of a broader trend within the Western world, of which the recent travails of the UK’s Labour party are just one example.
Whether Trump is really deserving of singular status when Presidents Reagan and Bush are still within living memory remains to be seen; if it turns out that he is, we will have to ask what it was about 2016 that enabled this to happen then, and not in the 80s, 90s or 2000s. What’s remarkable in many ways is that it’s taken this long for something like this to happen: the currents that the Trump campaign has so successfully harnessed - national chauvinism, racism, sexism, jingoism, militarism - have long been a deeply-entrenched part of U.S. culture. The potential was always there. One simple and tempting answer is that change takes time - that this is, in other words, the culmination of several decades’ worth of developments in the US political sphere: the stagnation and trivialisation of political discourse, the disenfranchisement - whether actual or perceived - of the white working class; the estrangement of the US body politic from its demos; etc etc.
Or, alternatively, I daresay Trump just got lucky: many of us went into November thinking Hillary somewhat fortuitous to find herself up against such a weak candidate, but in hindsight it was the other way around. One thing is for certain: the times called for something bolder than what Hillary had to offer - in this regard the unexpected popularity of the Bernie Sanders primary campaign was, in retrospect, signal.
What is in the offing, at any rate, is an attack on social democracy and liberalism the like of which the West has not seen in generations. And it will have global support: from Turkey, from Russia.
It is way too early to think about what happens next. Perhaps now would be a good time to put the Special Relationship to good use for once: a broad-based, grassroots movement, a transatlantic coalition of citizens against Anglo-American neo-fascism, would be a good place to start.
Houman Barekat is a literary critic, who reviews regularly for The Irish Times
Whether it’s the Soviet-syle hand clapping, the thumbs-up, the pursed lips or the hunched shoulders, Trump is a some hammy actor. This we know. What we don’t know, now hat’s he going to be the president of the USA, is who writes the script. The obsession of the media with the race cut out the necessary look back stage. But we’ll find out in January 2017. Trump gives voice to what a great Australia poet, Les Murray called, the vernacular republic. The pity of it all is that they have selected, in desperation perhaps, someone who will deliver nothing for them. The self-regarding elites surrounding this victory will ensure that nothing really changes on the ground. And that’s when the trouble might well start.
In a way this was on the cads for some time. The Tea Party, Sarah Palen, the rancour and toxic air space that is Fox News have been beating the ground for a decade and more. So the Democrats have to stand up and be counted and reinvigorate their party with a new and younger leadership. If Trump lasts a full term, the next time around can’t go down this route. It’s just too damaging for the democratic world, particularly with Russia up to its old mischief here, there and everywhere. I hope it all doesn’t end in grief . But then look back to the great novels of John Steinbeck and you’ll find enough faith in human kind to let this blip recede. That’s what I’m holding on to, at least - waving, not drowning.
Poet and Trinity College professor of English, Gerald Dawe has been a visiting professor at different universities in the US. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge. His books include Mickey Finn’s Air (Gallery) and Of War and War’s Alarms (Cork University Press)
This is an example of Extreme Balance: first the US elected a black man, then they elected a racist. Or a man who said racist things, who used racism as a campaigning tool. The point is that we don’t know if Trump believes anything that he says - he just wanted to win and said anything to make that happen. Look at his ‘let’s work together’ acceptance speech.
So now he has been elected there is huge uncertainty. Who knows what he will do?
For while Trump may not have meant what he said he has whipped up the feelings of hatred and frustration that could lead to a very dark place. Pity the legitimate elements of these anti-establishment feelings could not have elected Bernie Sanders.
The worry is that this is part of a move to the right across the world. A celebration of fear. That’s what I’m afraid of.
Suggested reading: The Dark is Rising by Susan Copper. Evil rises but is defeated.
Kevin Gildea is a comedian, award-winning writer, performer and TV presence
Donald Trump is a new type of politician. He has no experience, is anti-intellectual, anti-woman, anti-multicultural and anti-consensus. He values boasting and bullying above decency and deliberation. But he is soon to be President of the most powerful nation in the world. I am scared of what he might do in a moment of pique. I hope that I am wrong.
Regardless of this result, I have faith in the people of America and hope that ‘love will Trump hate’:
No self, no self-exposure
The weakness of the proser
By means of the beatable
I will have love …
The Self-Slaved by Patrick Kavanagh
Professor Christine Kinealy is author of a number of books on the Great Famine, including a new graphic novel An Droch Shaol (with John Walsh, Coisceim, 2016). She is a graduate of Trinity College and currently resides in Connecticut
Dear 2016 - thanks a bunch. We lose Bowie and, in return, we get Trump. What kind of pact is that? Faust-and Putin-must be rubbing their hands in glee. He’s done it. He’s Made America White Again! Welcome to the United States of Dystopia.
Are there any positives? Well, obviously the American electoral system is not rigged! And progressives the world over must be feeling very sentimental about George W. Bush today. And, who knows, this might spell the end of neo-liberalism at long last. But if it does, it will be like the Thermidorean reaction supplanting the Terror in revolutionary France. Frying pans and fires - you know what I mean.
Maybe we’ll get lucky. There is a revealing moment at the end of the Michael Ritchie film The Candidate. Bill McKay, played by Robert Redford, has just become Governor of California and can’t remember why he ran in the first place. He pulls aside his Svengali, Marvin Lucas, played by Peter Boyle, and asks querulously ‘Marvin - what do we do now?’. Maybe there’s no plan. Maybe The Donald will be happy just to have won the Mr. Universe contest and will leave us all alone.
Anyway Donald, good luck with that old economy thing after re-patriating the eleven million illegal immigrants who are currently keeping it afloat. I wonder are the 54% of college-educated white men who voted for you going to start looking after their own gardens? Or minding their own children? Or harvesting their own vegetables in the California Central Valley? Hardly, they’ll be too busy building that wall.
Myles Dungan is an historian and presenter of RTE’s History Show. He has lived for two lengthy spells in California which he now fervently hopes will secede from the United States of Trump.
‘Surely a majority of voters couldn’t possibly vote for Trump?’, several friends said to me in recent weeks. Actually I quietly agreed with them but usually responded: ‘Don’t be so sure - it was a democratic vote that brought Hitler to power as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933’. ‘But he’s a clown’, one observed, and I thought to myself that Charlie Chaplin had dismissed the Führer as a clown in The Great Dictator. He, of course, proved to be more sinister than that. Trump is neither a clown nor a Hitler but I am fearful, nevertheless. And just as I could not believe a majority for Brexit was possible, so I was not at all ready this morning for a Clinton defeat.
Having listened to Trump give the assurance in his victory speech that he will be a ‘President for all Americans’, optimists will hope that he will draw back from attempting to implement his wilder promises. But those who voted for him will not let him off that hook. Trump will hammer in wedges to split American society with apocalyptic consequences. Hispanics and many African Americans will feel like aliens in their own land. Obama’s hard-won legacy will be toileted: the expansion of health care, the enshrining of rights, environmental regulation, immigration reform, et cetera, et cetera. And then the dislocation of world trade is threatened … and does Trump have a foreign policy demonstrating any kind of coherence?
The legacy of the past eight years so deserved to be extended by Hillary Clinton. ‘The glass ceiling is still triple glazed’, my wife Carol said to me very early this morning. Indeed, a male loathing of a possible female Commander-in-Chief was surely a potent factor in bringing Trump to victory. The last time Republicans had overall control of government was in 1928. A House and Senate with Republican majorities, along with a compliantly conservative Supreme Court, will smooth the path for Trump’s divisive legislative plans. Effective opposition seems to have been torched.
‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’, Wendell Phillips said to an Anti-Slavery Society meeting in Massachusetts in 1852 (no it wasn’t John Philpott Curran). How true that is. The victories of the Enlightenment must be defended constantly to ensure the survival of civilisation. It took oceans of blood during dark periods of the twentieth century to uphold those gains. Trump has effectively told us that it is fine to be misogynist, sexist, racist and xenophobic.
Can I find any solace? Yes, in 2016 Canada shines out as a bright beacon of liberalism and toleration in the western world. And I have just learned that Hillary managed, admittedly by a narrow margin, to win the popular vote. Those Clinton voters can uphold the struggle for decency, humanity and toleration: they will need all the help we can give them.
Jonathan Bardon is a historian, his most recent publications being A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes and Hallelujah: the story of a musical genius and the city that brought his masterpiece to life.
I was shaken by the result – I often say to people that the world is getting kinder. And on a small scale, in terms of the young people I work with, their engagement, empathy and inclusivity, I think it is. But on a global scale, the world seems to be rejecting kindness, in favour of anger. And there are so, so many reasons to be angry. But there are many more to be kind. We are all learning and growing together. And if empathy, tolerance and sensitivity won’t trickle from the top down, let’s try our best to grow them from the ground up. Love over rage. Every time.
I’d recommend reading some Sandra Cisernos, Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Magical realism.
Deirdre Sullivan’s latest novel is Needlework
Sarah Maria Griffin
I slept an hour at best last night, like my body knew before my head did that this was happening. I left the house early because the vortex of Twitter was heightening the dread I felt to nausea. Trump’s election reinforces the dark beliefs at the heart of the escalating violences against minorities in America: the racism, the homophobia, the misogyny, the shocking combination of that trifecta. The polls show it clearly - his vote base was heavily white, male, educated. A lot of it was female, too. I don’t know what to do with that.
Many folks I love deeply are still there under this new government, and fall at risk to Trump’s supporters: those galvanized by his presence and reassured in their prejudices. America has shown its red right hand. In 2016, America would rather see anyone; any racist, failed businessman, sexual predator or if you like, all of those things at once, in office over a woman. I am grieving for a missed leap forward for women everywhere, but I mostly am grieving for the Americans I love, who wanted nothing more than a way forward to a more level world, a kinder world. For the people who will be most affected by this: people of color, women, the LGBTQ population, the immigrant population. Ideologically this is terrifying. In reality, it will be something else altogether. It remains to be seen, but I am afraid. Last night on CBC, Danielle Moodie-Mills put it starkly, ‘’This is literally white supremacy’s last stand in America.”
I only know that we have to take care of each other, and find a way through. I have turned to Warsan Shire’s words again and again this year. From ‘what they did yesterday afternoon’:
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
Sarah Maria Griffin’s nonfiction collection about living in America, Not Lost, is published by New Island and her first novel, Spare & Found Parts, was released in October by Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins) in North America. She tweets @griffski
This time last year I had just arrived home from a lengthy residency in the US, throughout which I felt generally lonely and aimless and attempted to kill many a sleepless hour by sitting up at night watching Fox News, marvelling at the grisly circus of the Republican Primary which monopolised every hour of broadcasting. I chose Fox as one might a horror movie. It was outrageous and outrageousness, unfortunately, is much more tempting to a restless mind than bland old righteousness. Few of the Americans I met in the daytime wanted to talk about the election. They seemed already a little jaded and embarrassed. Over and over again, they assured me: ‘Trump is just a novelty; people won’t actually vote for him when they go to the polls.’
Alone in a guest-cabin on the autumnal outskirts of Iowa City - wood-peckers pecking, cicadas singing - I knew that watching right-wing news programmes was a waste of good writing time but I was reluctantly enthralled by this ominous new face of a country I had presumed to understand. Fox made me realise that, of course, the Americans who surrounded me were writers, editors, students and academics, every last one liberal to the marrow. They were some of the kindest, wisest and most welcoming people I have ever met anywhere in the world, and today my stomach flip-flops to think of them as victims of democracy-gone-wrong, at the mercy of a man who represents everything that is unkind, unwise and unwelcoming.
As a tangential exercise of engagement with my complicated host country, I devoted other hours to reading classics of American literature. Before leaving, because I could not bear to heft the books all the way home again, I chose a handful of significant quotes to transcribe into my notebook. This morning, I re-read the following from On the Road by Jack Kerouac: “...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
I can’t remember what drew me to these lines then, I certainly never imagined how they might resonate a year on. The blue emphatically popped last night, leaving behind it the colour of fire and brimstone.
Sara Baume is the author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither
Around two-thirty you could see the disbelief on the long faces of pundits and politicians alike as it struck them that Trump was going to win.
Many US citizens, including that country’s intelligentsia, have been appalled and embarrassed by Trump’s racism, sexism, bullying, his vulgarity, political inexperience and general ignorance. But it was wishful thinking on their part to think that ‘common-sense’ would prevail at the polls and that Hillary Clinton would be a shoe-in.
They got it wrong.
Trump, the snake oil salesman, the purveyor of fraudulent goods and empty promises, got it right. He successfully tapped into the deep anti-establishment anger of millions of Americans - their fears, insecurity, every slight (real or imagined) visited upon them by federal government.
And so, now, it‘s our turn to pay.
Trump‘s protectionist policies will eventually hurt our economy, in addition to the anticipated damage and serious repercussions of the British government‘s decision to leave the European Union - a Brexit, which Trump supported.
It‘s impossible to know Trump‘s foreign policy (he has no experience in that field) or whether his irresponsible threat to repudiate the nuclear deal with Iran was just campaign rhetoric. Among the first to warmly congratulate him were Russian President Vladimir Putin; Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the far-right, anti-immigration French National Front party; and the Dutch MP and anti-Islam campaigner, Geert Wilders.
“No-one knows what he is going to do,“ said one of his more honest handlers.
One man who did know the consequences of things - albeit three centuries ago - was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the US, who said: “Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.“
Unfortunately, before it does end in shame, none of us will be immune from the effects of a Donald Trump presidency on international peace and stability, on ours and the world‘s economy.
Danny Morrison is a writer and critic, and a former national director of publicity for Sinn Fein. For over 35 years he has been banned from entering the US
I think the results of this election obviously reflect the discontent and anger that the majority of Americans feel against the current political system but their hunger for change has come at a terrible price.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” ‑ Martin Luther King, Jr
Kerrie O’Brien is a writer and literary editor from Dublin
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne
Of courtesy it is much less
Than courage of heart or holiness
Yet in my walks it seems to me
That the grace of God is in courtesy.
What has been lacking in the election, and what is lacking in Donald Trump, is courtesy – among other things. I hope he has been acting the part of the boor, and takes on another demeanour in his new role as President of the USA. He may rise to the occasion. The leopard may change his spots... for a while.
On the other hand, I hope other world leaders treat him with caution. They should not kow-tow to the most powerful man in the world. Don’t trust him. Be vigilant and keep him under control as much as possible. Intervene as soon as it is necessary - not when it is too late.
Like everybody I have met today in Ireland, I am shocked and frightened and fear the worst. But I am Irish, and glad to be of Ireland, and European, and glad to be of Europe, and not of the United States of America.
That civilization may not sink
Its great battle lost
Tie the horse, tether the pony
To the distant post.
She thinks, part woman
Three parts a child
That nobody looks.
Her feet practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up in the street.
Like a long-legged fly upon a stream
Her mind moves upon silence.
Read books, not Twitter. Think deep, not fast. Be Irish, Scandinavian, European, humane.
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is a novelist and short story writer
“People in this country have had enough of experts,” smarmed the pinch-mouthed, unblinking, poreless freak Michael Gove. He was referring, of course, to our neighbours across the water, Great Brexitannia, in the run up to the Big Thumbs Down to continued membership of the EU, but something of the same can now be concluded about the voters in the United States of Trumpland. The writer Maya Angelou put it another way: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” And Trump made people feel. Debased, fearful, gratifyingly ugly things, but feelings all the same.
The problem with Trump, for those among the mainstream media determined, even now, to refuse to take him seriously, was that he was exactly everything his detractors accused him of being: a vainglorious, predacious, misogynist, xenophobic, bullying boob, a pathological fantasist with the worst hair in recorded history. You can’t make a malign cartoon out of a man that is already a malign cartoon. Fluent in the dynamics of rhetorical escalation from both competitive reality TV and his various cameos in Pro Wrestling, Trump understood that when you said or did something outrageous, you could short-circuit the blowback by just saying or doing another outrageous thing: you can lie, contradict yourself, slur entire ethnicities, ludicrously insist you can build a wall to keep Mexicans out, but as you long as you keep unflaggingly doing so, even your wildest fabrications and vilest suggestions take on their own weird rhetorical integrity.
Trump never attempted to resemble a relatable human being (the biggest failing of Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Trump is that, simply by not actually being Trump, he lent the character a poignancy and psychological depth the uncaricaturable Trump doesn’t actually possess) but he also never attempted to resemble a politician, either, which was his masterstroke.
To rework Gove’s sentiment, the electorate has had enough of politicians, and Trump, an absurdly bequiffed ghoul tossing out word salads made up of equal parts hate speech and free floating conjunctions, is awful. But he’s also not what Clinton is. There’s a deluge of tweets lamenting Trump’s win as another example of an overqualified woman losing out to an (in this case) lavishly non-qualified man, but part of the problem is what she’s qualified in: Clinton is a career politician, by profession and dynasty, another middle-manager of elite neoliberalism promoted, as it were, from within, who had put in the years in Washington and required only the expected routine gesture of supplication from the electorate to get the big chair and keep the machine running. Stronger Together was the intensively focus grouped, utterly anodyne slogan of the endemically uninspiring Clinton campaign, but a more fitting one would have been More of the Same. And as with Brexit, and the possible election of Le Pen in France, it’s not enough for the mainstream liberal establishment to smugly point at the glowing orange idiot on the other side of the stage and say, here’s your alternative, and it’s worse. Worse may be worse, but it’s not the same.
Colin Barrett is the award-winning author of Young Skins
What do we tell our daughter?
It was the first question my wife and I asked each other as we lay in bed, having woken in the half-light to confront a reality so much altered – or so hideously revealed – that we couldn’t yet begin to explain it to ourselves.
Our daughter is 10, and knows as much about US electoral politics as a 10-year-old can be expected to. Like anxious liberal parents everywhere, though, we try to supplement her knowledge here and there, and sometimes it shows. On election day, for instance, during a conversation with her grandparents, she confidently assured them that Donald Trump couldn’t possibly win. “He only has 43%,” she explained, though she was hazy on what it was that he had 43% of. “Hillary has 47%.”
And she was right. (I may have felt a furtive surge of parental pride.) Hillary did have 47%, or she did the last time I had checked fivethirtyeight.com, a coping mechanism I was by now resorting to at two- or three-minute intervals. But that was then. Already, election day seems hauntingly remote. What I feel now, amid so much else, is a queasy embarrassment at my own complacency, at my failure to apprehend things as they truly were and to prepare my child for what she will very soon face.
These preoccupations may seem domestic and inconsequential, given the terrifying magnitude of the disruption we now face. A Trump presidency, after all, endangers much more than the integrity of American civic institutions. It presents grave threats to the safety of minority citizens, to our fraught and contingent geopolitical equilibrium, to global economic stability and to an environment already undergoing irreversible calamities.
None of us can now look away from those dangers. Understanding them, and beginning to shape our response, is now a matter of urgent duty for us all. But we have a duty, too, to examine the political catastrophe that has brought Donald Trump to the brink of the world’s most potent political office. That Hillary Clinton is a woman, and that her election would have been enormously important for that reason, is not just a detail in all of this; it is the whole story.
This catastrophe was founded on misogyny and was defined by it at every stage. There is simply no other way to account for what we witnessed. American voters were presented with two candidates. One was a serious-minded but unshowy public servant of vast experience and admirable discipline, a person almost embarrassingly well qualified for the presidency. She was also a woman.
The other candidate was so extravagantly deficient and objectionable that his failings could scarcely be catalogued from one day to the next, let alone given due consideration. He was a man, of course, but not just any man. He was – and is – one of the most comprehensively repulsive specimens of masculinity we have ever seen in any forum of public life, let alone at the highest levels of politics.
And we all know what happened next. The public didn’t just choose a mediocre man over a superior woman; that happens all the time, and is corrosive precisely because it has come to seem unremarkable. The public chose a man who is in large part defined by his naked hatred of women; a man whose persistent degradation of women is a matter of dismal public record; and a man, most gravely and unbelievably, who now faces multiple credible allegations of actual sexual assault.
That such a thing can occur is evidence of pervasive and truly fearsome misogyny. It shows us beyond any doubt that a plurality of the electorate in the world’s oldest democracy is hostile to the ambition and equal participation of girls and women, and that it places little or no value on their dignity or even their safety.
In such circumstances, the question of what we tell our daughters – and our sons – seems to me to be the one that we must begin with. My wife and I haven’t even begun to answer it, of course; that’s part of the work we all have to do. For now, I’m going to rely on one of Hillary Clinton’s own campaign slogans, a slogan whose potency we may only now begin to realise.
I’m with her, I will tell my daughter. I’m with her, even now. Especially now. And I’m with you.
Paraic O’Donnell is a writer of fiction, poetry and criticism. His first novel, The Maker of Swans, is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson
At Halloween, my son, aged 10, went trick-or-treating dressed as Trump, wearing a placard that read: “Make America scary again.” This morning, I was still in bed when he arrived upstairs with the news that Trump was to be the next President of the United States. “Ha ha,” I said, sitting up and rubbing my eyes, “very funny! I know it’s a trick, I know you’re joking.” If only.
My kids took a keen interest in the US presidential race. They were watching and listening as Trump peddled racism, misogyny, hatred, all kinds of awfulness. They thought, and still think, him preposterous and appalling, so much so that the 10- and 12-year-old together adopted a new ironic catch phrase. “Who’s gonna pay for that wall?” they’d shout in unison in response to something they considered particularly mindless.
Paradoxically, they’d spent the summer immersed in a portrayal of a different kind of America. In June they got the soundtrack to Hamilton the musical. I’ve listened to this soundtrack pretty much every day since, sometimes multiple times a day. They play it constantly, in our house, in our car, they sing it in their bedrooms. Hamilton the musical is the story of one of the American Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, an orphan from the Carribbean. Rise up, it exhorts, as it celebrates equality, bravery, freedom, selflessness, the contributions of immigrants and women.
At our local primary school, our daughter’s class held their own ballot the day before the election. Clinton won comfortably. There was one spoiled vote, a child who thought Obama should be president. Now, in the aftermath, as part of her homework for tonight, our daughter had to come up with a newspaper headline to report Trump’s victory. I took a peek: “America bans pre-grated cheese as Trump vows to make America grate again.” Hmm... at least someone can still find humour in the situation. Her older sister, 14, says that it’s like the opening of a dystopian novel, and that Trump just has to grow a beard and he’d be like President Snow from the Hunger Games. She says she can’t understand how a woman who spent her entire career in politics lost to a TV presenter. She suggests a second American revolution.
Because I share my name with US-based political commentator Danielle McLaughlin, I’ve been granted additional special insights into voter mindset. By this I mean I’ve been on the receiving end of some idiotic social media communications.
I am bewildered by America’s decision.
Recommendations? It’s hard to know what one can do when faced with something as overwhelming as this. I think some solace can be found in doing small, positive acts, like, for example, supporting the anthology edited by Kerrie O'Brien and Alice Kinsella to raise money for the Rough Sleepers Team of the Dublin Simon Community – Looking at the Stars I’d also recommend listening to that Hamilton soundtrack. Or the Desiderata, with particular attention to the bit about avoiding loud and aggressive persons.
Danielle McLaughlin’s debut collection of short stories, Dinosaurs on Other Planets, was published in 2015 by The Stinging Fly Press, and in the UK and US in 2016 by John Murray and Random House
David B Woolner - The Return of America First
In speech after speech, Donald Trump has insisted that his foreign policy will be to “put America first.” In doing so, he has revived much of the language used by the US isolationists of the mid to late 1930s, articulating a vision for America that is not unlike that of an organization called “the America First Committee.”
Founded in September 1940, just three months after the fall of France, and a year after the outbreak of the Second World War, the America First Committee staunchly opposed to US involvement in the European war. Determined to turn the United States into an impregnable bastion that would make it impossible for “any foreign power or group of powers to successfully attack the United States,” the committee railed against the foreign policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom they accused of secretly plotting to force the US into the conflict.
By the spring of 1941, the committee’s membership had swelled to over 800,000 people, located in 450 chapters scattered across the country. The AFC’s most famous member was Charles Lindberg, but other supporters included future President’s Gerald R. Ford and John F. Kennedy. They steadfastly opposed FDR’s efforts to aid Great Britain, and insisted that the United States should maintain absolute neutrality, even as the situation in Europe and Asia continued to deteriorate. The AFC also opposed the Atlantic Charter, with its call for the establishment of an international organization—the future United Nations—to maintain the peace after the war. In its rejection of “internationalism”, the AFC also exhibited a tendency towards nativism and anti-Semitism, linking FDR’s increasing support for the British war effort to pressure exerted on the Roosevelt administration by the American Jewish community.
FDR had nothing but contempt for the AFC, and in one the most powerful speeches he gave in the months prior to the US entry into the conflict insisted that it was impossible for Americans to remain indifferent to “the destruction of freedom in their ancestral lands across the sea.” To do so was to hold to “the now obvious delusion” that we can safely permit “the United States to become a lone island, a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force… lodged in prison, handcuffed, hungry, and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents.”
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the activities of the America First Committee to an abrupt halt. But FDR remained convinced that the isolationism that the AFC espoused might return stronger than ever once the war was over, and it was largely for this reason that his administration worked so hard to create the postwar global order that gave rise to such international institutions as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and of course, the United Nations.
Ironically, it has been the political and economic stability that these institutions provided that helped open up the world to freer trade accelerate the globalization of the world’s economy that has helped fuel the populism that made Trump’s victory possible. Hence, in today’s world globalization and freer trade are viewed as the enemies of the working man and woman. But in FDR’s day just the opposite was true, a stance largely justified by the decades of economic prosperity that followed the Great Depression.
Mr Trump’s lack of experience and erratic political rhetoric make it difficult to determine just what policies a Trump Administration will follow on a host of issues. But given the strength of the movement that swept him into power, and his own preference for a reduction in US involvement in the NATO, or in the defense of such key allies as South Korea and Japan, it would appear that the carefully constructed effort that Franklin Roosevelt engineered to insure that the United States would play a leading role in world affairs may be coming to an end—with untold consequences for the future.
Dr David B Woolner is Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian, The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, New York
It’s a sort of grief, the process of coming to accept that a misogynistic, racist madman is about to take over the world’s most powerful country. There are several stages. First, I had a session of black humour banter with a friend on Facebook (denial). Then I exchanged furious emails with a friend who had not voted for Hillary, because she is an “undeniable” crook. I argued that in this case, anybody with half a brain should know that not voting democrat was an undeniable vote for fascism (anger). Then I got a call from a distraught Muslim friend awaiting a Greencard in the mid-West. Having escaped the horrors of a true police state, she fears she will be sent home under some Trump deportation programme. I tried to calm her, suggesting his threats are all bluster (bargaining). Then I simply remembered the last time a country in the so-called developed world voted a misogynistic, racist madman into power: 1933. And I succumbed to the final stage, depression.
Because it is entirely possible that like the poet said, things may change utterly – that terrible will become a word abundantly used, but this time beauty will not be part of the brief.
Helena Mulkerns is based in Dublin. Her first collection of short fiction, Ferenji, is out this month from Doire Press
The victory of Trump of course brings manifold dangers, both for the United States and the world, that hardly need to be set out - but it also brings also an opportunity for Europeans: to reset and restate our basic civic beliefs and values; and to strive to live up to them. Trump's victory is an expression of a societal tragedy: an American failure to nurture the promise of its founding, which at many levels created an actively engaged citizenry, and championed the importance of public service. In recent decades, neoliberalism has eroded these commitments, and left a void in their wake. Against such a context, the rise of a demagogue figure such as Trump was scarcely a surprise.
The US Constitution was written in response to a Europe perceived as degraded and tyrannical - and it would be an appropriate political and historical irony, therefore, if Europe took the warning of this election to heart, and re-imagined its own new world, in which the citizen was truly valued, in which commerce truly served the common good through fair taxation as well as the provision of jobs, and in which life was not dominated and poisoned, as at present, by a pitiless flow of capital.
There is little sign of such a development - witness how rapidly such would-be European Trumps as le Pen and Farage moved to salute their brother in arms in Washington, and witness the swelling of support for such figures across our continent - and there is certainly no disguising the difficulties of re-imagining our world. But - and we know this from history - it is all that stands between us and ruin. In Adam Bede, George Eliot wrote that 'what destroys us most effectively is not a malign fate, but our own capacity for self-destruction and for degrading our own best self.' Today, we have an urgent obligation to our own best future selves.
Neil Hegarty's novel Inch Levels is published by Head of Zeus
The only consolation I can think of is that it’s saved us from Trump TV. Actually, on a more personal note, I find a secondary consolation: in 2008 I simply wasn’t ready for the US president to be younger than me. Now, the world has returned to its pre-ordained axis and a 70-year-old billionaire trumpets my regained youth. As regards Mrs Clinton, these years of her trying have normalised the notion of a female president: next time, it will be weird if there isn’t a woman candidate.
It’s time to read Proust. A proper reading of À la recherche will take good care of the next four years. And, when in 2020, we peer above the exhausted rim of our ereaders, the world will appear much the same shambles as today.
Jamie O'Neill is an ex-writer. He is the author of At Swim-Two-Boys. www.jamieoneill.com
As bad guys go, you couldn’t make Donald Trump up. The gloating name, the sons cloned from swabs of his filthy mouth, the ominous dark-glass tower in the centre of Manhattan. And obviously everything he stands for and everything he’s been caught out doing. A writer would be accused of cliché if he or she invented Trump, and that, I think, goes a long way to explaining why he was elected. He presented blue-collar America with an archetype, that of the restorer of an old order. He’s the no-nonsense antihero of the social fantasy that is the Great American Myth, the one that many Americans have been conditioned by the movies to believe is their fate. And too much lately that screenplay has been messed with by foreign-influenced New Wave script doctors.
For me, the writer who most uncannily reflects what’s going on is the American myth-gremlin Robert Coover. In A Night At the Movies, Coover takes the templates of a variety of Hollywood films genres and batters them into horrible shapes, so that they become fairytales for the mangled, self-mythologizing, real America. The western story, ‘Shootout At Gentry’s Junction’, features a character so weirdly reminiscent of the president-elect you’d wonder if Trump fashioned himself after him. Surprise, surprise, that character is the town sheriff, bent on bringing a “filthy and mean… cheating, treacherous snake” of a Mexican down. First, Sheriff Harmon badgers the town banker into assisting him.
“Let’s face it… that Mex has got this town so’s it’s forgot what law and decency is. Everybody’s layin’ everybody else’s women and daughters, kids and old folks is stealin’ the town bare, why, it ain’t safe t’ cross the damned street no more. It’s all fallin’ apart, and so long as I’m around here, by God, I don’t mean t’ let it! Am I speakin’ plain enough?”
The banker nodded and dropped his eyes.
Then there’s the moment when, on his way to the showdown, he manages time for a little recreation.
At room 1210 he hesitated, then walked on in. Belle, that sweet taunting virgin, lay naked on her broad four-poster, scratching herself idly.
“You mighta knocked,” she said drily.
Hank flushed. “Sorry, Belle,” he gulped, but he couldn’t help staring at her. Man, she sure looked good.
He also seeks the endorsement of the local clergyman for his adventure.
“That’s what I come t’ talk t’ you about, Rev’rend. About the community. It’s forgettin’ all the things that has made it great.”
“Great?” The good Reverend Slough gazed down upon Sheriff Harmon from his elevated pulpit, big silvery tears welling in his tiny eyes. “It is perhaps worse than you truly know,” he gasped, and then he began to weep.
I read that line again, thought of Trump’s campaign slogan, and of the bad people who voted this patently bad man into power, and I felt like weeping myself.
Gavin Corbett’s latest novel is Green Glowing Skull (Fourth Estate). He is the 2016 Arts Council Irish Writer Fellow for Trinity College Dublin
'Nostalgia,' writes Don DeLillo in White Noise, 'is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It's a settling of grievances between the present and the past.' Now that nostalgia has stormed the White House in the grotesque form of President Elect Donald Trump. Certainly the Democratic Party as a whole, as Thomas Frank argues persuasively in his essential new book, Listen, Liberal, bears no little responsibility for betraying and abandoning its natural working and middle-class base and enabling the rise of such a figure. President Obama's failure to implement an equality-minded agenda in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the bailouts of and continued pandering to the banks, and a complete lack of decisive action on trade, globalisation and income inequality has left millions of Americans even more eager for the change they felt they were promised but denied.
The notion that they'll find it in Donald Trump is at best fanciful. 'Like a presidential candidate in a Batman movie', as my friend, the novelist Alan Glynn remarked in the run-up, flanked by unhinged henchmen Rudy and Newt, it's hard to believe this dystopian comic book is actually happening, and very hard indeed not to judge harshly the millions of people who have put their faith in, or at best turned a blind eye to, his misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism and proto-fascism.
'The more powerful the nostalgia,' DeLillo continues, 'the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country.' We've already seen the violence at Trump's rallies; it's all too easy to imagine this narcissistic, thin-skinned bully dragging the USA into an unnecessary war on a whim and endangering the entire planet; all too easy, and absolutely terrifying.
Declan Hughes is a writer and critic. declanhughesbooks.com
For me, the Trump victory means a severe blow to feminism. It says that in 2016 it is still inconceivable that the leader of the so-called free world could be a woman. Even when numerous sexual assault claims were levelled against Trump, 42% of women voters still favoured him over Clinton.
So for five-eighths of America’s female voters, it’s more acceptable for a persistent misogynist with zero political experience to be president than it is for an educated, qualified woman, who has proved herself at the highest level, to make the grade. It makes me wonder how long more women must wait to be treated – even by other women - as political equals? And it makes me angry at how little women have really gained in public life.
The justification has been offered that it wasn’t a woman candidate these voters objected to, but this woman candidate. But was Trump ever scrutinised in the same terms as a representative of his gender? And how would he fare, if he had been? Was he “the right kind of man” to be voted in?
Election results are legitimising; what they say is - it’s okay to act and talk like Donald Trump because it got him elected. His victory represents not just a loss for the women’s cause, but an active threat to it.
For the world, the parallels with the rise of Hitler are obvious. I read this piece by Sir Ian Kershaw, professor of modern German history at the University of Sheffield recently – though it was written in 2007, long before the Trump era – and couldn’t help feeling a shiver of recognition, particularly about how some media got Hitler so wrong. It may not provide solace, but it will certainly make you alert to the historical resonances of Trump’s ascent to power.
Mary Morrissy is a writer – her most recent collection of stories, Prosperity Drive, will appear in paperback in early 2017. She teaches creative writing at UCC.
"As far as I can see, the people who own America kept well out of sight in the Presidential race, perhaps confident Clinton would be on side, perhaps confident they could rope-a-dope the hapless near-idiot Trump. Their substantial investments in House and Senate races, however, seem to have paid off. We should be worried, perhaps, that the Republicans now occupy the Presidency, the Senate and the White House — and will undoubtedly fix the Supreme court first chance they get. This could all too easily presage an Oligarchy that no longer feels it has even to pretend to hide its face — and few things are as dangerous as an armed and brazen oligarchy. Right now, I see a bad moon rising, werewolves on the edge of town... time to meditate on the wisdom of Albert Camus" "We must learn to live beyond hope and hopelessness".
Theo Dorgan’s latest translations from the Syrian poet Maram al-Masri, Liberty Walks Naked, will appear early in the coming year from Southword editions.
In an article published in The New Yorker overnight, David Remnick writes of Trump’s electoral victory with disgust: ‘the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil.’ Trump has carried out the essential con of the demagogue: to harness latent political hatred and resentment with lies and the crudest dog-whistle shibboleths, all the time recklessly promising the sun, moon and stars to his followers. It is a world-class hoodwink, and he has pulled it off with calculated cynicism. He disparages ‘the elites’ and ‘the establishment’, this billionaire who builds monuments to his ego in cities like Chicago and New York that rise like giant middle fingers to the world. His co-author in The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, has called him a dangerous sociopath. His pseudo-presidential victory speech this morning, with its predictably conciliatory tone, was yet another careful calculation. Plato wrote that those who seek power are by definition those who should never have it. Donald Trump exemplifies that to an extreme. But he has also exposed the failure of the left-wing opponents of neoliberalism to provide a coherent, ideologically convincing, and just alternative vision. His elevation is, arguably, the appallingly logical outcome of the long-term poisoning of the well of political discourse in the USA. What I feel about this result can be summed up in one word: fear. Particularly terrifying is his stance on climate change, which he has stated is a conspiracy dreamed up by the Chinese. Dark times like these make me want to reread Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, which I would recommend not only for its profoundly consolatory idealism, but also because it examines the meaning of that dirtiest of all dirty words: ‘elite,’ in the light of profounder social and human responsibilities. Hesse published The Glass Bead Game in 1943 against the backdrop of his own country’s spiritual catastrophe; it has lost none of its relevance.
Caitriona O’Reilly is a poet. Her latest collection Geis was awarded the 2016 Irish Times Poetry Now prize.
Among many superb New Yorker covers, the one from February 1st, 2016 seems to me to capture best the horror. Yeats' The Second Coming comes to mind: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” This is a time to be afraid, a time to be ashamed at the degradation of democracy that we have watched with far too little protest, and a time to be brave. We must show solidarity with those most vulnerable to the trampling boots of the thugs now loosed upon the world.
Susan McKay is a writer and journalist
When you’re younger you assume without thinking that progress is linear. However slowly it’s moving, it is moving in the right direction. The line might be jagged here and there but it is heading inexorably towards the state of enlightenment, that shining gleam on a distant horizon.
The line might seem irreparably broken at times, as during the vast nihilistic orgies of WW1 and WW2. But after the Holocaust came a handful of visionary statesmen who dreamed of a united Europe that would replace war with harmony among the old continental tribes. The EEC was born and somehow the thread of hope was mended, its upward trajectory re-started.
Out of Apartheid came Mandela; from colonial India, Gandhi; from slavery in the American south, Martin Luther King.
But you get older and eventually the penny drops that it is not a line at all, but a circle. Historians have probably been telling us this for centuries. But perhaps every generation has to discover this for itself anew. Obama tried his best to break the cycle and carry the line, like a man dragging a boulder behind him, his two hands holding fast to the rope as it dug into his shoulder.
And now Trump comes along and the rope is a circle again. Farage in England too, and all the other gargoyles emerging from the forest. We keep going back on ourselves, like oxen tethered to a water wheel forever orbiting the same patch of withered ground.
Obama was a beacon for intelligence in power, for learning and decency and public dignity and a balanced temperament in political life. In a business that is famously hostile to the better angels of our nature, the American president seemed an almost miraculous figure.
But a country that has cherished personal agency like no other, that licenses the exercise of free will with such zeal, is probably bound to lead the world in extremes: in flights of greatness and nadirs of delinquency. And so the pendulum has swung at warp speed from a civil and civilising head of state to this grotesque specimen of the American dream. A man who apparently boasts of never having read a book; a man who never seems to have subjected himself to periods of chastening introspection, or even a moment of private self-reproach. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates, but it doesn’t seem to have done Trump any harm.
Robert De Niro was just a little less Socratic in his estimation of the Republican candidate last month. “He’s a punk, he’s a dog, he’s a pig, he’s a con, he’s a bullshit artist, a mutt who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” De Niro was clearly finding the vitriol cathartic. And he wasn’t alone. Donald Trump, he added for good measure, was an “idiot”, a “bozo” and a “fool”. In January he will become the next president of the United States.
Those of us who love the country believe, perhaps patronisingly, that it has inflicted upon itself a cosmic mutilation with this decision. If the great broadcaster Edward R Murrow were alive at this hour he would surely intone, with fearful gravity, the words that made him a household name in America: “Good night, and good luck.”
“The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.” Annie Savoy, as played by Susan Sarandon, in the 1988 film Bull Durham (writer-director Ron Shelton).
Tommy Conlon is a journalist and film-maker. His latest short film is The Sons of Robert Schuman
"Any other General in the world than [British] General Howe,” one observer of the Revolutionary War wrote in 1778, “would have beaten General George Washington.” Substitute Clinton for Howe and Trump for Washington, and you might have this election in a nutshell. Donald Trump, a neophyte candidate with skeletons in just about every cupboard and TV trailer, should have been easy meat for the Democrats. Polls (not that we trust those any more) had left-wing radical Bernie Sanders beating him in a landslide. But Trump himself could not have picked a better opponent than Hillary Clinton. The Clintons symbolize the globalization so hated outside of the metropolitan elites. Hillary’s air of entitlement--the emails, the huge Goldman Sachs speaking fees--her imperious manner and her longevity reeked of “business as usual” in Washington. In a year of “change,” the Democrats instead went with “more of the same.” No wonder they lost. The president that Trump most resembles is the seventh, Andrew Jackson. Like Trump, “Old Hickory” was wealthy and famous. Like Trump, he was a disruptive political outsider. Like him, many of the dispossessed and never possessed figured he was on their side. Both men won by promising to restrain the power of the business and political elites that sneered at their supporters. Read Arthur Schlesinger Jr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson to see what happened next.
Richard Aldous teaches history at Bard College, New York, where he holds the Eugene Meyer Chair. His life of Arthur Schlesinger is published next autumn
I arrived in the dream-like milky evening light of Singapore. “President-Elect Trump” I heard someone say. I’d left Poland at poll opening time in America and had travelled, sealed from news, until long after the results had come in. In the bottled atmosphere of planes and airports I had almost forgotten it was happening. The dreaminess took on a malign, twisted, Dr. Caligari aspect.
I never thought he’d get through the first primary. It seemed a prank, or “just something to give his hotel business a boost”, as President Obama said. He was a bar-room blowhard, a carnival huckster in an expensive suit, someone who in all his multitudinous molecules was a constantly generating expression of his own vanity. More seriously, he entertained himself and his supporters with adolescent abuse of the disabled and anyone of a different colour from him, along with many who were the same. He lied more often than he spoke the truth. He entertained himself with news about himself and operated on whims and personal likes and dislikes, like a Facebook addict directing the pointing of thumbs. He liked to have stormtroopers on hand to do his bidding. “Hit him in the face. I’ll pay the bill.” What would he do sitting on top of the U.S. military? Where would such a needy, petulant, blundering, kitsch, bullying man get his votes?
Ivan’s parable in Brothers Karamazov in which the Inquisition cardinal argues to Jesus that the Devil was right about the tragic and debilitating need of humans to worship is part of the story. You can see what it looks like in Goya’s painting of the devoted assembled before the ass.
But a larger part is American’s sense that for a very long time they in general are out of the picture and do not live in a democracy but rather in a place where lobbyists write the legislation, a place run by and for an elite who determine policy in pleasant surroundings, who attend each others’ social events and dispense favours to each others’ children, a place which is tired and old and lacking in vision. Hillary Clinton is the perfect embodiment of this elite, running out its time in a temperature-controlled zone.
A smaller amount of Americans thought that Donald Trump could fix it. It’s hard to imagine a less likely choice. But who knows? America has convulsed itself into new life more than once.
Timothy O’Grady’s most recent book is Children of Las Vegas
In advance of this election, and in defiance of mainstream polls, Donald Trump promised to pull off “Brexit times ten.” And indeed, just like back in June, I once again found myself waking up in the middle of the night with a terrible apprehension of apocalypse. Against all expectations, campaigns rejected out of hand by the cultural and political establishment have succeeded. In both the US and the UK, there is no telling yet what horrors the white population have visited on their immigrant and ethnic minority compatriots; but as white supremacist groups across the world begin their celebrations, we can feel confident that this isn’t a good moment for democracy.
It seems to me that capitalism, in its death-spiral response to the economic collapse of 2008, has begun to dismantle citizenship rights even within the world’s richest countries, evicting people from their homes, slashing state provisions, and leaving the most vulnerable to starve and die. This is to say nothing of what it’s doing to the planet’s poorest regions, and to the planet itself; capitalism as we now know it is simply incompatible with the continuation of human life on earth. And in this election, suffering communities across the US, forced to their knees by poverty, sickness, drug addiction and deprivation, were offered no real choice about the matter at all. Now, even as the lowest-income voters are shown to have supported Clinton, rejecting the misogyny and racism of her opponent, it’s the “poor” and “stupid” who are blamed for choosing the wrong oligarch.
Against the indignities of a failing economic system, fascism has form. In the USA’s current historical moment, white nostalgia for the era of the family wage, decent working conditions and strong unions seems to have mixed itself with a toxic nostalgia for segregation and sadistic racism. Drummed up together, these sentiments are powerful. The US Democratic Party’s loathsome failure to recognise the deep, simmering dissatisfaction of the electorate led them to run a historically unpopular candidate, a candidate who not only helped to engineer the hollowing-out of the welfare state, but who was under federal investigation during the campaign. Few could symbolise the political establishment more visibly than someone who has already lived in the White House for eight years.
I don’t mean to say that economic crises inevitably produce popular fascist movements. But in the absence of any real alternative to a debilitating status quo, many voters will stay at home, and many others will vote for the candidate who promises to restore their lost dignity. I think that’s what we saw on Tuesday. In the US and here in Europe, the challenge is now to develop a politics that unites poor white communities with migrants, refugees, and ethnic minorities. And to do that, we must be willing to attack the inequities of capitalism at their source.
Sally Rooney’s first novel, Conversations with Friends, is due out next year from Faber & Faber
I'm a writer, not a politician. But I am very interested in Trump's language: what he says and how he says it. I have recently been reading Viktor Klemperer's LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen (1947), in which he analyses changes in language usage in Germany during the 1930s and its effects. Any serious student of language and ideology should read the book. 'Language does not simply write and think for me, it also increasingly dictates my feelings and governs my entire spiritual being the more unquestioningly and unconsciously I abandon myself to it. And what happens if the cultivated language is made up of poisonous elements or has been made the bearer of poisons? Words can be like tiny doses of arsenic: they are swallowed unnoticed, appear to have no effect, and then after a little time the toxic reaction sets in after all.' Tiny doses of arsenic. Toxic reaction.
Ian Sansom is a novelist, journalist and broadcaster. He is the Director of the Oscar Wilde Centre at Trinity College Dublin
0335 Dublin, the witching hour. I’m singing Woody Guthrie as a defence against demons. This land is your land /This land is my land / From California to the New York Island
0445 I make a list of the American writers and poets who have sustained my entire life.
Come, I will make the continent indissoluble, … I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America… I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks. Whitman’s O Democracy reads like a hollow joke but I persist.
0508 I abandon my Twitter feed and turn to the window - the empty road and a long-legged fox paused by the neighbour’s drive. I am hugely cheered by the sight of a living creature.
0820 I watch Trump’s triumphal moment, his women fanned out beside him like a window display of robotic dolls.
0945 Dublin Airport, en route to Brexit. I try to imagine what Obama will feel when he takes Trump’s hand in his. All that matters now is what happens next – how we tackle the dis-ease to which we have all contributed: polarization. We all have a part to play to stop the rot of the Right. The papers we read, the social media we endorse, our browsing lives. Boarding the plane, it’s a bright blue sky, a blinding sun. Readers and writers don’t stay petrified by despair, so I pull up the old familiar: William Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel speech delivered into a Cold War of fear. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.
Aifric Campbell is an Irish writer based in the UK. Her novel On the Floor was longlisted for the Orange Prize 2012
Much of the world seems to be imbibing a magic potion that mixes, in varying styles, strengths and proportions, nationalism, religion, populism, righteousness and anger, ingredients that reinforce each other and blend into a unique brew. The attraction is that this is not only intoxicating but cures, or at least allays, the fear of complexity, uncertainty, impotence, inferiority and accelerating change. In place of these growing contemporary terrors the magic potion offers simplicity, certainty, power, superiority and continuity.
Many believed that nationalism would fade away as the nation state became an anachronism in a world of global connection, global movement and global problems - and likewise religion in a sceptical age. But what the prophets of global scepticism forgot is that everyone likes, and possibly even needs, to feel superior, and with the breakdown of many traditional hierarchies, nationalism and religion offer the simplest and most effective ways of feeling better than others, not to mention the comfort of certainty and the intoxicant of righteousness. Nationalism assures us that our birthplace and its people are the most wonderful on earth, religion that we and our fellow-believers are the chosen of God, and these assurances satisfy so perfectly that there is no marvelling at the extraordinary good fortune of happening to be born into the most blessed country and the only true faith.
This is why religion and nationalism are natural allies in spite of the fact that each should be indifferent to the other. And it is why both are natural allies of populism, which not only offers political expression of the simple feelings of superiority and certainty but has the benefit of identifying scapegoats for contemporary problems. It is the protest of a harmonious heartland people against a self-serving elite who have not only exploited and neglected the heartland but thrown it open to greedy, unscrupulous and dangerous outsiders.
Populism claims to be, and is often accepted as, a form of democracy, even democracy in its purest form, a direct expression of the will of the people. But democratic government is not the expression of the will of the people. It is the decisions arrived at by the representatives elected by the people, usually after debate and usually subject to checks and balances, and these choices are not necessarily the most popular. If the people disapprove, they can elect new representatives but not impose their will directly. In many ways populism is the opposite of democracy. Where democracy is rational, populism is emotional; where democracy is complicated, populism is simple; where democracy accepts difference, populism is intolerant.
Populism is also frequently described as an ideology but derives much of its appeal from rejecting ideology, in the sense of an abstract set of beliefs independent of local circumstance. Unlike proudly self-naming socialists or free-market libertarians, none of its practitioners would describe themselves as populists and few would regard themselves as part of a global movement. Populism is certainly an international phenomenon but it is unlikely that there will ever be a Populist International.
In fact, populism rejects not only specific arguments but rationality itself. Many have expressed incredulity and despair at the indifference of populists to fact and truth. How can so many reject the irrefutable and accept blatant lies? One possible answer is that reason is rarely a match for emotion and it is certainly no match for the anger of a white working class who feel that their sense of worth has been destroyed by the multiculturalism of liberals reserving their sympathy for immigrants and refugees and treating their own people with contempt. Another answer is that populism does believe in one theory - conspiracy theory. Conspiracy is hidden and is therefore the explanation that avoids explanation. Fact and truth can be dismissed as part of the conspiracy of the experts and intellectuals - the satanic, subtle and cunning elite.
Populism is not an ideology but a way of expressing emotion, mainly anger, through performance, spectacle and mass support. So populism’s favourite leader is the charismatic strong man or woman, its favourite argument is the slogan, its favourite gathering is the rally, its favourite political process is the referendum and its favourite response to those who disagree with it is a combination of outrage, insult and threat.
The strong leader must appear to be of and for the people, sharing their values, concerns and anger, and speaking their language, authentic, sincere, frank, direct, robust, rejecting the courtesies and breaking the taboos of public discourse, promising to sweep aside the elite and their obfuscating bureaucracy in order to get things done, and to restore the nation to it former greatness, though without specifying how any of this will be achieved. So the most effective form of communication is the mass rally of the faithful who do not require persuading but only enthusing and entertaining, and a favourite process is the referendum which does not allow for a response of ‘possibly’, ‘it depends’ or ‘it’s complicated’, but only for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The referendum is also frequently assumed to be the purest democratic process but is the favourite process of the demagogue rather than the democrat. Hitler loved referenda and held four during his time in power.
The magic potion works its spell by appealing directly to the emotions. If you belong to God’s own country and his chosen people it is only natural to feel superior, and if you feel superior it is only natural to believe that you are right and the inferior are wrong, and if all the superior people agree with you but the inferior persist in disagreeing it is only natural to get angry. The righteous are often angry but it is the justified wrath of God and entitles them to insult and threaten and to be outraged if criticised themselves in any way.
The magic potion makes all who drink it unassailable. The righteous will not be swayed by rational argument, nor even by evidence of immoral behaviour, because they are not just the superior, but the only, source of morality in a corrupt world, and can never be in the wrong any more than their enemies can ever be in the right.
The only antidote to the magic potion is another potion that appeals even more effectively to the emotions and in language like that of populism - earthy, direct, humorous and frank. Above all it must reject the current language of politics, which so many have come to despise because it is based on skill in refusing to answer questions and in making the platitudes of speechwriters sound original, passionate and sincere. And it must make groups attractive in some new way. What nationalism, religion and especially populism have in common is that they are all mass movements. Much of the attraction is not so much in the beliefs themselves as in the comfort of belonging to a group.
Groups do tend to breed superiority, righteousness and hostility to outsiders - but it does not have to be so. The only positive from the victories of right-wing populism is that these may expose the platitudinous poverty of liberal democratic discourse and encourage the development of something new on the centre or left. It may be possible to have a diverse movement which does not need an ideology or a strong leader, which enjoys the emotional appeal of the group but rejects group intolerance, which is popular but not populist and social but not socialist.
One example of this is the contemporary revival of interest in anarchism, which many, myself included, have contemptuously dismissed as irrelevant. The interest has come from a variety of sources, some unlikely, but all serious and interesting, for instance the former English UN diplomat Carne Ross (in The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century), the American anthropologist David Graeber (in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology) and the English philosopher Simon Critchley (in Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance). As Critchley puts it: ‘In my view, anarchism - what we might call ‘actually existing anarchism’ - is a powerfully refreshing and remotivating response to the drift and demotivation of liberal democracy. In particular … it is the carnivalesque humour of anarchist groups and their tactics of ‘non-violent warfare’ that have lead to the creation of a new language of civil disobedience and a recovery of the notion of direct democracy’. And Critchley specifically rejects an individualist anarchism for something more social. ‘The conception of anarchism that I seek to defend … is not so much organised around freedom as responsibility.’
Michael Foley’s latest work is Isn’t This Fun?: Investigating the Serious Business of Enjoying Ourselves
Martin Doyle edits the books section of The Irish Times