Ten Consolations on the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump

John Winterson Richards looks on the bright side of Donald Trump’s imminent Inauguration.

Recent American history is a perfect statement of the advantages of hereditary constitutional monarchy. At any given moment during the last two decades, the man – always a man – supposedly representing the people of the United States, whether Republican or Democratic, has been viewed with open contempt, even hatred, by about half of them, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

Still the Federal Constitution mandates that someone must be that Head of State, and that it should be the man duly elected, certified before Congress, and sworn in according to law. That man is now President Donald J Trump …and no one else.

So, with all due respect to his contribution to equal civil rights, Congressman John Lewis is wrong to deny the legitimacy of the Trump Presidency, just as the ‘birthers’ were wrong to deny the legitimacy of the Obama Presidency and the ‘not my President’ meme was wrong to deny the legitimacy of the Second Bush Presidency. As long as history endures, it must record that Mr Trump was the 45th President of the United States as Mr Obama was the 44th and Mr Bush the 43rd.

If some still find it hard to accept that the words ‘President Trump’ are no longer just a joke on ‘The Simpsons,’ here are some random thoughts that might or might not offer some comfort.

First, he might not be as bad as many of us fear. After all, he has surprised most of us twice – by winning the Republican nomination and then by beating the Democrats in the general election. Perhaps he might surprise us a third time by turning out to be the President America needs. Certainly he has earned the chance to prove himself.

Second, if he does indeed prove to be a disaster, he may not be with us for long. Never has a President entered office with so many convenient pretexts for impeachment.

Third, even if he survives a failed first term, the odds were always against whoever won in 2016 being re-elected to a second.

Fourth, his much vaunted ‘outsider’ status means he has no power base in Washington. Congress will control him as tightly as it controlled the Obama Administration. This is particularly good news when it comes to his silly ideas on trade policy.

Fifth, it is fair to say that the media both here and in the United States have eliminated the positive and accentuated the negative when reporting Mr Trump. That there are a lot of genuine negatives about him is not in dispute, but they are often exaggerated, while the real reasons he persuaded so many to vote for him are ignored.

Sixth, he is by no means as stupid as he is commonly portrayed in the media. A graduate of the elite Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, his natural grasp of marketing confounded political ‘experts’ during the campaign – especially his counterintuitive decision to take the offensive in supposedly unwinnable ‘rust belt’ states when he was on the defensive during its last days. His instincts on a lot of issues are good. For example, far from restarting the Cold War, he is likely to be less confrontational towards Russia than the Obama Administration has been recently.

Seventh, it is healthy for democracy when the voters overthrow the complacent assumptions of an inward looking political and media Establishment. Whether Mr Trump is the right alternative remains to be seen, but it is always good to see the ruling class frightened by the ruled in a democracy.

Eighth, his surprise victory would make a great Hollywood movie …or at least it would if the protagonist was a more sympathetic character than Donald Trump. Just think of Jimmy Stewart or George Clooney instead of Mr Trump and the thing basically writes itself. Our hero is a hardworking businessman who is angered by the corruption and incompetence in Washington. Although he not a politician, he believes in the democratic principle that any citizen should be able to run for office. He is mocked and insulted for it. No one believes he can win. Still he endures because he believes that the people are on his side. The odds against him are incredible. The polls, the bookies, and the experts all say he cannot possibly win. His own party begins to distance itself from him. Its leaders urge him to stand down so that they can select one of their own to take his place. He fights on, but even he begins to despair. His opponents prepare a massive victory celebration. Then the results start to come in. At first, all seems to be going as predicted, but then – cue tinkly music – there are hints that our hero is doing better than expected. Minute by minute, the hints become indications and – music builds to crescendo – the indications become a tidal wave. Our hero wins! He was right all along – the people were on his side! As a comic touch, his opponents’ victory party ends in farce as the hall is cleared with astonishing speed. Of course, Hollywood being Hollywood, certain unpleasant things the real Donald Trump has said and done would have to be left out of the script, as would the inconvenient truth that he won fewer votes than his opponent – and Hollywood, being Hollywood, would make him a Democrat – but the basic plot is still straight out of the Frank Capra playbook, something to encourage underdogs and everymen everywhere.

Ninth, at least he is not Hillary Clinton. This was the selling point that won him the election. If it does not appeal to everyone, especially not to those who were looking forward to America’s first woman President, just consider this: when America finally does catch up with where Britain was almost four decades ago, it will still be possible for the first female occupant of the Oval Office be a true feminist role model, there because of her own merits not because of the brand name of the man she married.

Finally, whatever else you say about Donald J Trump, he is not dull. We can certainly look forward to a rebirth of satire – which was strangely silent under Barack Obama, despite a wealth of raw material – while Mr Trump himself is nothing if not entertaining, albeit often unintentionally.

If that seems scant consolation, we have only ourselves to blame. What else can we expect after years of allowing politics to degenerate into a downmarket division of the entertainment industry?

John Winterson Richards was the last Leader of the Opposition on Cardiff City Council before local government reorganisation and is the author of 'If It Ain't Broke: the Case Against Constitutional Reform.

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