author of The Robin Gibson series
Posted 9th November 2016
The price of getting what you want
Early in 1980, one of the most brilliant sketches on BBC's ’Not The Nine O’clock News’ was a cowboy campfire song affirming belief in Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, with the last line “But I can’t believe Ronald Reagan is President.” Well, ditto x 10 Donald Trump - not so much a case of history repeating on itself as the onset of chronic global flatulence. The man has endeared himself to few countries bar Russia.
At Trump’s acceptance ceremony, there was irony in having “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” playing in the background. It was ironic for two reasons: in 1969 - just as now, I imagine - The Rolling Stones represented much that today’s increasingly ultra-right wing Republican party detest. Also the chorus line continues “But if you try sometimes well you might just find you get what you need.” Undoubtedly, Trump’s supporters have got what they wanted but I think it’s a near certainty that before too long they will discover it’s not what they need - or believe they were promised.
After the inauguration, we shall watch - many of us in dread - as the Republican Party’s nominee is appointed to the Supreme Court vacancy and then wait as they set about fulfilling promises to amend / repeal legislation on abortion, gay marriage and LBGT rights, to name but a few. With control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency, there is nothing to stop this self-interested, cruel and bigoted party from pursuing an agenda significantly thwarted during Obama’s two terms in office.
For those blue collar workers who believe in Trump’s vision of a golden future, however, that agenda won’t include making ‘trickle-down’ economics a reality (it's a theory only) or create millions of well-paid jobs. And Trump’s promise, as recently as today, to rebuild their entire infrastructure, thereby creating even more jobs, would come at a price America cannot afford. This new money has to be found and yet Trump has pledged a massive tax cut, mostly benefitting the wealthy, whilst the largest current budget recipient, the powerful military-industrial complex, will regard relinquishing any part of it as non-negotiable.
That goes to the heart of Trump’s biggest problem. He’s been liberal with his promises throughout the campaign but delivering on them is a different matter. It’s true that veracity hasn’t been a major concern up to now, even when his lies can be easily exposed, but henceforth he’ll be under constant scrutiny and challenge of the sort he has never faced before. His love affair with that part of the American people who saw him as their salvation - their much-needed instrument of change - will soon turn sour if he fails them. He will only be allowed a short honeymoon period to demonstrate his ability to achieve what he has said he will do so easily and so effectively. If voters don’t see evidence of the “beautiful thing”, their support and tolerance will turn to frustration and criticism faster than Trump can say “I never said that.”
His talk of bringing all of America together, of healing the divides must be heart-warming to his followers but to those left devastated by his triumph they will inevitably feel like hollow words. After a campaign so divisive and acrimonious, Trump will need to build bridges, be receptive, conciliatory, even humble - a difficult ask for a narcissist, all supposing they are words in his lexicon. Let us hope he gathers good advisors around him - not yes-men, not mavericks but people who have political nous, a global perspective, the freedom to speak truth to power and, dare one suggest, a sense of morality to make up for the yawning deficiencies of their boss. If Trump doesn’t try, for once, to do the right thing, there will be no ’Sympathy For The Devil’.