Americans call it the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” And while the curse might not be a Chinese one, already the rest of the world is discovering just how “interesting” the presidency of Donald J. Trump is likely to be.
After decades living as an expat in Asia, I was stunningly naïve about the degree of political division to be found in the United States. Never in the country’s 240-year history have voters faced such a stark choice between two so unpopular candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton – Bill’s long-suffering wife – and the marginally Republican Donald Trump, now on his third trophy wife and fifth or sixth bankruptcy. How can a guy be a “really great businessman” and bankrupt a casino!
Trump spent next to nothing on his campaign, basking like a rock star in media adulation, flexing his racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant tendencies. And those are just his nicer qualities.
Across the country, crowds in red “Make America Great Again” gimme caps lapped up his “I’ll build a wall, and it will be a great wall, believe me. And Mexico will pay for it.”
His devotees, most of them old, white, faux-Christian males who detest “big gummint” and hate taxes even more, went to the polls in droves. Well, not droves, exactly. Hillary did better, thanks to the pantsuit contingent, out-polling Trump by nearly two million popular votes. Thanks to an arcane process known as the Electoral College, however, Trump is the president-elect.
Those who hoped Trump would shake things up in Washington are only now beginning to sober up, because the shaking is already of Magnitude 5 proportions, with a “Rocky Horror” cast lining up, résumés in hand. “He’ll come around,” rightist friends say. “Give him time.”
Trump dodged a bullet, figuratively speaking, with a US$25 million out-of-court settlement of fraud suits against him for bilking students at his bogus Trump University, scammed by a how-to course in real estate speculation – the leader-in-waiting’s birthright profession. The settlement, Trump says, frees him to focus on building his imperial presidency.
Many of us are now either in the five stages of grief or buyers’ remorse, depending upon ideology. The 99 per cent of us who are non-wealthy Americans caught in the cross hairs already feel the chill. Since Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, it looks like being a long, cold winter.