Making political predictions is a foolish endeavour for idiots, like me, see exhibits here, here and here for conclusive proof. Political presumptions are even more idiotic, dangerous even, as nobody viewed Trump as the threat he was. Indeed many scoffed, outright laughed, throughout Donald Trump’s attempt to become US president.
Not now. We laugh when we’re taking the piss out of how ridiculous he looks and sounds and all this is. You have to, but it’s usually prefixed with a nervous grunt of willing denial. Eventually the laughter subsides when we remember that someone who’s been Tango’d, by choice, sports a peculiar comb-over type quiff (or whatever it is), again, by choice, has a preposterous, cartoonish, narcissistic man-child persona and was a second rate reality TV star, is now President of the United States Of America, and that they get given the launch codes to the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
Fittingly, Ronald Reagan once ‘starred’ in a B movie where he tried to teach a monkey human morals and behaviour. We can consider Reagan’s once unlikely political career, its success, and ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’ as widely prophetic of contemporary American Presidential elections and political discourse. On a more serious note: all the pre-election ridicule, Trump’s subsequent Black Mirrorish executive orders and press conferences and the accompanying hysteria since he’s taken office, has confirmed that those who perceive a political change to be regressive, are usually the last to recognise when it’s about to happen.
Two culpable factions are the cause, and it’s easier to fall into one category or the other than not. For those who were disillusioned, Trump and Brexit, for better or worse, offered them a genuine opportunity to upset the established order and arrest whatever social or economic issue had blighted them. The second; that many believed, and I include myself among this demographic, they had a better grasp of what people were thinking and wanting, or, more specifically, knew what they should want and think, than they did themselves.
Brexit and Trump were two examples of the liberal commentariat that smugly pontificate and dominate their media and social media echo chambers of choice, and the members of their congregations, actually over-estimating their value, numbers and influence over the former group. Suitably this contempt and dismissiveness has proven to be a photo-negative form of the complacency to which the ‘mis-guided’ (and that’s one of the kinder euphemisms) folk assume when blaming social and economic decay on the liberalisation of post war politics.
Take away the contexts in which they exist and the sheer gulf between them and there are merits to both perspectives. If there are limited job opportunities or infrastructure investment in your area, and if no solution or alternative is offered, what have you got to lose by seeking one through unconventional means? Sadly, as many pointed out, Trump and Brexit just happened to be the most immediate and dangerous way to articulate that disaffection.
In contrast to 2014, a Yes vote is positioned to end this trend. For those opposed to Brexit, Scotland’s parting from a UK whose main opposition – the shambolic Labour party – offers no effective political opposition to its separation from the EU, may see Scottish Independence as a chance to reach for the handbrake, to take a breath, to preserve centralist politics and Internationalism as still being virtuous, when the increasing political polarisations occurring in the US and UK are combining to sweep away political centre ground mores as we’ve known them. Fittingly, just as we saw throughout Trump’s bid for presidency and the Brexit vote, the success of the Yes campaign is still being downplayed by the majority of the mass media, based largely on polling data, which, as we’ve observed recently, is completely unreliable.
The result of the previous Independence referendum is partly driving this scepticism. However, the terrain on which the 2014 referendum was fought is no longer; Trump’s election, and in particular, Brexit, have created an additional urgency, almost a sense of dread on both sides. Amongst Independence supporters is a recognition that Brexit has brought us to a precipice of irreversible change that, constitutionally, will permanently end the prospect of Independence should any pre-Brexit referendum fail. Oddly, it’s the Unionists who seem to be really dreading it. The prospect of putting an end to the question of Independence, likely for good, provides the No campaign with a potent election platform that should greatly appeal to its core support, but a number of the arguments they used in 2014 are now irrelevant, or can only be answered with hypothesises.
As Adam Curtis rightly pointed out in this segment (above) from the 2014 edition of Charlie Brooker’s excellent Screenwipe, much of the debate around politics is now nebulous due to an inability to decipher what the truth is and how things will ultimately affect us.
Which brings us to President Trump, he presents a sizable advantage for the Yes campaign, because, while the case for independence should be made on its own merits, it’s easy to form a coherent narrative against him and use it as a supplementary argument against joining an unfavourable Brexit deal (he supports vanquishing the EU) when he’s looking, acting and saying shit like this. I mean just look at the fucking state of him. He’s batshit fucking crazy and unpredictable. If he isn’t sacking his attorney general, blocking Muslim immigrants, hiring a pot plant to be education secretary or openly threatening to end the career of someone who opposes him, he’s cutting funding for foreign abortion clinics and antagonising ISIS, the Chinese, the Russians and dismissing the leaders of smaller countries coldly. And all the while he’s giving the impression he’s the one who’s being victimised.
Plus there’s Bannon, his chief strategist. Sure, he looks like a creep who goes to Asda just to hang around the aisle where the ladies sanitary products are kept, but he harbours a terrifying belief that the brand of American nationalism that fomented Trump’s success will only be cemented through inciting a large scale conflict that can later be mythologised.
Trump’s xenophobic, authoritarian rhetoric shares a broad synergy with long dormant right wing ideals, these were revealed during Brexit and is informing much of the Tories’ prideful pre-negotiation posturing. Aligning Trump’s unlikely ascension with securing a Brexit majority has gratified and emboldened the Tory right wingers to no longer show a hint of shame in rekindling the faith in an isolationist first world utopia. We’ll (providing your one of us) enjoy the benefits of an affinity between predominantly white, English speaking Christian countries, regaining the economic dominance they once had with more privatisation, tighter immigration controls and high defence spending, while the rest of the world pays a premium for our produce.
You may believe, as I do, that the Tories have a bluff hand, yet even I can see why they’re playing this high stakes game. Win and in the medium term they get perpetual rule and their Chumbawumba (who, as Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods rightly says, weren’t political – suitably as Brexit wasn’t – just crap) – wet dream of heavy footballs, less immigrants in your area, more landfills, cheap(er) booze, unrestricted fishing quotas, toxic pesticides, a deregulated Labour market, a deregulated City, a Swiss style tax system (highest rate of tax 11.5% – no matter what you earn), and high carbon emitting lightbulbs can be realised. It’s sold as returning to a time of halcyon innocence, of willing naivety, where posh people could authentically re-enact ‘Up the Junction’ without having to speak Polish or Bulgarian, before we knew Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris were paedophiles, where the unemployed didn’t rely on the state and just did Steptoe & Son type shit to survive.
Goading Scotland into another referendum, then securing a No vote, would mean they also get to keep Scotland’s resources, and do with them as they please. And after separation from the EU, what purpose does Scottish devolution serve? The law states that the Westminster should hand over control of devolved EU matters to Holyrood, but if there is another referendum with the same result (roughly) as in 2014, what moral or political mandate will a Holyrood lead SNP have to challenge it?
What happened in 2014 has taught me to accept that I could have a no grasp of what’s really happening. I have virtually no control over the outcome (other than my vote), and as someone who is partial to independence I’ll be one of last to recognise when it won’t happen. But I feel certain about this much, with Brexit and Trump we’ve crossed the rubicon, we’ve accepted that individual perception is now more powerful than any collective truth. If Trump remains in situ, he’ll continue to toxify the brand of conservatism he’s come to represent and anyone who isn’t staunchly Unionist, or doesn’t stand to directly benefit from Brexit, could easily conflate his politics with those who oppose independence, and then parse it with what has to be one of the No campaign’s central messages – isolation, with the Tories.
So yeah, Donald Trump continuing in the method could be the deciding factor in Scotland voting Yes. Is this reality?