So… it’s been a while. Lots has happened. President Trump, eh? Not what I would have chosen, but I respect you America, you’ve got balls. Electing someone with as much experience as I as president, and I haven’t finished secondary education yet! I do him a disservice and so do many in the wider media, of that I am sure. President-elect Donald Trump is just that: President-elect. That means, assuming the recount wont swing 3 or 4 states, he will become president. It also means he is technically the most successful man in America at the moment. He has successfully convinced over 60 million people that he was the man for the job. Furthermore, he carried 30 out of 50 states and won by 74 electoral college votes; this is by no means the biggest win ever but it certainly isn’t the closest. So, what’s next?
I wager that, given support in the right places, Donald Trump could be a good president. Yes, firstly he should learn to act like a president, perhaps giving over control of his twitter to a sensible staffer is a good start. However, once he has done this, which one imagines would occur rather quickly, he can start work properly as president. He has already back tracked on some of his most radical proposals (he will not lock Hillary Clinton up nor will the wall be true to his campaign promises) which shows he can compromise and is willing to work towards beneficial policy decisions. As much as people on the left want to put this result down to an aberration, or a sudden increase in the number of “racist misogynists” voting, this is not the case; the issues that Donald Trump campaigned for got him elected, not flippant (though still abhorrent) comments about women or racial groups. People flock to traditional demagogues in times of fear and when there is a pervasive feeling of low-worth. Alcibiades, the Athenian general cum statesman, convinced the Athenians, at a low point of the Peloponnesian War, to attack Syracuse in Sicily. Their entire fleet, a huge armada, was destroyed. Later it was said that such a decision could not have been made with out Alcibiades’ successful efforts to play on the people’s vanity in such a time of hardship. This was 413 BCE. What it is important to note is that the only way Alcibiades succeeded in his plea was because it made the people believe they would succeed; Alcibiades played on Athenian vanity and desire for status as a superpower – In the simplest terms, Alcibiades promised to ‘Make Athens great again’.
Now obviously, one cannot parallel exactly the actions of a general from 2400 years ago to Donald Trump, in fact doing so would be absurd. However, the story does have one incredibly important aspect to it, one that may be taken as a moral by those who don’t want to see another Alcibiades (or Donald Trump): Alcibiades, and Donald Trump, only succeeded in their respective aims because the people could relate to them – the issues they addressed were real. Donald Trump, when promising to the blue-collar white couple, is not exaggerating when he says their lives have been ruined, and that America has fallen in the last 10,20,30,40 (etc.) years. For them, the average ‘Rust Belt’ couple, who were once the successful middle classes just a generation or two ago, his rhetoric is painfully real. Ipso facto it is obvious that if his rhetoric is real to the couple so too will his promise, of ‘Making America great again’, seem a realism. Here is a city man, a fat-cat, a city-slicker, but unlike so many of those professional politicians who have come before, he understands. Trump, a liberally raised billionaire’s son now billionaire himself, gets it. He understands the pains these people have and can talk to them. Unlike so many of the politicians in the West, city-centered metropolit(ic)ans, Donald Trump gets through to these people and connects with the on issues important to them. This shows, as has most of politics in 2016, that people are fed up listening to the ivory tower inhabiting metropolitan elite, they are sick of being told that their issues don’t matter or that city issues take precedence over their own issues.
People, like those in Athens in 413 BCE, are scared, worried about their future and the future of their kids but most of all they are lost. They were once so secure, the factory working blue-collar middle class in the USA in the post-war period and the industrial working class in the UK; they knew where they stood. Once upon a time these groups were the backbone of society, whether in America or the UK or France or Germany (or most other industrialised Western nations), but now they are lost. Jobs are going, or more often gone, and they are slowly cut adrift from the ever growing power of the cities and of new technology. However, whatever people (read: liberals) think, these people are not stupid. They are not racist. They are not sexist. Labeling whole groups in these terms only emphasises the differences between these people and those in power. These people know that over the past 30 years life has been getting worse, since Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US, and every time a politician comes they promise the world but deliver nothing. The politicians come to these blue-collar workers like Theseus to Ariadne: They need help, to get past the Minotaur that is the impending election, and they promise their metaphorical hand in marriage, to work with these blue-collar workers until things are better and as they should be. However, just as Theseus breaks his promises so do the politicians – they scorn the people taking their vote and leaving them stranded on their island of hopelessness. This is what the metropolitan political elite do to these people and it happens every election cycle, somewhat like the 7 year cycle the Athenians appeased the Minoans with. However if this analogy is true and the people are like Ariadne to the political elite’s Theseus then who is Donald Trump? Is he Dionysus flying down to save Ariadne and make her his immortal wife, restoring the blue-collar workers to their former state and beyond? Or does the story take a darker twist? Is Donald Trump the last Theseus – the Theseus that forgets to change sails and thus ensures his father’s suicide? If this is true who is Aegeus, the father condemned to die? The political class or the blue-collar class or the whole country?
This, however, is unbelievably gloomy – it is unlikely, I would say impossible but 2016 put paid to that kind of hubris, that such a dark ending could occur. In fact, as I hinted at above, I think Donald Trump could make a good president and here’s how. Donald Trump is a businessman, that is a huge point amongst his fans and critics. To fans he is a successful businessman worth over a billion dollars, to critics he’s a man who has been bankrupted 4 times and needed a ‘small loan’ of 1 million dollars. However, to both people the facts remain the same: Donald Trump is worth more money than most of the population would see in 10 lifetimes, let alone one, and secondly he has been crafty in his enterprise. His businesses have been bankrupted 4 times, but he has never faced money issues in any serious sense. Recently, in the debates, he quipped he had not paid taxes in 20 years and was right for doing so because he outsmarted the IRS. It makes little to no difference if one disagrees with the morality of his business decisions, the president should have little time for such trivialities – the presidency is pledged to do the best for America and previous presidents haven’t let morality stop that, Trump should and will be no different. This could be a positive. If Trump’s business skills of crafty dealings, hard negotiations and necessary compromise can be brought to the fore by the presidency that can only be a good thing. Furthermore, the president must perform a balancing act of hardcore conservatives and hardcore liberals, Trump more so than others. Trump has the 12th smallest share of electoral college votes and lost the popular vote by over 2 million (Recount results still ongoing). This means Trump does not have a large mandate and as Jefferson said “Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities”. This means that radical change is unlikely. Radical change not being unlikely, whilst implying a continuation of the status-quo, needn’t be detrimental to loyal Trump supporters or anyone else. The economy is starting to pick up for America and, because radical innovation should not be possible under the Trump presidency, the status-quo would benefit that. Once the economy picks up Trump would have the possibility of moving to reform. Trump, chances are, will not jeopardise economic growth by following up on his irrational campaign promises such as the wall. Nor will he be able to, in theory, truly undo the works of his predecessors and it will be doubly unlikely to disentangle the US from their foreign policy agreements.
So, what do we see? We see, in 4 years time, a jubilant president Trump, looking assuredly secure, and a buoyant America, finally recovered from the financial crash of 2008 and from the divides that have for so long resided under the surface. It seems silly, foolish even, to believe that Trump, a man with zero qualifications in politics could do this, but that, at least, should be the hope. The hope of all people, Republican; Democrat; Independent; American or not – we should all hope for a successful US president, and it is up to the people of America, those who supported Hilary or despised Trump, to move past the result and work towards a more secure future for all of us. If we fail to work together and repair these issues, that are so familiar to our Western world, we just leave the door evermore open for the entrance of a demagogue, another Alcibiades, or worse, another Theseus.
American politics is at a crossroads. A decision must be made and the consequences will be far reaching and will impact future generations. Hecate was the Greek goddess of crossroads and entrances. She symbolises the possibilities one faces when making a choice at a crossroads; the boundless opportunity that unravels in front of us promising great success. Because of this, she was seen, in Athenian households, as a protective goddess who could bestow great fortune upon a family. However, she is also the Goddess of witchcraft and magic – she holds great power and uses it on those who waver over their decisions. Hecate embodied choice but, more than that, embodied making your choice: You can choose freely but you must choose. Thus, we see that we, as people of the world, must choose. Choose to aid Trump, to aid those across partisan divides, to reach out to those we have left behind and maybe, just maybe, that silly and foolish, against all odds, dream of a united and successful America, and the wider world in general, might just come to fruition. America, and the West in general, stands at a crossroads and Hecate is watching; will you step forward bravely, ready to do your bit? Or will you waver, doubtful, not ready to pay Hecate the respect she deserves, leaving the door open just in case you have to run back, not quite seeing the shadow of demagogy rearing its head once more?