So. Donald Trump is running for President of the United States in 2024. Again.
I’ll admit it: The part of me that’s a bit of a nerd and a fan of satirical late-night comedy is reaching for the popcorn.
The rest of me? God help us.
I must say, however – some of the reactions to Trump’s announcement, and accompanying speech, have been hilarious. The reviews are in…and they’re shady. Even the right-leaning media is sharpening its claws — with headlines like “Old Mar-a-Lago Man Yells at Cloud”, and “Trump 3.0 Is A Changed Man: A Loser”. Trump’s beloved Fox News cut away from airing his speech – which, as comedian Stephen Colbert put it, had “real stop Grandpa’s wedding toast energy”. Twitter users had no mercy, deriding everything from his unfocused ramblings, to his uninspiring delivery, to his entrance music – “Do You Hear The People Sing?” from Les Misérables.
[Given Victor Hugo’s strong stance against social injustice, I doubt he intended Les Mis to be a rallying cry for property tycoons with bad spray tans.]
Now he’s thrown his MAGA hat in the ring, will Donnie Boy make it back to the White House? Well, the US isn’t so sure.
Almost all the candidates Trump endorsed performed poorly in the recent midterm elections. He is at the centre of multiple investigations, including for his role in the January 6 insurrection. The Republican establishment, from past financial backers to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, has distanced itself.
As the National Review wrote, “To paraphrase Voltaire after he attended an orgy, once was an experiment, twice would be perverse.”
It’s not looking good for our Very Stable Genius. Mind you, that was the mood back in 2016 – and, well, the rest is history.
So, why should we, in Aotearoa, care what happens in the US corridors of power?
Amusing though it is to roast “Cheeto Hitler” from a safe distance, there is some cause for concern. As academic and international relations expert Gabrielle Armstrong-Scott wrote for Stuff, “America’s growing authoritarianism, domestic turbulence and retreat from international leadership” could create an unstable environment for the Indo-Pacific.
For example, a growing nuclear arms race in New Zealand’s backyard [which could intensify under Republican leadership] and Trump’s undermining of the United Nations spells a significant security threat. Trump has also severely undermined climate action – and we’re already seeing climate change laying waste to our Pacific neighbours. Trump has no incentives to regulate big tech, which we know helped radicalise the terrorist responsible for the Christchurch mosque shootings.
My concern? We have absolutely seen “Trumpism” – the spread of disinformation, the distrust of the media, the vitriolic attacks on “enemies” – take hold in Aotearoa. It started small, with the “Make Ardern Go Away” hats, and the odd reference to the “stolen” 2020 General Election. Then, the covid-denial started circling. Journalists were spammed with death threats, vaccine centres were vandalised, and abuse towards women and people of colour in power skyrocketed.
And, well, we know what that led to – white supremacists, fires and flying pavement stones at our Parliament. I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen for the sequel.
Aotearoa has no control over who ends up occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2024. But, I don’t think we [or anyone] should count Trump out. Like it or not, America has a phenomenal cultural influence on the Western World. Laugh at the clown show, by all means – but never say never.
Interesting times are ahead. Because it wouldn’t be Youngish, Scrappy and Hungry without a Drag Race reference, I’ll finish with some words of wisdom from RuPaul: “Good luck, America – and don’t f*** it up.”