My friend Winston the electrician called round last week, a couple of days after Donald Trump’s election victory. I unlocked and swung open the gate and he was pointing at me.
‘You’re the man, Andy, you’re the man! You said Trump would win!’ he said.
I’d briefly forgotten the conversation we’d had the previous Monday, on the eve of the US presidential election, when I’d heretically argued that in spite of all the pro-Clinton hysteria on the TV and wireless, I thought that Trump had a very good chance of stealing victory from under the noses of the Democrat-supporting media. Almost all journalists and commentators were so frantically virtue-signalling that they couldn’t detect the reality of what was happening on the ground.
And so it transpired. I didn’t take any particular delight in Trump’s victory; I wasn’t even gruntled at having been more or less correct in predicting he would win. I didn’t like Hillary at all – a greedy, corrupt, establishment money-grubber and war-monger who had utterly forsaken the ordinary folk who were the Democratic Party’s mass (and essential) voters. Trump was loud, vulgar, abusive and egomaniacal – although he was less boring than the alternative. Like many, I quite liked some of what he was saying but I wondered if it was insincere and crazed gibberish that he had no real intent of making good on. But he certainly knew how to ‘lead and pace’ his supporters.
In fact, I thought that at least if Clinton won, she would have to take responsibility for the economic disaster that nearly a decade of QE and excessive monetarist insanity has wrought on the global economy. If Trump got in they would blame him for the disastrous consequences of the Obama years that are about to hit home. The USA has $14 trillion of public debt and $11 trillion of private debt; Obama overspent by $2.5 trillion last year alone, and things are deteriorating – not that Trump with his promise of fiscal expansion will change anything.
But Trump won and there we go. The point is that I had a feeling he might because the entire presidential campaign, and the media’s treatment of him, reminded me so very closely of Modi’s election campaign and how he was treated by the establishment of journalists, bigwigs, politicians (including those in his own party) and all the bien pensants of Indian society. Recall that Modi was supposed to be the Hindu fascist who would bring disaster on India and slaughter millions of innocent and defenceless Muslims. Time, Newsweek (who got it wrong again by predicting a Hillary victory), the New York Times – and most egregiously and viciously of all, The Economist – all splashed on their covers dire warnings about what voting for Modi would entail.
Besides being a dangerous sanguinary racist, Modi was a buffoon, a hick, an uneducated moron, a murderer. Take your pick, all the sins in the Bible or the Vedas were laid on his head. This black propaganda had been going on for over a decade, orchestrated from the highest echelons of the Congress Party and disseminated through the Indian English language media and the ‘liberal’, ‘secular’ institutions of Indian society, in alliance with their international media, academic, think-tank and diplomatic fellow travellers around the world – the international cocktail circuit in other words. Recall that before he was elected Prime Minister, Modi was forbidden from travelling to the USA – a favour from GW Bush to Sonia Gandhi. Obama upheld the Modi ban on Hillary’s advice while welcoming radical Muslims. Perhaps the least attractive thing about Obama is the way he rolls his eyes whenever he hears the word ‘terrorist’.
But Modi was not a terrorist or any of the other awful things he was accused of, as time has shown and as any reasonable person could have foreseen. What he certainly was, though, was the enemy of the established order and clearly a spokesman of the mass of citizens, of the poor and the aspirational. This is much the same as Trump, although again, we cannot yet gauge his sincerity – Modi had a long track record of success in Gujarat whereas Trump has none, or rather a blinging track record as a cannibal businessman tending to the opposite of what he now espouses.
Trump in fact is much like the deceased British businessman Sir James Goldsmith: a ruthless amoral asset-stripper placing profit before everything, exploiting the bankruptcy laws, turning grannies out of their humble cottages and so on. As with Sir James, however, this has the effect of making Trump acutely aware of reality and the harsh conditions out there, the plight of the ordinary worker. After all, he helped to create those conditions at the same time as he also created jobs and attempted to pay as little tax as possible.
I mention Sir James because way back in November 1994 in an interview with Charlie Rose, Goldsmith laid out exactly what would happen in the era of globalisation that was then just dawning. He warned about the internationalisation of capital, the flight of ‘good’ working-class jobs to cheaper territories and the utter lack of loyalty that companies would show to their local communities (see Mark Blyth on this: he points out that loyalty to shareholders instead of workers is now enshrined in US case law). Goldsmith said that as capital became self-interested and hyper-mobile it would chase lower wage costs all over the globe. Country by country, cities would suck in workers from the surrounding villages as factories were built in towns and cities; the traditional rural culture would die as the young enjoyed regular wages for the first time and concrete metropolises would proliferate while land and agriculture was bought up by multi-nationals. Living standards would rocket – and then stagnate and fall as industry fled for the next undeveloped country. It’s well worth watching the interview (and also reading his book, The Trap)
What Goldsmith prophesied in 1994 Trump in 2016 announces as the settled reality. He knows because he contributed to it; now Trump promises to change it. We shall see. But after more than 30 years of monetary economics that has favoured creditors over debtors, we are perhaps beginning to see the early signs of a swing back towards a more fiscally-orientated feeling around policy that would be more in favour of labour, as it was from the 1950s to the 1970s. We needed to cure the inflation and union power that was strangling society in the late 1970s and which led to Reagan and Thatcher, and society has changed for the better in very many ways. But these movements always go too far and eventually deserve correction. Most recently this became true after the 2007-2008 crash, when the bankers were bailed out and the era of asset-price inflation began to reward the rich, creating a new rentier class, and crucify the poor and even the middle class in the Western world – leading to a new population of indebted serfs. Since Trump was elected bond yields have already rocketed. Inflation is coming back. Hurrah! cheer the masses.
So Trump, like Modi, is on the side of the ordinary citizen – or at least Trump sounds to his voters as if he is on the side of the ordinary citizen; we’ll see how he acts in office. Trump speaks up for ordinary people because he has made piles of money and perhaps feels he doesn’t need any more, so he is potentially not a greedy Wall Street cheerleader like Hillary; Modi is on the side of the aam admi (the ordinary man, the ordinary Adam) because that’s where he comes from and wants to stay: he has no money and is not interested in making piles of it – give him a bungalow in the Himalayas to retire to and he’ll be happy.
Consider this possibility: Modi has devoted his life to India and Trump might just be about to devote and sacrifice himself to the USA. Remember that The Donald is an egomaniac and a narcissist – and this may mean that he sincerely will do everything to try to fix America. That would be his lasting golden (neon, flashing, jewel-encrusted) name, much more valuable than his fortune. He might be aiming to redeem himself in the crucible of global economics and politics and be remembered as the nation’s greatest ever hero, the man who saved America.
But back to the election and the dire errors of the mainstream media. It’s clear now that journalists, pollsters and academics are not in the business of analysis but of wish-fulfilment. The rot in journalism and academia has been there for some time now, and they can be reliably depended on to get almost every important vote wrong. I noticed it first with Modi’s election, with how the concerted Indian and Western media assault on him served only to firm up his support. I even calculated in my book how many votes a line of criticism from the usual suspects would win him, and how many more a direct denunciation by Sonia might benefit Modi (sometimes an insult from her could swing a whole marginal seat to him – and it transpired this was true).
Here in the UK the media and the elite establishment called the 2015 Conservative general election victory wrong – Labour was allegedly unbeatable in much the same manner as Hillary Clinton was a certainty – and then got the Brexit vote wrong as well. Then a couple of weeks ago the liberal establishment in the USA made the mother of all errors. It seems clear now that this was because the liberal ‘left’ is now an elite establishment serving the interests of the rich educated and metropolitan coastal classes who of course populate and control politics and the media. They have proven incapable and unwilling of listening to the downtrodden citizens of their country and as a result get reality back to front, inside out and upside down every time (getting reality wrong was my old teacher’s definition of insanity). They’re what Nassim Taleb, who called it for Trump, refers to as IYIs – Intellectuals Yet Idiots.
Then, when the IYIs lose they look for conspiracies and blame the wrong people. So, for example Hillary blames FBI director James Comey despite the disaster that was her campaign. To understand the real reasons and the hilarious depth of the Democratic screw-up, see here.
I think that in the USA, just as in India, political dynasties are both the symptom and the aim of those who benefit from the civic and political rot. In India the Gandhi family turned the polity to a slime and in the USA we had the Bushes and have narrowly avoided the Clintons. But wait! Chelsea Clinton – that deserving political genius – is apparently being groomed for Congress. Michelle Obama, likewise, is being spoken of as a future woman president, because after all, as Hillary Clinton emoted so often, the sex of politician is a supremely important thing. Dynasties and gender politics – nein danke!
I personally know Modi is a very nice fellow but don’t cross him. I don’t know what Trump is like, and it’s not really my concern. I only care if he is successful in doing what he says he wants: to rebalance US society in favour of its average citizens and away from capital and the entitled rentier class for the first time in decades. If he does that he might just renew America, north and south. The comedian Chris Rock, who knows him, says Trump is entertaining but has a mean streak. Good: the USA has had quite enough ‘hope and change’ and can’t afford any more of it. What America needs now is a ruthless bastard to fight its corner. I hope Trump is that man. I hope he can be the USA’s Modi.