It was going to be a tough four years regardless of who was in the White House.
With or without Donald Trump, global temperatures are now imitating Canadian bank profits, setting new record highs every year. Species extinction rates are up to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates, and would likely continue to increase under a Hillary Clinton administration. Regardless of what happens in Washington, nearly two-thirds of the planet’s primates face extinction and three-quarters are in decline.
The primate responsible for much of the ecological and environmental destruction is, of course, man. And no matter how much Trump likes to take credit for things, we managed to do almost all of this without his assistance. If he makes good on promises to tear up the Paris climate accords and tailors environmental protection to the needs of U.S. extraction companies, matters can certainly get worse. But they were going to become worse anyway. Nothing that Barack Obama did or that Clinton would have done would do much to slow the pace of climate change in a world determined to Live in the Now while turning a blind eye to how our actions affect the future.
Our own Prime Minister is evidence enough of that. Despite championing the Paris accords and working to institute a carbon tax, Justin Trudeau has actively promoted the building of pipeline infrastructure that will allow for massive increases in bitumen production from the Canadian tar sands. Rather than shepherding oil resources, Canada’s actions are intended to speed up production in the expectation that the market for expensive bitumen can’t last. At best, Trudeau is both flooding the swamp and draining it at the same time; but pipeline infrastructure is intended to maximize the flow of oil for decades at a time when we should be closing the tap.
Will Trudeau’s environmental record be worse than Trump’s? Probably not. But it won’t be significantly better.
Trump has already done more to expose the rotting underbelly of the American system than Ralph Nader ever did. By naming so many abysmal cronies to cabinet positions, the soon-to-be president has abandoned the traditional pretence that public service is about serving the public. The Trump cabinet, from former Exxon boss Reg Tillerson as secretary of state to Wall Street banker Steve Mnuchin in treasury, have for the most part spent their entire careers in the self-service industry. Trump has effectively moved lobbying from the backrooms of Congress to the hallways of the Oval Office, with 11 of 19 picks so far connected to corporations that have spent close to half a billion dollars lobbying Washington.
Trump has merely cut out the middleman.
The new president heads into office with the lowest approval rating (40 per cent) since Gallup started measuring that metric in 1992. Revulsion for his presidency is so strong that the number of celebrities who have denied that they will play at his inauguration far outstrips the few D-listers who have confirmed. And while Obama’s first inauguration set attendance records for any event ever held in Washington, Trump’s will set a new record for inauguration protests, with a massive Women’s March on D.C. the next day expected to attract 200,000 to the American capital and untold numbers in satellite protests in 370 cities around the world. (Info on the Montreal march is here.)
While Obama’s first mandate began with a message of Hope — mostly false hope, it turns out — Trump’s promise to make America Great is destined to fail even more resoundingly. Already, his promise to eliminate Obama’s Affordable Care Act without harming the 20 million Americans who now have insurance thanks to the plan is hitting the rocks. His promises to restore manufacturing jobs in the Rust Belt will be exposed as unrealistic bluster, his tax reforms will widen the gap between rich and poor, his military spending (and his Mexican wall) will add billions more to an already ballooning debt.
If he can’t get his impulse control in check, his propensity for making huge policy declarations on Twitter in the wee hours of the morning will stall his administration as it lurches from one poorly thought-out “priority” to another.
In Obama’s America, the influence of capital on the capitol was powerful but largely unseen by the average citizen. In Trump’s America, the new emperor will be flashing the corporate jewels at every opportunity. The combination of clarity and chaos will perhaps be the catharsis America needs and the best opportunity American progressives have seen in 100 years to mobilize the population to push for true and fundamental reforms.
If Trump’s presidency manages to do that, it may not be such a bad thing after all. ■