[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr. Steve,
What the holy hell now?
Stunned, Appalled, etc.
Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. That is a sentence that should only exist in the Book of Revelations.
Events are still in motion. Alec Baldwin is rumoured to have taken refuge in the Canadian Embassy. Vladimir Putin is planning his invasion of Finland. Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby are setting up committees to explore 2020 presidential campaigns. Billy Bush is applying for a job as White House Press Secretary. The Canadian Football League is preparing for a dazzling, star-studded future. Gov. Chris Christie is in an Oreo coma.
Last night the Vancouver Canucks played a game in Madison Square Garden in New York. I hope Ranger fans were wise enough to scribble down the words to O Canada. If they’re coming we will expect them to know it. As for the rest of us, I suppose when Canucks forward Loui Eriksson actually scored a goal we should have guessed the Apocalypse was coming.
Trump took the stage around midnight PST and delivered a rambling, gracious speech. The mood was spoiled somewhat when somebody in the crowd apparently yelled “Kill Obama.” But when you consider that the man who gave the speech now controls both the U.S. Supreme Court and the nuclear launch codes, a little death threat against the sitting president draws a resigned shrug.
How bad could a Trump presidency get? That depends on the answer to a philosophical question: What are the limits of bad? Is there a Platonic ideal of badness?
We may soon see. Trump has promised to make America great again, and there is indeed greatness to be found in America’s past. The Great Depression comes to mind. We may be entering another such era momentous enough to require its own historical name, like the Black Plague, the Terror, or the Cultural Revolution. The candidate of the Ku Klux Klan, the man who said climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, the birther/wall builder/Muslim-banner who “loves the poorly educated,” the scam artist behind Trump University, the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief, has won the presidency with the support of almost half of the American voters. Let’s have a naming contest for that event. Something involving the word “great.”
As of Monday I considered myself to be cynical about human nature. As of now I realize that I was SpongeBob Squarepants. The mere fact that Trump won the national election after proving, again and again and again over a period of many months, that he is likely one of the most reprehensible human beings currently alive in the United States, is a mind-altering experience.
If you’re an optimist — and while even SpongeBob is drunk and doing lines of coke off a rusty switchblade right now, there must still be an optimist somewhere — you will grasp at thin straws of hope. You might cling to the fact that Trump is not bright enough or engaged enough to be a real president. He could not possibly be as bad as he promised to be — he doesn’t have the ability or the resources. Many of the despicable things he promised are logistically impossible. That’s a plus. Also, he has cheated and lied to virtually everyone he has ever had dealings with, which suggests he could be capable of stiffing the white supremacist crowd too. They want the Fourth Reich but maybe they’ll just end up with Chinese-made ball caps. Besides, he promised that once he was elected he would sue all the women who accused him of sexual assault so that should keep him occupied.
But that means others will be in charge. Who are they? Will Steve Bannon, top Trump campaign advisor and puppet-master of the racist, alt-right-linked Breitbart News Network, have real power? Will Chris Christie have time to make policy and still track down everyone who mocked his servility on Twitter? Will former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke design the inaugural headgear? Will Inaugural Ball guests insist on wearing the tablecloths?
In the meantime it’s clear that America needs a stricter screening process for its reality TV shows. Now that the new path to the White House has been blazed, we must not give the awesome power of TV celebrity to just anyone. In the meantime we can only brace ourselves for the future candidacy of Honey Boo Boo. Frankly, she will be a step up.
Watching another TV show this year, The People vs. OJ Simpson, I was pretty hard on the OJ jurors. I owe them an apology — in hindsight it appears that, compared to the average American voter, their powers of deliberation were probably above average. If this campaign offered any useful lessons it might be this: if you’re ever charged with a serious crime in the U.S., don’t go for a jury trial unless you are guilty as hell. Irrefutable evidence of fraud, abuse and malfeasance doesn’t seem to make much of an impression down there.
What does it mean for Canada? Our relationship with America is forever changed. Americans put Donald Trump in the White House. You can’t overlook that. It’s like finding out that an old friend has a Pepe the Frog tattoo, or accidentally walking in on someone watching Santa Claus porn. Things can never again be the same between you.
We may not be in Hell, but we’re next door. At the very least we can expect plenty of flying embers. For what it’s worth, I expect Justin Trudeau is about to become an even bigger global celebrity. People will be desperate for heroes.
The most powerful nation in the world has proven that it is truly capable of anything. What do we do now, Stunned? I’m not sure. But then, I don’t drink.