“I didn’t divide ‘em. We’re going to put it back together.” This was Donald Trump’s reaction to the sarcastic title conferred by the editors of Time magazine (“President of the Divided States of America”). This comment summarizes the mixture of impudence and brazen self-assurance that characterizes Trump. He hailed the news weekly’s recognition of him as person of the year, “for better or for worse,” as a “tremendous honor.”
This is the new normal of Trump’s again-great America. It is difficult to overestimate the devastating potential of a Trump government, an executive populism adopting fake news as a new political norm. In Trump’s daily blender, the sacred and profane are mixed. With equal nonchalance he attacks the satire of Saturday Night Live or the climate change that threatens the planet. This new formula has pushed the institutions out, paralyzed before the enormous conflict of interest.
His supporters love to point out the disruptive and innovative strength of the anti-system trumpism. But for many others — namely, the majority that voted against him (2.7 million votes and counting) — Trump’s style evokes the sinister era of American fascism, characterized by xenophobic and McCarthist drifts.
Following Mussolini style, Trump moves from his ivory tower, where he organizes an army of billionaires, to the arenas where he articulates his “popular movement” emotionally. The skyscraper builder, who owns factories in China, says: “I represent the workers of the world. And they love me and I love them.” The paradox is the overwhelming number of times he alternates militarism and isolationism, profiteering and protectionism, waiting to put them to improbable tests.
Meanwhile, the show goes on, with Fox’s special program entrusted to Harvey Levin, the dean of trash television, with whom he led an “imperial kitsch tour” of his gilded apartments in Trump Tower. It is a Berlusconian glimpse of boorishness elevated to a court representation. It is the ethics and aesthetics of a narcissistic Autarch. Or is he something new? An aberrant anomaly that promises in many ways to test the American experiment?
The question, in this “post-ideological” universe, is of great interest to the rest of the world. Quoting Time magazine, it is politics conceived as entertainment, with protagonists, antagonists and suspense. But the script, as Trump likes to repeat — without reassuring anyone — has not been written yet.