Yvonne Ridley: Scotland must speak to its disenfranchised working class to prevent the Trump contagion

CommonSpace columnist Yvonne Ridley says it would be foolish to believe Scotland is immune to the factors that created a Trump presidency

IT'S very difficult to write about the US president these days because it seems as though each hour brings a new low with each opinion that tumbles forth from the mouth of the leader of the so-called free world.

Donald Trump's verbal and abusive machine gun approach to office has left columnists reeling in his wake, breathless and stupefied by the many discombobulated pronouncements he makes on Twitter and from the Oval Office.

So far we've had Muslim travel bans, public spats with political allies and old enemies and the threat to annihilate the entire population of North Korea while putting Iran "on notice".

READ MORE: Scots comic Janey Godley brands Donald Trump feart as he cancels UK visit

In short, Trump has upended the global order. He has also managed to kill political satire and virtually silenced the intellectual elite who still cannot quite grasp that a racist, misogynistic buffoon has somehow hijacked the most powerful job in the world.

However, we cannot really blame Trump. He is the product of a large swathe of brassed off American voters, and guess what? This heaving mass of political discontent will do it all again next time around. The warning signs were there back on the campaign trail when Trump did and said things that would've stalled and ended the journey to the White House for even the most consummate of politicians, but we all ignored the runes.

However, the hardcore support base that propelled this nightmare into the Oval Office is stronger than ever and this is the real problem. His backers and fans simply don't care about the vile content of his speeches and are determined he will serve a second term as US president.

There were clear signs back in the summer of 2016 when The Washington Post commissioned with ABC News a poll which said: "Roughly two in three Americans say that they think Trump is unqualified to lead the nation; are anxious about the idea of him as president; believe his comments about women, minorities and Muslims show an unfair bias; and consider his attacks on a federal judge because of his Mexican American heritage to be racist."

The poll also revealed that 41 per cent of Republicans acknowledged that Trump is unfairly biased against women and minorities while 42 per cent described his comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel as racist, and 33 per cent admitted he was unqualified to be president. Despite all of this, they still voted for him.

Trump is the product of a large swathe of brassed off American voters, and guess what? This heaving mass of political discontent will do it all again next time around.

Furthermore they don't appear to give a damn about the contents of Michael Wolff's shocking book, Fire and Fury, which reveals that even his White House aides regard Trump as a "child" who needs "immediate gratification". The book is based on about 200 interviews, and despite Trump's claims that it is "phony" it has become an overnight sensation and best seller.

Trump tried to stop the publication of the book which also hints that the president's mental health is failing and he could possibly be bordering on insanity. The contents are damning, so you'd think Trump would now pull out all the stops to portray himself as a tenacious, intellectual, articulate leader on the world stage.

Instead, we now find ourselves grappling with his latest statement: "Why do we want all these people from 'shithole countries' coming here?" It was a question he asked on Thursday in a meeting with a senators and House members on immigration. 

His "shithole countries" was in reference to the fact that immigrants from places like El Salvador, Haiti and Africa are protected in a potential bipartisan deal to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme and secure funding for border security.

The reaction of White House staff after his "shithole" comment was very telling indeed - not one tried to deny it and his media team even appeared to defend the statement. White House spokesman Raj Shah said: "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people."

Perhaps Holyrood needs to address the issue of the disenfranchised, largely white working classes in our inner cities where casual racism and misogyny has become a breeding ground for the sort of movements we saw sweep Trump in to power.

It is clear in televised segments from Washington that Trump has the verbal dexterity of a drunken bear on a unicycle. He has little or no grasp on international issues or diplomacy, and at times hasn't a clue of what he is even talking about. He is a man who has a long distance relationship with hard facts and cold truths, and such a poor memory he often contradicts himself in subsequent sentences.

His benchmark for success appears to be just how many dollars he has made and as he poses during photographic opportunities he is forever surrounded by white men in suits. The fact he has few black and/or female advisers in his gatherings does not appear to trouble him at all. 

Anyone tuning in from another planet might think America is a predominantly white, patriarchal society. Either that or they're watching a sequel to Margaret Atwood's dystopian story, The Handmaid's Tale.

And yet, his largely racist support base is cheering him on from the sidelines and they will continue to do so despite the lies, the fake news and his inability to do the job. They simply do not care because they have been seduced by the evangelical calling of Trumpism; it's the brand new faith founded by pale, stale, white men using the bricks of patriarchy and white supremacy for foundations.

Trumpism was summed up perfectly this week by New York Times columnist and author Charles M Blow, who wrote: "It is the belief that even the least qualified man is a better choice than the most qualified woman and a belief that the most vile, anti-intellectual, scandal-plagued simpleton of a white man is sufficient to follow in the presidential footsteps of the best educated, most eloquent, most affable black man."

The SNP must go out into the No vote strongholds where Project Fear made voters complicit and educate the disenfranchised as to the real purpose and benefits of independence and the dangers of populist politics. 

He was, in essence, resurrecting the words of former US President Lyndon B Johnson who once said: "If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best coloured man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you."

In short, white power and white privilege literally 'trumps' all in today's America. 

There is a tired old cliché which opines that when America sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. Historically it holds true and is usually anchored to economic issues but we, in Scotland, should be very concerned that Trumpism does not find a politically fertile breeding ground here.

Scotland has usually been ahead of the curve on such matters but perhaps the Holyrood government needs to address the issue of the disenfranchised, largely white working classes in our inner cities where casual racism and misogyny has become a breeding ground for the sort of loosely organised movements we saw sweep Trump in to power.

Despite past, failed attempts by unionist parties to make Scotland a better place for us all to live it is clear that, using populist politics, Labour and the Tories have reinvented themselves and are starting to gain traction. 

The antics and drama of a madman in the White House might keep us all entertained on this side of the pond but the political virus that swept him into power could travel just as easily over here.

Their leaders are fervent opponents of Scottish independence and the EU but it's no use sneering at these populist bandwagons which serve only to treat Scotland as a colony by insisting on dragging it out of the EU against its democratic will and without a mandate from the people of Scotland.

The SNP must go out into the No vote strongholds where Project Fear made voters complicit and educate the disenfranchised as to the real purpose and benefits of independence and the dangers of populist politics. 

The antics and drama of a madman in the White House might keep us all entertained on this side of the pond but the political virus that swept him into power could travel just as easily over here and in to those marginalised, working class communities vulnerable to lies, spin, fake news and evangelical-style saviours.

If Trump has proven one thing it is that Scotland needs independence more than ever before to protect us all from the contagion of populist politics and from a union where we can never be equals.

Picture courtesy of Gage Skidmore

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