I have a love-hate relationship with the saying, “Only Nixon could go to China!” What it means is that only a total Cold Warrior who was utterly anti-China would have the political clout to do that. An internationalist like myself would never be able to do that because people wouldn’t trust me. (Also, I would never be president for all of Sherman’s reasons and for the fact that no one would ever elect me.) The reason I love the statement is because it is true. The reason I hate it is that it is true.
I don’t think of it in terms of Nixon and China, I think of it in terms of Clinton and welfare “reform.” A Democratic president managed to screw the poor in a way that no Republican had ever dared. Oh, ain’t democracy grand! So it with this in mind that I hold out a long-shot hope that Trump might do something good. What? I certainly can’t say. But you never know. And I’m just trying to get through this month, much less the next 8 years. (Sorry folks, I give Trump an 80 percent chance of winning re-election — something I wrote about long before the election.)
The reason I bring this up because of something that Noam Chomsky said in an interview. Mehdi Hasan asked him about something Slavoj Žižek had said, “Trump would shake up the system and could be a positive force in terms of undermining the status quo.” It’s the first time that I’ve ever thought of Žižek as a useful idiot. I thought he had said that after the election. But he didn’t. Hasan asked Chomsky if Žižek had a point. Chomsky’s response was quite right, “Terrible point. It was the same point that people like him said about Hitler in the early 30s… He’ll shake up the system: in bad ways.”
We Can Hope Trump Will Do Good
But at this point, I’m afraid that we are left with Žižek’s hope. A Donald Trump presidency is not something I wanted. For the first time in about a decade, I have had serious suicidal thoughts. It’s pathetic, really; but it does indicate just how bad I think a Trump presidency will be not just for the nation but for the world. Still, I think we have to have hope. And there is one reason to have hope: Trump is a narcissist. And narcissists want to be loved.
Of course, it doesn’t look good. He has decided that Tom Price should head Health and Human Services (HHS). And I’m not sure that the crowds will stop cheering if 20 million people lose their health insurance — at least for a while. But like I said, we’ve got to have hope.
But that doesn’t mean that we should be idiots. The truth is that Trump’s total lack of experience in politics means that he will be a mark for the Republican establishment. The pick of Price to run HHS actually shows this. It is not the kind of pick of someone who is actually outside the Beltway. Tom Price could just as easily have been picked by Mike Pence.
And Trump might be different in exactly the way that we don’t want. Despite what most people think, presidents do live up to their promises. Maybe that’s how Trump will be different. When he said he would protect Medicare, maybe it meant nothing.
So I’m not suggesting that we should be too hopeful. But we’ve got to stay hopeful enough to keep fighting.