You prefer a DM, but here’s a letter. Maybe I’ll send it to your Washington, DC address. And hope it catches you before the removal crew arrives.
Yes, you’re leaving: moving out of the White House. The American people who put you there in 2016 have now served notice. Of course, you’re challenging the landlord. But you must know it’s time to leave, if not leave quietly.
The people who put you there knew that you were going to be unconventional. They knew that you were going to blast your way through all the normal codes. They wanted you to do just that. They wanted you to speak unfiltered; to appeal to the gut; to give voice to the millions who felt voiceless. To those whom you championed, you could do no wrong.
They did not elect a statesman; someone who would unite in victory. They chose a divider. A slash-and-burner. Someone who would become more and more convinced of his invincibility, insulated by a boo-hooray bubble of loyal support; enabled by a street-smart entourage and a legal team on steroids.
You have given the world something truly special: self-authenticating, fact-free correctness.
In the end, when it came to bidding for a second term, too many people were put off by your aggressiveness. Your stoking of tensions. Your deliberate expansion of the differences between those whom you rated and those you slammed. The badmouthing of traditional allies finally tired. Your rapt admiration for the world’s authoritarian strongmen. You acted as if the handbook for global statesmanship was the plotline of ‘Despicable Me’.
History will show that your tenure was a wild, fantastic aberration, won’t it? Right from the jaw-dropping moment four years ago when the impossible happened, it’s been a four-year episode of The Simpsons. Fiction made fact; fake news made real. Right?
But I am wrong.
As wrong now as I was then – in 2016 – when I went to bed knowing that it would be Hillary.
You were never impossible. You were inevitable.
I lacked the insight to see your power. Insulated by my middle-class, old-world attitudes; cosy in my comfortable liberalism; doped by my total lack of understanding of the United States; blind to the frustrations that now erupt from the volcanic inequality of our times.
The wise saw you coming a mile off. They knew your power before it was real. The Real Donald Trump. Destined to be number 45. You captured millions of votes. You were properly elected through a properly democratic process. Free of any skulduggery or intervention from other powers – so far as I know, anyway. It was a fair win in 2016 – narrow, but fair.
People saw something in you. You timed a wave; your words chimed with people who felt marginalised; untouched and under-represented by politics; unheard; airbrushed out. You were real to them. You promised some kind of inversion, turning the old certainties on their heads.
I am absolutely no expert. And you won’t read this, it goes without saying. It seems to me that the version of politics that you invented was all about you. Like everything else: the foreign policy. The pistol-fired tweets. The weakness for guns. The furious golf. The manic orange glow of self-belief. The anti-COVID bleach you urged into your people’s veins.
It was all you. Your peculiar populist genius. The Donald.
Now, as 2020 enters its final weeks, you are ending as you arrived. Calling foul with a puckered pout and blow-torching any still-standing norm of decency that has miraculously evaded your fire so far.
It’s been box office, for sure. Fascinating to see the dignity of office debased. Iconoclasm is compelling viewing, it seems. The world has got used to the bombastic, capitalised salvos; the apparent lack of regard for logic, evidence, fact. These are displaced by the fire of emotion, conviction and sheer bloody will.
Never mind the politics. What kind of example have you set? Really? What have you done for leadership, dignity, democracy?
I can only hope that your actions have equal and opposite reactions in the years ahead. A change of tone to a gentler, kinder, more factful leadership. It will take a long time to heal the divides and rebuild the trust. I hope the next guy in finds a way to reframe the way democracy talks to itself. It’s time to seek proper greatness.
A Letter From Shrewsbury. Serious Fun. My views only.