Saturday 25 May 2019

A year in, and Trump is finally maturing. Unlike his critics

Still reviled: Trump applauds during the State of the Union address this week
Still reviled: Trump applauds during the State of the Union address this week
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Well, that was an unexpected 12 months.

According to the experts, we should have been embroiled in World War 3 by now, America would be a land of vast internment camps and the world as we know it was going to end.

The American voters would rue their decision, we were told. Typical Yanks, eh? Too bloody stupid to understand democracy, their hatred of women was so visceral that they would rather vote for an orange-haired, tiny-handed Hitler who would be the worst thing that any of us have ever experienced. Ever.

Watching Trump's first State of the Union the other night, the picture was rather different.

Far from dragging his country to the brink of depression and the world to the edge of Armageddon, he was able to boast that the American economy is doing better than it has for 20 years, Isis has been eradicated as a serious fighting force and even North Korea has offered an olive branch of sorts to their neighbours south of the border. Oh, and illegal immigration is down as potential border-crossers decide it's not worth the hassle.

Of course, none of these things matter to the people who have decided that he is evil and just as Obama could do no wrong, he can do no right.

The stony faces of the assembled Democrats, who made a massive tactical mistake by refusing to even applaud the fact that black unemployment was now down to a record low, seemed to reflect the views of one American writer that there "are now two Americas, and they hate each other".

It wasn't meant to be like this.

In fact, when it looked like Hillary Clinton was a certainty in the race for the White House, the only worry would be that hordes of Trump-loving rednecks would descend on Washington and riot. As it happened, we've seen plenty of riots, but they're coming from the Left, who with Loser-In-Chief Hillary still hanging around like a bad smell, have had a year to cope with the election result - and they still haven't calmed down.

There was always going to be an outbreak of rancour from whichever side lost this most polarising of elections.

But you have to admire the stamina of those people who have spent the last 12 months in a state of constantly increasing hysteria; a form of ever escalating high dudgeon which has transported them away from the arena of common sense and reduced them to spittle-flecked outbursts of fury whenever his name is mentioned.

Where do these people find the energy to be so incredibly, determinedly dyspeptic all of the time? Do they not find it wearying to make the same tired accusations they have been making for more than a year?

After all, that's a long time to hold a grudge against someone you know, so it must be genuinely stressful trying maintain it over someone you've never met and who will have zero impact on your own life.

You only need to look at the media to see how deep Trump Derangement Syndrome has burrowed.

Even calling for a degree of balance is tantamount to admitting that you enjoy drowning kittens for sport. Yet the more outlandish the claim, the more accepted it is.

That's largely because even though half of Trump's Irish and European critics wouldn't know their electoral college from a popular vote, they have decided that one sure way to prove you're a right-thinker is by having a pop, even when it's entirely irrelevant. One minor, but typical, example came in a piece recently about Ireland's plastic-bag problem, which finished by asking if we wanted to "be the kind of shithole country that Trump thinks we are".

Huh?

Of course, Trump never actually said that. But that wasn't important. What was important was letting the reader know that they hate Trump, even though it had precisely zero to do with the topic. You can't argue with that level of stupid. Well, you could, but there's not really any point.

Trump has transcended mere politics to become a figure reviled with almost religious devotion.

That's why Irish politicians, from all across the spectrum, know they can burnish their credentials by lobbing a few nasty comments his way. That's why so many of his loudest opponents will never be able to acknowledge his successes. They have invested so much of their own personality into hating him that they have left themselves nowhere to turn.

It is perfectly possible to point out all of his manifest flaws. His retweeting of the Britain First video. Appearing to endorse Richard Spencer and his gang of smirking suburban fascists as "decent people". The grandiose claims and the extreme pettiness. The point scoring and score settling.

But it's possible to criticise him such stupidity while also recognising that he has done a better job than anyone gave him credit for - particularly when the start of his reign was chaotic beyond compare.

When the naysayers start to call him Hitler, or the "Great Dictator" - as one news anchor did the other night - people just turn off. Not just because such slurs are wrong (Trump wants to lessen the power of government, actual dictators tend to be quite fond of increasing it) but because they've all been heard before.

It looks like Trump is finally beginning to mature.

If only we could say the same for his critics.

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