While it is to Americans that it matters most, and I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like over there, I have been feeling some trepidation about the result of the US elections.
Waking up on Wednesday morning and seeing the closeness of the race was an oh shit moment. But by Wednesday evening, UK time, there was excitement as a different picture emerged, and by Thursday things were looking dicey for Trump. Glee turned swiftly to impatience. A UK election, including the campaign, takes less than a month and the time between casting your vote and having a new government can be less than 24 hours. To us, the US election seems to have been going on forever.
The map hasn’t changed much in two days now. The process needs to reach conclusion, but the result is now virtually inevitable. Democracy is exhorting its will, state by state, box by box, vote by vote.
I check the polls twice a day. It should calm my nerves, but recent events have proven that nothing is inevitable and that polls are only fleetingly reassuring.
UK politics is inextricably linked to that of the US, perhaps even more so now that we’ve left the EU. America is our largest and most powerful ally, so where they go, we usually follow. We share the big things: language, culture, democracy & love of McDonald’s — but are perplexed by the guns, the crazy health care system, intense evangelicals and FOX News. We accept these as American foibles. It’s not like we don’t have our own problems. Even so, the Trump presidency has been intensely worrying for many in the UK. Deep down, we worry that it might happen to us.
The election of Trump did something to America, just like Brexit did to us. It turned cracks into fault-lines. The fuel for discontent has been gathered for generations, and was primed to burn. Trump was the spark, and an unwanted reminder that order and chaos are precariously balanced.
I’ve been trying to think of the standout moments for me. At first, there were the lies. At first they seemed outrageous, but the rapidity quickly normalised them. The moment I remember most is Charlottesville. Young men carrying tiki torches in the dark, eyes burning with hatred. There was something medieval about it, and I’ve never been able to forget it.
How do you fix America? From this distance, it seems a problem too big to solve. But the first step, surely, is to evict that orange twat from the White House.
Good luck, America. Please, god, make something nice happen this year.
Stephen Levey’s interview with Bill Gates in Wired is something. Any interview with Gates is worth reading. He’s smart, and doesn’t talk about something unless he knows a lot about it. He is careful with his words, which makes his bluntness about the failure of politicians to get to grips with the most significant economic and public health crisis of our lifetimes all the more surprising.
On vaccine sceptics:
Yeah, you’re right… They do it in this kind of way: “I’ve heard lots of people say X, Y, Z.” That’s kind of Trumpish plausible deniability. Anyway, there was a meeting where Francis Collins, Tony Fauci, and I had to [attend], and they had no data about anything. When we would say, “But wait a minute, that’s not real data,” they’d say, “Look, Trump told you you have to sit and listen, so just shut up and listen anyway.”
On the quality of US testing:
The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted… When we tell them to change it they say, “As far as we can tell, we’re just doing a great job, it’s amazing!” Here we are, this is August. We are the only country in the world where we waste the most money on tests.
On the CDC:
We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House a bunch of times. Now they say, “Look, we’re doing a great job on testing, we don’t want to talk to you.” Even the simplest things, which would greatly improve this system, they feel would be admitting there is some imperfection and so they are not interested.
I’m hesitant to see politicians and politics in entirely black and white terms. I believe that the majority of politicians are hard working, and in general want the best for their constituents. I don’t expect them all the share the same views as me. I have no particular love or hate for any political party. The single quality I’m looking for is competence.
It’s been a while since we’ve had anyone competent in charge. Tony Blair is the only one that I can think of. He was thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic and competent, but not infallible. Why is it that leaders with such qualities are so few and far between? I suppose a better question is: why do we not vote in people with those qualities?
Michael Gove says that we will have to ‘show restraint’ in our shopping habits when stores reopen in mid-June. We won’t be allowed to try on clothes & shoes, or test make-up. Essentially, like my mother used to say, don’t bloody touch it unless you’re going to buy it. It’ll be like internet shopping, but you have to pay for parking and run the risk of catching a deadly disease. Such fun – buy one shoe, get one fatal lung malfunction free.
We will be allowed to meet others in private gardens, so long as we stick to the physical distance guidelines. Good news, particularly for grandparents, but it seems that most people started doing this weeks ago and that the public as a whole are a few steps ahead of the official guidance – which nobody has really tried to enforce.
The problem is with the quality of the messengers. None of the cabinet inspire any confidence that they have the remotest clue. Take Matt Hancock, our beleaguered Health Secretary, for example. You can tell that he’s as surprised as we are that he’s in this position because he looks completely bewildered when the press asks him a question. He’s like a crap supply teacher faced with a class that knows more about the subject than he does.
But that’s what you get when you relegate anyone with a spine to the backbenches, and all you have left to to form a cabinet from is a small group of supine cretins.