This February, China’s traditional calendar enters the Year of the Cockerel – or Rooster. Even more, within their zodiac it’s a year of the fire rooster (the last fire rooster year was 1957), associated with responsibility at work, precise timekeeping, and (wait for it) getting things done. In honour of this new year a shopping mall in China a few weeks ago installed a giant cockerel statue seen here resembling Donald Trump. It’s taken the Middle Kingdom by storm. Chinese shoppers love it – they’re buying replicas of the rooster in several sizes, from key-ring to garden-gnome scale.
The Donald took office little more than a week ago, and alarmed his opponents by actually doing stuff, just like this Chinese star-sign spirit is supposed to. He has already ticked off a list of campaign promises with executive orders, horrifying his critics and delighting the people who voted for him. Though people shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the first thing he did on winning the election was to go on a series of rallies thanking his voters – another highly unusual move among recent US presidents.
Given then that this is probably Year of the Trumpster, as he also calls himself, what can we expect?
Firstly, while Beijing officials are huffing and puffing about war (they’re still peeved he took a phone call from the leader of one of their “rebel provinces” – Taiwan) ordinary Chinese people seem to find him fun. A glance at the Taiyuan shopping centre’s affectionately depicted cock-a-doodle-POTUS shows that they know even his distinctive hand gestures. A lot of everyday people in the US are immediately struck by his work rate.
His executive order of a day or two ago that two rules have to be removed for each new one created will hugely impress the people who are – in all countries – mostly on the receiving end of government policy. I’ve lost count of the number of greengrocers, van drivers, painters and decorators, small factory owners telling me decades ago that any government that removed two old laws for every new law would get their vote.
Obviously it’s simplistic and will be tricky to measure, as Trump’s critics will sneeringly point out.
Equally obviously it’s a very good idea if carried out intelligently. People who work for government agencies, or who work for firms selling services to government agencies, or hope to do one of those two in the future, hate the thought of simplifying legislation of course. Modern states’ complex law is their bread and butter.
For many of them, for example some tax lawyers and accountants, the complexity of certain areas of law is the only reason they have a career at all. Two feline tax lawyers – when I asked them how much more Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had added to the UK tax code in just 13 years – said to me “Oh …about a shelf foot”: substantially over 1,000 pages. Nonetheless, few educated people seem to be able to admit just how appalling that is – nor concede how right hard-working people without formal educations are to deplore it.
This is the single most interesting thing about the Trumpster. Right or wrong in how he’s going about it, he really does seem to see himself as a rich guy on the side of blue-collar workers.
Trump’s old-fashioned Democrat background for decades before he recently got the Republican nomination is one clue. For example, Trump personally helped the Rainbow Coalition and Jesse Jackson’s bid for Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s with free office space and some fundraising. This hasn’t stopped Jackson criticising Trump recently, but still worth knowing if you believed stories The Donald is racist. The huge hostility and media opposition to him from both today’s Democrat and Republican parties should have been another hint. He really might be as different as he claims to be.
His obvious contempt for people who protest by wearing knitted vulva costumes or march in loud displays of virtue-signalling huffiness just heightens their rage, of course. The fact that many otherwise charming and sensible left-of-centre Americans openly hoped the CIA would override the election in a coup d’etat should worry us more.
There has been a disturbing worsening in how the losing side reacts for some years – also in Britain. The current hoo-ha is clearly worse than the fuss that many Americans made about the rather saccharine Mr Obama taking office eight years ago, although that was also bad. Obvious hatred of the younger President Bush eight years earlier was comparable. The anger of opponents of Mr Clinton, eight years before that, was bad too. A pendulum seems to be swinging further each time the White House changes party over the last 30 years.
So it’s important not to overreact against the overreaction to Mr Trump. Still, his opponents show a hysterical edge which is concerning. Comparing him to Hitler, however ludicrous to anyone who’s properly read half a history book, is a sign of the confident ignorance that he’s up against. For the two years I could see he was going to win I’ve said to Hitler-comparer friends that, if things go very badly, Trump might be another Peron. Unlikely, but just about conceivable.
Scott Adams, a writer (best known for his Dilbert cartoon strip satirising the modern office) has also been saying for two years The Donald would win. His view is that today’s protestors are driven by cognitive dissonance – they have invested so much emotionally in Trump being a terrible terrible man over the last 18 months, they will swallow any smear to bring him down. Anything rather than admit they were completely wrong and very silly.
Most of the media seem to be in this mode of furious denial – claiming no previous president ever barred entry to people from Muslim countries (almost all of them did, going back to Jimmy Carter), claiming he’s a child molester (that court case collapsed and its strange timing looked politically motivated), claiming Russian hackers got him elected (the official CIA claim is evidence-free, and the story’s full of holes), claiming he’s a racist (see above), claiming he mocks the disabled (another media smear based on one gesture he can be seen using about lots of able-bodied people).
We are seeing something like crowd madness, pushed on by masses of livid journalists and TV stations who feel personally humiliated and committed to proving their nonsense was right after all.
And I expect some genuine breakdowns.
One despairing anti-Trump friend of mine writes on Facebook “And then I start reading the news. And then I get angry again. And then I post more, I need to share, I need to say it loudly: resist this man and his administration! Resist his policies!”
There is more of this, and then a hint she half-realises she might be losing her sanity. Mournful yet lyrical, her announcement closes with “I feel like I’m living in weird loops, that are quickly spiraling out downward.”
A motivational speaker once told a firm I worked in: most people don’t really try to be happy, they don’t seek spiritual peace, they don’t even want that badly to be rich. More than anything, he said, most people want to be right. Now that might not always be true. But that’s the desire we’re seeing right now. It’s driving a noisy 10% of the United States, Britain, other places, literally out of their minds.
The Year of the Trumpster is going to be busy.
Mark Griffith is a financial trader who keeps a weblog at http://www.otherlanguages.org