We have it right from the horse’s mouth; Donald Trump has expressed surprise at how difficult it is to be president. It’s almost as if he thought he had been elected king and could rule by divine right. But no, he actually has to work – and it hasn’t been easy.
Trump touted his ability to make deals and to be decisive. It seems neither has served him well in the White House. The thing is this – it’s easy to make a deal when people have common interests, where people want to make a deal. What he has discovered is that a lot of representatives in Congress simply aren’t prepared to compromise. They would rather stick to what they refer to as principles then be seen as ideologically impure.
Take the repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act yesterday. The vote was close and one group of moderate Republicans threatened to fire their leader when he made a deal – not with Democrats – with another group of Republicans. Even though the Bill passed in the House, it is unlikely to get through the Senate without amendment requiring it all to be done again next month or next year. Obamacare may still be in the gun-sights of Trump when he runs for re-election – providing it all doesn’t get too hard before then.
The real concern isn’t that Donald Trump finds the process of democracy hard; it is that people throughout the West are giving up on the democratic process. More and more, those on both right and left want change and are quite willing to put their faith in autocrats to bring it about. A recent poll has shown that increasing numbers of people, and especially the young, no longer believe that democratic governments are a necessary precondition to their own freedom.
This is more than simple minded libertarianism that proposes individuals can be free when societies are not. It is, in fact, a deeper malaise that seems to have led to a belief that society itself no longer exists. Didn’t Margaret Thatcher predict this some years ago when she said that there was no such thing as society – only individuals and families? Apparently, for her, friendship and common cause were not significant factors in how people behave (despite the cozy deals that the ruling elite commonly made). Now , as we all withdraw into our silos and where some even argue that whole communities should withdraw from the world in a kind of new monasticism, it is difficult to see how we will ever come together to solve the really big problems which we can only solve collectively.
Still, there is some hope on the horizon. The sudden threat of the return of fascism in Europe – and indeed the very election of Donald Trump – has reinvigorated people who had grown complacent. Maybe democracy isn’t hard – it’s just lazy.
And that’s ten minutes.