Even the heavens wept. As Donald Trump stepped forward to become America’s 45th president the cold shower that broke over Washington offered no end of metaphors. His address, however, was literal to a fault. There was no higher calling, no sense of a greater purpose, no florid imagery or impassioned idealism. This was as crude and unapologetic an appeal to nationalism as one might expect from a man incapable of rising to an occasion without first refracting it through his ego.
It is said that presidents campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Trump campaigned in graffiti – the profane scrawls of a mindless vandal – and, if his inaugural address was anything to go by, may yet govern in tweets – the impulsive, abbreviated interventions of a narcissist.
Were this a reality TV show, we would have switched off by now. All the better qualified, more sympathetic and empathic characters have been eliminated. The last man standing is a scheming, pathological misanthrope whose disrespect for the rules alone should have disqualified him. The producer would have been fired; the advertisers would have bolted. Nobody in their right mind would want anything to do with it.
To watch Trump take the oath was to bear witness to democracy’s fragility. It marked not simply the transfer of power from one leader to another but the erosion of the very values that give that power legitimacy.
Many in the US, and beyond, are not simply concerned about what comes next; they are genuinely terrified. An impulsive braggart and bigot is now in control of the world’s most powerful military and economy. Fear and malevolence won. The hands that once grabbed pussy now have access to the nuclear launch codes.