In the space of 24 hours, two Earth-shaking yet seemingly unrelated events have taken place. In Hong Kong, members of the city’s mini parliament, the Legislative Council, began a long anticipated debate on electoral reform. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, billionaire (and human symbiote to an ominous yellow fur creature) Donald Trump announced he was officially entering the US 2016 presidential race. Outside the Legislative Assembly, protesters demanded representation; inside Trump’s audience, his supporters basked in the shining epitaph of Western democracy. Trump never mentioned Hong Kong in his speech, but his rambling, vain address spoke volumes on the city’s fight for autonomy. Bear with me, and let me explain.
Hong Kong’s proposed electoral reforms are widely expected to be unlikely to pass in their current form, due to public outrage at the Chinese government’s demand for 2017 chief executive candidates to be pre-selected by Beijing – effectively allowing China’s ruling elite to weed out any hopefuls that could potentially threaten the status quo. The Chinese government has argued this pre-selection mechanism is essential for maintaining “stability,” while Hong Kong’s protesters have argued it would have totally undermining any legitimate democracy. Of course, both sides are totally right, yet neither side really understands democracy – at least not on the level that Trump does.
Let’s be frank: a Trump presidency smells about as good as a bucket of urine left in the sun for a week (trust me on that, and please don’t ask awkward questions); yet despite this, nobody can deny he understands democracy, and how to profit from it.
When I say “democracy,” I’m not referring to some idealized notion of a government of the people, by the people, for the people. I’m referring to something we could describe as “really existing democracy.” Really existing democracy – the kind that is prevalent throughout the Western world – contains a stability mechanism fundamentally identical to what Beijing proposed for Hong Kong, abet with one superficial difference. That minor difference is tied to the divergence between Chinese capitalism and Western capitalism. While in China, power flows from the political nucleus in Beijing, in Western nations it’s gradated by proximity to capital itself. Hence, it’s no surprise that while Beijing’s stability mechanism is mediated by the political nucleus, the Western stability mechanism is mediated by capital. As even a casual observer can note, the outcome of US presidential elections are almost exclusively determined by a candidate’s ability to prove their merits as the most appealing puppet available for corporate interests. In the US, a candidate that prioritizes the welfare of the masses over the profit margins of the capitalist elite has the odds of a snowflake in Hell, or the Dalai Lama in a Hong Kong election. With this result already predetermined, the actual act of carrying out an election in a Western nation is nothing more than a pitiful game; heads they win, tails we lose.
Trump is nothing less than the physical manifestation of this false democracy, just like how in Christianity, Jesus was the physical manifestation of God. For the truly hopeless, Trump offers his own kind of salvation: eternal bliss drifting in the tranquility of brain-dead stupidity and all-encompassing ignorance. Listening to the crowd cheer as he made his announcement, I almost wanted to enter that pure state of madness, just to get a taste of what it’s like to cut myself off from all rational thought and bathe in the still waters of a flawless delirium. A divine experience where God is replaced by the succulent boot of capitalism at its most decadent and oppressive.
Trump’s glory is only accentuated by the fact that he isn’t even serious about actually running to win. He will never win, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, I get the feeling Trump isn’t even serious about his own business empire. In reality, his supposed business acumen has left a trail of debt, bankruptcies and forgotten failures like Trump Vodka and the disgraced Trump University (where students allegedly paid millions for a photo opportunity with a cardboard cutout of the Donald himself). The only thing Trump seems to excel at is cultivating his personal brand, and selling it to the highest bidder. And that’s all he’s doing by running for president – keeping his face in the limelight, so he can plaster his name in 20 foot tall lettering on the sides of more buildings. To Trump, the whole presidential race is just a rich man’s game, one that he cannot lose, and need not take seriously. To put it bluntly, Trump is trolling our delusions of democracy.
You may be inclined to dismiss Trump’s ridiculous move as a fringe excess. But ask yourself, is he really such an outlier? What makes more of a mockery of the ideal of democracy? Trump, or Barack Obama’s change you can believe in? Trump, or David Cameron’s austerity that doesn’t reduce deficits, but does increase poverty? Trump, or Tony Abbott’s self-appointment effectively as Minister for Women? Trump, or Stephen Harper’s apparent belief that First Nations are doing just fine without clean drinking water? All of these Western leaders are no less of embarrassments, and no more credible than Trump. Think about it, would Trump really pursue policies that different to Hillary or Jeb? Maybe Hillary doesn’t share Trump’s insane belief that Mexico is largely inhabited by serial rapists, but in the end they both share a common disdain for ordinary people. The only difference real difference is that when it comes to Trump, the joke pf democracy is more obvious. He is the distilled, pure product of really existing democracy: vain, incompetent and humiliating. A Christ with an ego.
Knowing this, US voters might feel short-changed, but they aren’t the real butt of this joke. Trump’s presidential bid (aka: grand narcissistic masturbation session) really sticks it to the likes of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central, and other pro-democracy movements all over the world. Everyday, brave activists all over the world fight oppressive regimes in the vague hope that one day they too might enjoy really existing democracy. But what if they win, even in those dark corners of totalitarianism like Myanmar and Saudi Arabia? What happens if someday the torture, the disappearances and the corpses all pay off? What will they get for their efforts?
They’ll get a game for the rich.
They’ll get a cynical joke.
They’ll get Trump.