The markets seemed to hold their breath…still, like dead leaves before a hurricane.
The Dow barely moved yesterday.
Jim Cramer, of TV’s Mad Money, says we’re waiting to see if the EU ‘caves’ in on Donald Trump’s trade war. Then, he says, the market will go much higher.
Other reports say the market is waiting for more earnings announcements.
More likely…money has been upstaged.
It’s the Trump Show, playing to sold-out audiences everywhere. Politics. Politics. Politics. Money will have to wait…
…For a while.
And what a show it is. Audiences laugh. They cry. They renew their passports and look for sharp objects or open windows.
Something remarkable is happening; the American public is cracking open…dividing itself into hostile camps, with Donald J Trump as the wedge. Some of them hate him. Some love him.
For the haters, he can do no good. If he achieved peace in the Middle East, prosperity at home…and built a Trump hotel on Mars…they would still see no good in the man.
If he caused the blind to see…the lame to dance…and walked across the Potomac barefoot, they would suspect a trick.
They detest the way he talks, the way he slouches, the way he treats his wife, the way he does business, the way he eats…
They have nothing but contempt for the man and all he represents — crassness, stupidity, ignorance, TV, golf, gaudy buildings, celebrity culture, and in-your-face wealth.
If he were to die tomorrow, they would breathe a sigh of relief, cross themselves as if they had been spared by the Virgin Mary, and look forward to the next election.
For the Trump lovers, on the other hand, he can do no wrong. He is their man. They are his. He is their shepherd. His battles are their battles. His victories are theirs, too.
But theirs is the bigger challenge, too, for they have to reconcile the real world with the Trump world.
And there is Mr Trump himself, contradicting, backpedalling, and denying the very affirmations they took as gospel only a day before.
One day, they are told that Mr Putin and his minions would do nothing to sully the pristine US election process.
The faithful barely had time to assimilate that doctrine when a new one was announced: Yes, the president believes his top men in the intelligence agencies. Russia did interfere in the 2016 election.
Quickly turning their heads to face the newfound foe in Moscow, Trump’s true believers are then rocked again, when their hero claims he never said that.
The Washington Post elaborates:
‘Six days ago, President Trump held a news conference to walk back comments he made suggesting that he did not believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw a plan to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
‘“Let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said in that statement.
‘Trump then said he realised, after seeing the backlash to his news conference, that one statement needed clarifying. That’s when he offered his now-infamous “double-negative” defense. “In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’… The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative.”’
‘But on Sunday, he suggested that the investigation was “all a big hoax”.’
But as Mr Trump himself put it, he could kill someone dead on Fifth Avenue, and still, his supporters would stick with him.
He stumbles and bumbles along — and they see a genius with a plan. And when he undermines the ‘conservative’ principles and institutions that they hold most dear…they insist it is fake news.
Each group has its own source of information, opinion, and advice — thanks largely to the new electronic media.
Thanks to algorithms and machine learning, Google and Facebook know which version of ‘fake news’ you want…and they make sure you get it.
Each group has its hopes, night terrors, and fantasies…teased and elaborated by a circus media…
And each regards Mr Trump either as its Saviour…or its Antichrist.
When Trump was elected, we expected that he would end up setting up a new political party. We called it ‘Trumpismo’.
The old-fashioned Republicans, we reasoned, would discover that he was an imposter — not a real conservative — and reject him. He would have to go off on his own political movement — much like Macri in Argentina or Macron in France.
Instead, Trump was able to attract and retain such an enthusiastic group of fans within the Republican ranks that no traditional conservative dared to defy him.
They buckled and bent…and the most anti-Trump among them — such as Senator Jeff Flake — announced their retirement.
The Trump faction became critical to winning in the primaries. And even incumbents despaired of facing the ire of the Trumpistas.
The Republican Party became the Party of Donald Trump, and the old Republican stalwarts, such as George Will, saw no other solution. ‘Vote the Republicans out of office,’ they recommended.
As for Mr Trump himself, he understood better than anyone how to whoop up his ‘base’…and how to use the techniques of reality TV and the wraslin’ genre to keep the seats filled.
His political philosophy, as near as we can fathom it, falls not far from the tree of the man himself. Millions of words have been written trying to decipher his plans and his programs. We have probably written 100,000 of them ourselves.
But most have been a waste of time. He is sui generis — at least in America.
In Latin America, the phenomenon is better known, as we will see tomorrow.
More to come…