What the world craves now is some slightly more ‘precedented’ politics, says MITCH BENN.
I don’t know about you, but I could really use some boredom right now.
It’s pretty exhausting living in ‘unprecedented’ times, isn’t it? Every day something else unprecedented befalls us, whether it’s an unprecedented pandemic, an unprecedented level of chaos in the response to said pandemic, an unprecedented level of political division brought about and/or exacerbated by that chaos, unprecedented economic instability, unprecedented death tolls, unprecedented social tension…
Could something, anything precedented please happen soon? Just to mix things up a bit. Just for a bit of light and shade. I wrote a few weeks ago about how there’s nothing so tedious as relentless spectacle; turns out there’s nothing so tiring as the complete absence of tedium.
Yes tedium, that’s what we need. A bit of real, grinding, monotonous, featureless boredom.
I know we’re supposed to be in lockdown just now (well I say “I know”, but in truth, nobody actually knows what the ‘rules’ are from one minute to the next any more; just that those rules don’t apply to those who set them) and as such mired in inertia, but it’s still pretty eventful as inertia goes, isn’t it?
What wouldn’t we give for just a few days of nothing going on in the news, a week or so off from erupting scandals or unfolding disasters, a return, however fleeting, to those almost forgotten days of the same old same old?
We need some boring politics, and we desperately, desperately need some boring political leaders.
This current crisis (it’s more of a mash-up of interwoven crises but for ease of reference I’ll speak of it in the singular) may or may not wring any permanent changes in The Way We Do Things.
As like as not, those of us who make it out alive may reflect upon the events of the last few years, think “well at least that’s over” and carry on as before like nothing happened, but I’m rather hoping that lessons will be learned. And chief among those lessons should be that Political Personality Cults Are A Really Bad Idea.
The trouble with appointing a leader purely on the strength of his (and let’s face it, it’s almost always a he) personality is that personality has very limited practical applications. You can’t solve a problem with personality.
You might be able to charm your way into a position of responsibility with personality, but at that point its usefulness rather runs out and you need other things, like ideas, understanding, patience, and the ability to learn.
And if the personality you’ve been trading on is the “I can take care of everything” guy, it’s very difficult to exhibit (or develop) any of these qualities without abandoning your ‘brand’. You’re stuck, grinning like an idiot game show host staring at a malfunctioning autocue while all around you crumbles. Not naming any names, of course.
Across the pond, we see that the cult of personality built up around their current head of state is causing far more problems than it could ever possibly have solved. Donald Trump has been trading on his personality for his entire career, be it in real estate, showbusiness or politics (which in his case is basically still showbusiness except that people die when he fluffs his lines). That ‘personality’, fake as it is, has always been ‘The Winner’.
Right now, The Winner has lost, and this paradox has brought a nuclear superpower to a complete standstill.
Oh and he has lost, by the way, decisively so. It’s not even close. Joe Biden has won by a margin that, were he up against any other opponent, would have been recognised and accepted weeks ago. But he’s not up against any other opponent, he’s up against The Winner, and The Winner can’t be seen to lose.
So we’ll have a few more weeks of futile court cases, followed by… well, nobody knows. Trump’s last hope – fomenting unrest such as might enable him to declare an emergency and try to cling onto power that way – seems to have been dashed this last week by a couple of events: firstly the speech given by General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, which certainly sounded like a coded warning to the president that he couldn’t count on the military’s support should he try to stay in office through force, and secondly last Saturday’s ‘Million MAGA March’ in Washington DC which was attended by, at most, about 50,000 Trumpists. Trump threw a coup and nobody came.
Joe Biden looks like he’ll be a fairly dull and unexciting president compared to his predecessor, and so say all of us. Unless something truly unprecedented happens, we’re stuck in our interesting times for a while to come, and they’re going to get a lot more interesting before they get boring.