slate | How do you think about Trump vs. Clinton, given your strong anti-establishment feelings?
Just take a step back for a second. One of the things that is bothering me and bothered me about the Brexit debate, and is bothering me a huge amount about the Trump debate, is that there is zero elite reckoning with their own responsibility in creating the situation that led to both Brexit and Trump and then the broader collapse of elite authority. The reason why Brexit resonated and Trump resonated isn’t that people are too stupid to understand the arguments. The reason they resonated is that people have been so fucked by the prevailing order in such deep and fundamental and enduring ways that they can’t imagine that anything is worse than preservation of the status quo. You have this huge portion of the populace in both the U.K. and the US that is so angry and so helpless that they view exploding things without any idea of what the resulting debris is going to be to be preferable to having things continue, and the people they view as having done this to them to continue in power. That is a really serious and dangerous and not completely invalid perception that a lot of people who spend their days scorning Trump and his supporters or Brexit played a great deal in creating.
So rather than just side with one side or the other and say I am against Brexit or against Trump, I mean, who the fuck needs me to say that? Do you think anyone is going to be influenced by my endorsement? I am not so self-important that I think it matters for me to come out and endorse a candidate.
I know you’re not. I am asked that a lot, or asked why I won’t say that I endorse Hillary or whatever. I see my role as being a corrective to whatever consensus emerges that I don’t think is being subjected to enough critical scrutiny. Just pushing back against that is the most you can hope to do as a journalist, against unquestioned assumptions embedded within the conventional wisdom. I am not a political prognosticator, but I always thought and still think that the chances are overwhelmingly high that Hillary is going to be the next president. I always thought that and still think that. So when I think about the outcome, and what the ultimate result is going to be, I generally look past that, and think about things that can be accomplished before that, or things that can be accomplished once that happens.
I guess the counter is that the people who have been fucked over in our society, and they aren’t just Trump voters, who are almost all white, a Trump presidency for them would mean something much worse. John Lanchester has an essay in the London Review of Books where he says that Brexit probably won’t end up happening, which will screw over the wishes of the white working class who voted for it. Well, if the elites allow it to happen, the white working classes will suffer more and everyone will blame the elites.
Yes, exactly, I agree with that. But this gets back to the point I was trying to make earlier, which is, if you are someone who wants to stop Trump or Brexit, your goal should be to communicate effectively with the people who believe it is in their interest to support Trump or Brexit. I think in general there is no effort on the part of media elites to communicate with those people and do anything other than tell them that they are primitive, racist, and stupid. And if the message being sent is that you are primitive, racist, and stupid, and not that you have been fucked over in ways that are really bad and need to be rectified, of course those people are not going to be receptive to the message coming from the people who view them with contempt and scorn. I think that is why Brexit won, and I think that is the real danger of Trump winning.