E. Christian Kopff: First Thoughts on Donald Trump’s Victory
When my wife woke me up this morning, I recognized the mixture of excitement and satisfaction I felt. I had felt it before on the morning after Election Day, 1980. The sensation was not the taste of Proust’s petite madeleine. It was the smell of victory.
My wife and I did not talk much. We didn’t have to. We did not share the emotions of the American election of 1980, but we had been in Italy together for the election of 2008. The Communist Party had changed its name for the second time in two decades, this time to the Democratic Party. (Make your own jokes.) Businessman Silvio Berlusconi was their main opposition as he had been in 1990’s. No responsible figure in Italian politics, journalism or finance was for him. The artists and scholars of the American Academy in Rome shared the confidence of my academic friends at the University of Rome that the Communists, er, I mean, the Democrats would finally have their chance at power. Berlusconi won handily, of course. Our colleagues at the American Academy were baffled. How did the Herald Tribune and their Italian academic friends get it so wrong?
When I got to my office, I googled the Hallelujah Chorus as performed by the Royal Choral Society at Albert Hall. To come back to earth, I googled Merle Haggard singing “America First.” I decided to save “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Miz” and “Let the River Run” from “Working Girl” for lunch. I had to get ready for an interview with a radio station in upstate New York, WLEA (1480 AM) in Hornell NY. We talked about how the voters had frustrated the plans of our power elite. Was it a hiccup or a revolution? (It may be too much to hope that it is an implosion, or even the beginning of the end.} At any rate, the next time they tell us we have to go along with their twisted and loathsome initiatives because the polls show that most people support it, we have a two word response: “Brexit, Trump.” You do not know what we want and you cannot tell us what to want, although you have been successful in keeping us from saying it.
Last year I went to a conference where the feature attraction was the appearance of Pat Buchanan. I and the other two men in my aisle on the airplane had spent the flight reading, but as we cruised for a while after landing we started to talk. I told them why I was in town. “Oh, really. What do you feel about Trump?” I told them that Buchanan supporters were pretty united in enthusiastic support for Trump. The man seated in the middle hesitated and then blurted out, “I like Trump, too. I haven’t said that to anyone before.” The man seated by the window added, “I like Trump too and I haven’t told anyone at work.” We chatted amiably while the plane pulled into the gate. As we got up to deplane, I thought to myself, “This is what it is like to fear for your job, if you hold the wrong view in America.” They can shut us up, but they cannot make us love Big Sister.
For a while, a few months or years, perhaps, we can bask in the feeling that “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,” as the Royal Choral Society had sung. Of course, this victory will not last forever and ever. As T. S. Eliot reminded us, “There is no such thing as a lost cause, because there is no such things as a won cause…. We fight rather to keep something alive.” Technically we did not fight yesterday. We just voted. Citizens vote and, when necessary, they fight, and, sometimes, they win. We feel, as President Reagan’s campaign ad put it in 1984, “It’s morning again in America.” Mornings pass away eventually, but right now we can echo the words of Psalmist, “This is the day which the LORD hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”