Russell Brand, episode 327 of The Trews, November 10, 2016
Donald Trump's president [-elect] of America now. I wanted to talk to you now while everyone is sort of still delirious and in shock about it. We've talked about Donald Trump quite a lot on The Trews because he's a fascinating media operator. He said such outlandish and offensive things, but he’s antithetical to our times where politicians seem so groomed and slick, even though in some ways he's both groomed and slick, because he has a sort of earnestness and rawness.
Take even the first moment of his victory speech where he says, “Sorry I'm late. Complicated business.” He obviously knows that this is taking place in incredible adversity.
What I'm fascinated by, though, is the amount of fear and anger that's generated by the victory, and how obviously reminiscent it is to Brexit in this country. This for me, Donald Trump’s victory and the decision of Britain to leave Europe, point to a phenomenon that’s really well outlined in an article by a man called Thomas Frank in The Guardian where he points to the idea that liberalism as a political system is failing so many people that they have lost interest and lost faith. My own personal feelings about it is that people no longer trust the people that say, “Hey, we’ll look after you. It’s OK. Stay in Europe. We’ll be alright. Vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s going to be better,” because the people that you’re talking to are already living in a kind of post-apocalyptic world, for want of a better phrase. You can’t tell people that it would be terrible if we leave Europe if the world they live in is already terrible. You can’t tell people it will be terrible to have Donald Trump in power if the world they live in is already terrible. They’re not susceptible to that kind of threat.
Of course, I’m of aware of the mad things he said about women, and the mad things he said about Muslims, and the mad things he said about building walls. And what I think is fascinating is that someone can say that and it makes no difference. People still vote for him. How disenchanted, how disillusioned, how dis-empowered can you be that this seems like a sensible alternative? My interpretation is the only thing they actually cared about was change. Hillary Clinton, whatever she was offering, whatever she was saying, is a political affiliate of Barack Obama, who was already in power—Barack Obama, by the way, who now seems sort of like Christ, doesn’t he, compared to the people contesting this election? But let’s look at the last eight years and the kind of things that are happening. And that’s why people are disillusioned because they’ve seen that when it’s someone that seems affable and capable like Barack Obama in the White House: still terrible unrest, still drone killings, still terrible poverty, still no consequences for the people that exploited huge numbers of ordinary Americans through the financial crash. We can’t keep responding to events like this with more fear and anger. It’s fear and anger that are creating these conditions.
There was this yogi, whose name I really should learn, who said to Bertrand Russell when Bertrand Russell was campaigning for nuclear disarmament... he said to him, “What’s the point in us getting rid of nuclear weapons if we still have the mindset that created the nuclear weapons?” Bertrand Russel said, “I don’t want to talk about that. Let's just get rid of nuclear weapons. You can’t blow up the planet with a mindset.” But now forty years later, 50 years later, we haven’t achieved nuclear disarmament. There are more weapons, and the point that he was making is that Donald Trump for president of the United States is sort of not what’s important. What’s important is the conditions that have occurred in which Donald Trump becomes president. There’s no point in reacting “What? Donald Trump is president!?” Yesterday the conditions existed for it happen, and so they did two days ago, a month ago, a year ago, for the last ten to twenty years they’ve been building towards this moment. And what it is, and what I’ve always believed, what I’ve said very publicly, is the political system doesn’t connect with people. People want change. People want to have genuine power, so if someone comes along and says things like “I’ll drain the swamp of Washington of all its corrupt lobbyists and affiliates,” that’s appealing. My hope is that this victory for this sort of absurd and ludicrous character who said these outrageous and offensive things... my hope is that we will recognize that we have to provide an alternative. People have to provide an alternative. It’s not enough to say, “Look, here’s Hillary Clinton. Be grateful. Shut up.” People have had enough.
If the Democrats could have Bernie Sanders now, of course they would have him--a person who's talking about socialism, a person who’s talking about fairness and justice.
So what I've taken from it is that this is a time where we have to, instead of saying after Brexit, “Those bloody racists Brexited us,” we have to say, “Right, let's try to reach out and try to understand why people feel like this, and be loving and not be presumptuous. Those of us that are privileged enough not to be in financial trouble, that aren't feeling the weight and the pressure of the world, and looking for someone to blame and feeling like that so that when someone like Donald Trump comes along and in his own easy, accessible, TV-friendly way says it's because of Muslims, Mexicans… so that when someone like that comes along it seems appealing and attractive, we have to create a world where Donald Trump isn't necessary, and if we don't create that kind of world, don't be surprised when Donald Trump becomes president. For the last twenty years we’ve been creating the conditions where this was, as we now know, inevitable because it has happened. Now we have to find alternatives, and I don't think it's going to take place on the superficial, administrative level of Washington or Westminster politics. It’s going to take place philosophically and deeply. We have to change the way we treat each other, change the way we see ourselves, change the way we talk about the world--significant change because the people that voted for Brexit, the people that voted for Donald Trump… even if people do think that immigration is the issue, then those of us who don't think that's the issue have got a duty, haven’t we, to communicate in a way that is understandable and accessible, not condescending and not patronizing, why we believe that this is the wrong path for the world. We're talking to people that don't have an awful lot to lose, so if you do feel afraid, and disappointed and angry about it, try not to be. Try to be optimistic because this had to happen. In the end we have to reach some kind of climax, some sort of crisis, some kind of nadir where it is no longer possible to continue in the way we have been.
What I think the election of Donald Trump means is it is no longer possible to pretend that politics is all right because look at it. Now look at it. Now you see it. As Biggy Smalls would say, “If you don't know, now you know.” I can't use the next word, not being an African-American man or woman, but those are the sentiments I feel. If Hillary Clinton had become president… she's a person that did have those affiliations with the banks, that does want to go to war in the Middle East, and there is stuff I don't know very much about, but what I suspect is we would not have got real change. With Donald Trump it is no longer possible to ignore that real change is required.