In the past I’ve used this blog to express (confess?) my strange love for America, so I feel compelled to say a few words about recent events. I don’t want to add to the deluge of pontificating punditry, some of it a bit hysterical. As with Brexit, I think people should try to avoid making too many sweeping assumptions and judgments about what Trump’s victory means. But I was wrong. I didn’t think he could win, based on a flawed assumption that there are too many female, non-white and generally good-natured people in the US (although it is, of course, important to remember that the vast majority of Americans DID NOT vote Trump).
I first encountered the new President-elect on my first trip to the US in 1986 when I visited his Ozymandian phallus, Trump Tower. I’d never seen anything quite like it. Even in a city of monuments to greed, it had an ostentatious vulgarity that staggered me.
Trump next invaded my consciousness in 2007 when I was doing some research about the struggle for decent, affordable housing in New York City. I read about a Brooklyn apartment block he owned (one of many in the city) which had enjoyed some degree of rent control in return for government subsidies to the owner/developer. That agreement was coming to an end, so Trump was looking to sell his ‘asset’ (a very common scenario in the US, which has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of homes for people with low-incomes). But it was the language he used to explain his decision that has stayed with me since. He said ‘Great to keep it, great to sell it’. With the bombastic arrogance we’ve become accustomed to, Trump showed a wanton disregard for the people whose lives he was about to disrupt. That attitude is typical of many other private landlords and property developers, but this man is now the President.
Here’s the thing I find missing from the current coverage. Trump’s election marks the ultimate triumph of the profit-driven corporate landlord – and nothing could more clearly nail the grotesque lie that he is an ‘outsider’ or friend to working class people. Time will tell what a Trump presidency means in practice, but one thing is certain. The situation, already dire, for Americans in housing need will get worse.