I went to the CNN US election party in central London on Tuesday evening, a fab event with multicoloured cocktails, weird men in Uncle Sam costumes, mock election booths, diner food; a cosmopolitan crowd having a fun time. Boris's dad Stanley was there, so too Rachel Johnson and Catherine Mayer, co founder of the Women's Equality Party. Urbane Chuka Umunna, other politicians from across the political spectrum, David Dimbleby and various media folk turned up. Several guests were absolutely sure Hillary Clinton would win the contest. I left after 25 minutes because it was all a bit too jolly. On my way out, I explained to Christiane Amanpour, CNN's renowned reporter and interviewer, that I had a knot in my stomach and didn't feel like partying. She understood.
I can only imagine the political hangover of those who were sanguine, unprepared for a Trump victory. Markets are tumbling, experts seem paralysed, TV correspondents all at sea. They might have tried to sound objective, but most really did not expect Hillary – with all her flaws and dubious dealings – to crash.
There are so many lessons to be learnt. The damned polls were wrong – as they were during the UK election and Brexit referendum. Surely it is time to properly assess the accuracy of these expensive predictions and to examine whether pollsters cause electoral distortions. In all three cases, results disproved poll findings and led to shock waves. And still they carry on, professional diviners paid huge amounts of money to create illusions and encourage dangerous apathies. I personally know people who did not vote in the referendum because last minute polls had concluded Remain would win.
Ferri, my best friend from university in Uganda is a family doctor who lives in Pittsburgh. I visited her in October when electioneering was in full swing. Pennsylvania, she assured me, was essentially a Democrat state. Her son David overconfidently stated that Trump would never become president. But there were ominous signs of shifting allegiances. When she and I went to a comedy night in a mall, many of those who got on stage abused Clinton and were appallingly sexist. The audience roared with laughter and approval. Liberals like my good mate were ill-prepared for this massive cultural and political transformation. They lived in an open glasshouse which has now been shattered. Just as it has in the UK since the triumph of Brexiteers.
Crudity, spite, small mindedness, selfishness, nationalism, madness, foolhardiness, stranger hatred, falsehoods, irrationality, sexism and demagoguery won. Sophistication, education, rationality, expertise, experience, internationalism, egalitarianism, humanitarianism, thoughtfulness lost.
George Orwell could not have imagined the dystopia engulfing what were once the most advanced nations on earth. Muslims have long been accused of threatening enlightenment ideals and progressive values. Now, those reared on those ideals and values have turned. They want to drag their countries back to some imagined prelapsarian era, when people knew their place, generationally did the same dead-end jobs, stayed within their class and race parameters and did not engage with the world or modern concepts such as equality and globalisation. How did they end up so cut up and so cut off? Powerful men and women did not attend to them when they should have. But, though this may seem unduly harsh and not politically correct, I think blame also lies with the men and women who used their precious votes so recklessly.
I cannot muster much sympathy for those who fell for the fake and empty promises of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage. Why did so many women, black evangelicals, Hispanics and gays become Trump groupies? Some Muslims, I hear, were similarly enthused by the charlatan. We don't know the answers and should find out. But the near future looks bad, really, truly bad. As Steven W Thrasher, the award winning American journalist writes this morning:
"Hold tight to the ones you love living in black and brown and yellow and native skin. Hold tight to us, because we will have to face white people who think we are rapists. We will have to face a nation that wants to stop-and-frisk us. Hold tight to us, because mass incarcerations is actually going to get worse, and more of our brothers and sisters are going to be disappeared. We are going to be living as strangers in our land, among people who believe they have taken the country "back" from us. So hold tight to us, please, and to each other.
Women: hold tight to the ones you love who are also women. President-elect Trump – soon to be the chief law enforcement officer of the land – has bragged about his right to grab women "by the pussy" – and very likely, his subordinates will follow his example."
America enters a new dark age and the world trembles. Will there be regrets among his enthusiasts? Yes, too many too mention. And all too soon.