When Trump put his tiny finger on the retweet button for: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” he (or one of his staffers on whom he pinned the blame) raised another, more useful question. If that’s a legitimate parallel to draw, why shouldn’t we be concerned about him cheating on his many wives? Trump showed himself to be an unfit president in a million different ways that have nothing to do with politics or his lack of experience thereof, and everything to do with his personality. Unfortunately, enough voters thought his myriad contradictory tweets and Reality TV delivery, chimed with the true voice of the American people. (Sad!) Voters cited Hillary’s lack of “relatability”, as well as her perceived reliance on identity politics. Susan Sarandon boasted that she would not be voting with her vagina, and voted for Jill Stein, who as Rebecca Solnit points out, is surely just as “vagina-y.” Voters cared more about Hillary’s private email server than Trump’s still unreleased tax returns. Colin Powell used a personal email account in office, Jeb Bush used his private email address (email@example.com), and Trump continues to tweet from his vulnerable-to-hacking personal Twitter handle. Where’s the mob?
Trump speaks not for himself or his self-serving family, apparently, but for The People, while Hillary spoke only for herself, except when she spoke for her husband, or was blamed for the words and actions of her husband, or Obama, or Anthony Weiner, or those who voted for Trump. Maybe the equivalent of “Women’s Fiction” is “Locker Room Talk”, but when men want to shake up world politics for attention, they can tweet at 2am and instead of being dismissed as drunk and emotional, the tweet will become policy – a roomful of white men will be standing by as he autographs a vindictive attack on women’s wombs. The astonishment and outrage of white guys in the media as Trump threatens their freedom, mocks them personally, sidesteps and dismisses their words as subjective, biased and “Fake News!” is what, to differing degrees, women and POC have dealt with forever. The marginalisation of a woman’s voice, relevant to women only, is followed with the blame for their limited perspective. Suddenly the right of the white male journalist having a voice at all is being undermined. Everyone’s will be, except Trump’s.
Trump has pulled a version of the novelist’s trick, letting people project themselves onto him, convincing southern, white, working class voters that he is one of them, despite being a billionaire property tycoon from New York. But fiction, which makes no claim to truth, which relies on subjectivity and sympathy, is a weapon in the arsenal we have to resist him. Post-truth, everything is personal. We must support and engage with the voices of those without privilege before Orange Hitler silences us all. More than ever, we need alternative perspectives in contemporary novels – the more written by authors and populated by characters other than straight, white, cis men the better.
“Sympathy”, Olivia Sudjic’s debut novel is published by ONE on 4 May 2017