Philippe Labro discovered America in 1954. On his descent from the Queen Mary, he headed for the Deep South, where segregation is still strong. He celebrated his 18th birthday on the road, crossed the United States from East to West for two years, before returning there in 1963 to cover as a journalist the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In love with this country, he has devoted several books to it and has never stopped going there. At 84, he knows all the subtleties, cultural and political.
From his Parisian apartment – Covid-19 obliges – Philippe Labro followed the last elections with curiosity. According to him, one of the big lessons of the poll is that Donald Trump has a solid electoral base, and that the country is more divided than ever.
What does Donald Trump’s score say about America, which no poll had seen coming?
PHILIPPE LABRO. First of all, we must stop believing in polls, because the people questioned never really tell the truth! In this case, there were underground Trumpist sympathizers, who did not want to say that they were going to vote for the incumbent president. It’s quite amazing to see that in four years, we haven’t learned our lesson! The elites haven’t learned much.
The elite ?
There, as here in France, the media elite is always in the middle of each other and never wanted to hear or understand what Donald Trump was proclaiming, that “there is another America, a deep America, dissatisfied , an unhappy America, populated by little whites, uneducated, unqualified ”! But this America is capital, very important, and it reaffirmed itself during this election. Just look at the voting card! What does this card say? The states in red, republicans, it is the middle of America, it is the heart, the belly. The East and West coasts, New York or San Francisco, are rather blue, democratic, but it is at the center that real America is located, the one that Donald Trump is not entirely wrong to call “the soul ”of America.
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America is cut in two, fractured?
I would say there are many “souls”, and that’s where the division is now. We can even talk about a real fracture, and I don’t immediately see how it can be repaired. America is not Manhattan, and it is not Hollywood either, it is much more complex… There are several Americas! To fully understand it, to truly understand who the average American is, you have to have lived there, plowed the land in all directions, crossed small villages, farms, traveled miles through the desert, mountains… You must have met this average American, a little forgotten, who is not necessarily “Trumpist”, but who does not subscribe to the New York Times either. It is to this citizen that Donald Trump addressed himself, through social networks in particular. It is the first president of the United States who communicates at this point on these networks. And it touched the heart of a certain America.
Why is it also appealing to minorities who were thought to be voting Democrats, especially Latin Americans?
Quite simply because Donald Trump embodies, and we come back to Nixon’s philosophy, the famous slogan “Law and Order”, law and order. There has been violence over the past six months, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement, violence from protesters and the police, and insurgencies. And this necessarily benefits the one who represents law and order. What Trump embodied very well. Those who hesitated therefore said to themselves, during the last straight line, “basically, since things are going badly, since it is violent, since there is delinquency, let’s arm ourselves!” And Donald Trump has become their main weapon. He embodied a sort of shield of defense in the face of anxiety, in the face of globalization.
Why do these “forgotten” Americans laugh at Trump’s turpitudes and lies?
This is the real good question. Why does this man, author of so many blunders, so many insults, nonsense, errors, misogynistic, homophobic, racist remarks… seduce them? Well, because in some ways he looks like them! He’s an extraordinary showman. He bursts the screen, he knows how to communicate, he has the tone, he has the mouth, he has the pace … In his meetings, he danced on the stands and, that, it pleases! Never forget that America is also a nation of spectacle and entertainment. Opposite, Joe Biden is bland. Donald Trump maintained this image for four years! He has been ubiquitous, everyday, on television, sending thousands of messages to Twitter. He has penetrated the collective unconscious. A way of saying: “I am like you”.
Does he look like them?
Yes, even physically! Look at the crowds around Trump: they’re fat, they’re thick, they’re white, funny, ruddy, they love life, they love to mess around and they have a vision, not primary – never despise them – but a vision basic of existence. Here. He is that America, even though there are others. It’s John Wayne! And hold on tight, it will last! Trumpism is not going to stop with this victory for Joe Biden. Donald Trump is already wondering if he will not run again in 2024 – if he concedes his defeat. And then, he has a still secret project, but very precise, that of setting up a television channel, Trump Television, TT It will be a channel ten times more watched, ten times more violent, more militant, and more controversial than Fox News .
What do you think of the legal actions, the challenges of Donald Trump?
American democracy is not in danger, the institutions are there, the supreme courts of each state will do their job, I even believe that the ultimate Supreme Court, to which Donald Trump claims to be and which is predominantly conservative, will be fearless. . I use this adjective on purpose, because in the face of such important questions and decisions, judges will put aside their activism and simply ask themselves the question: “Yes or no, are we respecting the American Constitution of our founding fathers?” And if the answer is yes, then they will apply the law with a capital L.
We have seen conspiracy invade this campaign. With the QAnon movement, for example …
Unfortunately, we are neither safe nor spared in Europe! Like conspiracy, false information, rumors, or the distortion of reality are not an American privilege. QAnon is only the translation of what part of public opinion considers to be something proven: “We are not told the truth, there are clandestine, dreadful things that are hidden from us. “. When you see that Donald Trump approved of what the QAnon said, and other voices of the same type, which proclaimed that the Democrats were going to kill children to soak up their blood… Anything was said in this campaign , absolutely anything! But we must go further. Why this conspiracy today? Is he stronger than before? I’m not so sure, but in the meantime social media has started to appear. And we must now see the incredible weight and influence of Facebook, Twitter, Gafas… which are, in a way, another form of power.
Do you fear outbreaks of violence?
America is a country that was born in violence and it is legitimate to be worried, even if I think it will only be scuffles, incidents. Because it must be understood that a large majority of Americans want peace, calm, and want a change of climate, a form of return to serenity. Those who voted for Joe Biden also did so because he represents appeasement and a return to balance. But it won’t be easy, as he’s going to be a president hampered by strong opposition. No one can wish for a worse presidency than the one ahead of Biden. He will not be able to pass anything or almost. The Republican senators will be unleashed against him, irreducible and obstructive, without ceasing.
Is Joe Biden the US President the rest of the world has been waiting for?
In France, and elsewhere in the world, we were shocked by a number of statements by Donald Trump, by his behavior, by terrible decisions: the abandonment of the Paris Agreement on ecology, the no to l ‘NATO, contempt for alliances… So, yes, we prefer another president, an interlocutor who brings balance, reason. Biden is a man who knows what the state is. He has a past, an experience, he was vice-president for eight years, senator. He knows what an administration is, he knows heads of state, he knows how to work, to govern… But let’s not give lessons, especially not! We too have our weaknesses, we make mistakes, and we have to face two simultaneous wars, the one against Islamic terrorism and the one against the coronavirus. We try to cope, but we are not faultless either. Before criticizing, we must try to understand the American situation. Then, eventually, let us pass judgment, but for my part, I have always considered that we must first understand. Then we’ll decide.
What does the American look like after the ballot?
He’s a disoriented Westerner! It represents all the confusion and disorder that has settled since the beginning of the 21st century all over the world. The American, in his own way, is a bit like us too. These are the yellow vests, populism … But it is also someone who believes in tomorrow, who knows that there is always a possible rebound, that he can go see his banker with an idea, because this one will give him immediately enough to start his business. He is someone who trusts, it is the American principle of bounce back, create, invent, and second chance. Let us never forget that wonderful phrase at the end of “Gone with the Wind”: “Tomorrow is another day”, tomorrow is another day. Whereas in France, we tend to say that it was better yesterday!
“I would go swimming in more rivers”, by Philippe Labro, Gallimard, 304 p., € 20.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr