So it's time I faced facts: I've been writing this blog for seventeen years and it is getting bloody difficult to come up with stuff to say. (At least, right now.)
My usual book launch promo stuff last month was derailed totally by family circumstances (that won't recur). I really don't feel like kvetching about politics, either the ongoing UK-specific slow-motion train wreck that is Brexit, or the equally bizarre theatre of the absurd and evil that is the current incumbent of the White House. The global neo-nazi resurgence might be another angle, but I'm not the ideal person to write a "why Nazis are bad, 101" for folks who haven't already got the message—I'm not patient enough and the subject strikes much too close to home for comfort. (I grew up attending a synagogue with older members who had numbers tattooed on their arms; I'm pretty sure that if I lived in the US right now then I'd be a gun owner by now, and stockpiling ammunition and escape plans.)
These are dangerous times in the anglophone lands, and worse is coming; the UK seems to be rushing headlong towards a private debt crisis (largely due to nearly a decade of misguided austerity policies, but with insane ramping of student loan debt on top) and the economic uncertainty induced by the Brexit-triggered recession we're entering isn't helping ... and the Tangerine Shitgibbon in Chief seems to have decided that, in comparison with a short victorious war with North Korea, sending the US army back into Afghanistan is a vote-winner.
Against such news headlines I don't much feel like prognosticating about the near future right now.
I'd like to be able to take comfort by speculating about how things might have turned out differently in another time-line, but that's not so good either. Imagine the Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election results were flipped: where would we be now?
Let's tackle the UK first. David Cameron would still in all probability be Prime Minister, Theresa May would still be Home Secretary, and Boris Johnson would still be a joke. I see no way the UK wouldn't have been hit by several terrorist attacks—Manchester, London Bridge, the same sorry litany—so the likely political response from Dave and Theresa would be the same (kiss your civil rights goodybye, oh, and we're going to censor the internet while we're about it). Osborne would still be Chancellor, so a continuation of his austerity program would be on-going, albeit with an economy not sinking into recession and a currency that isn't crashing to a 30 year low. So it'd all be fucking depressing for those of us on the "let's not starve poor people to death" left, but at least it'd be a familiar kind of depressing instead of an "oh god and by god I mean Cthulhu why are they flooring the accelerator towards that cliff edge?" depressing.
In the USA, let's suppose Hilary Clinton took the Electoral College—just—but the House and Senate seats landed the same way. By now we would for a certainty have a Kenneth Starr 2.0 investigating the Clinton White House on some pretext or other ("but her emails!" would be a good start, even if "Benghazi!" flopped), while a drunk and angry Donald Trump would be tweeting up a storm about how he was robbed and threatening to sue Crooked Hilary in the Supreme Court over those rigged votes she bought from (... insert nonsensical Trumpian rant here). There would probably be deadlock between the executive branch and legislature over Clinton's choice of a new Supreme Court justice, but the exploding clown car attempts at repealing the ACA would have broken down immediately on the inconvenient problem of a Democrat president. The US government would have competent civil service leadership in place, mostly inherited from the Obama administration. There'd be none of the chaotic misrule we've seen this year. But there would still be angst and drama and threats of impeachment, and a President tempted to use foreign military adventurism as a tool of distraction ... and unlike Trump, this alternate-45th POTUS would know exactly how to make that happen. I'm calling it for a US/Russian clash in Syrian airspace, or a disastrous North Korean miscalculation. (What doesn't happen is Clinton going after Iran: she was part of the team that brokered the deal. It's probably too early for a presidential visit and a formal apology for Operation AJAX, at least unless she makes it into a second term, but at least that particular pot would be off the boil.) And the neo-Nazis would still be rebranding themselves as the alt-right and getting their fangs into pop culture via social media and the Republican party via Breitbart Media and Fox.
Tentative diagnosis: we're in a deviant time-line, careering towards a catastrophe. But the time-line we branched off between last June and November held all the seeds of our current doom and we'd have ended up here sooner or later. The root cause is the breakdown of the beige dictatorship at a point where wholly new and frightening tools of propaganda have become available and the social media many people trust are themselves in thrall to toxic agendas. The progressive opposition is chaotic and scattered and racist rabble-rousers have pulled their jack boots on and gotten marching, and they seem to have a first-mover advantage (if only because most of our mass media is owned by chancreous cockstains like Rupert Murdoch).