If you’re the sort of person that cares about culture or intellectual pursuits at all, then the world certainly feels like a much darker place today than it was on November 7. And while I’m not going to try tell you that you shouldn’t feel anything but utter despair right now, there is perhaps one positive that could come out of this whole miserable debacle that is Donald Trump’s looming presidency: a cultural renaissance.

I know this sounds absurd. How could someone as uncultured as The Donald possibly serve as a boon for culture?

Well, because the greatest art is often reactionary. And let’s be blunt: while conservatives are good at making money, art and culture is more or less monopolized by liberal progressives.

Trump’s win (as well as the Brexit vote) was in part due to liberal complacency, and over the past eight years liberal artistic types haven’t had a hate figure to channel their creative energy towards. Obama, an outwardly decent, likable guy and the first black president, was a magnet for adoration. He didn’t make liberals and lefties angry in the way that the GOP does, and if we look back through the 20th century, it's clear that Republican presidencies have inspired truly great works of art.

Although Richard Nixon – the first true crook to lead the GOP – didn't start this trend, he definitely dumped a tanker of gasoline onto the fire.

In many ways, the partisanism that dominates contemporary American politics is rooted in the Nixon administration: Dwight Eisenhower, by modern Republican standards, was a respectable human being, warning the American public about the rise of the Military Industrial Complex rather than using it against them, like future presidents would be inclined to do.

Nixon, on the other hand was corrupt and morally-bankrupt, described by Hunter S. Thompson in a 1994 obituary for the former president as “a monument to all the rancid genes and broken chromosomes that corrupt the possibilities of the American Dream... a foul caricature of himself, a man with no soul, no inner convictions, with the integrity of a hyena and the style of a poison toad.”

With the Watergate scandal, Nixon sowed the seeds of political distrust that bloom so fruitfully today and dragged U.S. politics into the mud. But look what Nixon’s presidency offered America and the world on the cultural front: he was elected in 1968, just as the hippie counterculture was about to hit its crescendo with Woodstock in 1969.

Sure, the roots of the hippie movement lie in the early to mid ’60s, but the central political event that inspired it was the Vietnam War, which America entered under Republican president Eisenhower (whose V.P. was Nixon).

I’m not even going to attempt to list all of the music, art and literature that was birthed by the hippies. It was one of the most important cultural moments of the modern era and influenced much that came after it. The fact that its peak coincided with Nixon’s presidency is no mere coincidence.

Hunter S. Thompson, mentioned above, was one of its direct byproducts. His two most essential works, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72, were responses to Nixon-era America, and Hunter remained a fierce critic throughout the rest of his life.

The rage that Nixon inspired was Hunter’s fuel, with the famed doctor of journalism admitting in the aforementioned obituary that “Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it.”

Nixon’s impeachment briefly re-energized the Democrats and handed them a solitary four-year term in the White House with Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976 – their only taste of power between 1968 and 1992. Important art was created during Carter’s presidency, but it was Ronald Reagan’s ascent to the oval office in 1980 that would birth two of the most important music scenes that America has ever witnessed: hardcore punk and hip-hop.

Hardcore was a product of Reagan-era America, emerging as a backlash against the greedy materialism and self-interest that he represented as well as the yuppies (who would also inspire Bret Easton Ellis’ seminal novel, American Psycho) that worshipped him.

Washington D.C. was, by no coincidence, home to a thriving hardcore scene in the ’80s that spawned Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Dead or Alive, whose singer, Henry Rollins (then called Henry Garfield), would later become the voice of Black Flag.

Similarly, while hip-hop's birth preceded Reagan's reign, his presidency precipitated some of the most aggressively anti-establishment rappers, including the entire sub-genre of gangsta rap, which tackled issues like police brutality, racial profiling and the War on Drugs. N.W.A, the most notable rap collective from this period, produced the famous protest song, "Fuck tha Police," during Reagan's reign.

Reagan was a truly inspirational hate figure. Hardcore punk bands and rappers referenced him directly. Angry youth formed bands and rap collectives, self-released LPs and mixtapes, nurtured scenes and toured the country. Minneapolis, Boston, New York, Austin and California all became throbbing hives of protest music and DIY culture that would leave an enduring cultural legacy.

Without the GOP in office, the embers of rage probably wouldn’t have burned so fiercely, and art without anger is almost universally impotent. Comedy tends to do quite well during periods of conservative governance, too, because laughter provides an equally cathartic release in response to inegalitarian regimes.

The Bush years, as dark as they may have been, were great for comedians, mainly because George Dubya was constantly dribbling out "Bushisms" ripe for mockery. Jon Stewart took over on The Daily Show in 1999, just as Bush was coming to power, and his tenure would be the show’s high mark.

The Colbert Report arrived in his second term and Stephen Colbert’s character was a satirical take on GOP-worshipping conservative TV talk show stooges like Bill O’Reilly and the rest of Fox News.

A charming, suave beacon of decency like Obama just doesn’t offer the same depth of material. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren might be a bit eccentric, but their politics are too noble and their causes too admirable to spur great comedy. Trump, however, is a bottomless pit of raw material waiting to be spun into comedy gold.

Already, the interracial, multi-gendered cast of hit Broadway production, Hamilton, called out vice president-elect, Mike Pence, who was spotted at a performance last weekend. It might not be a laugh, but it's the first shot in the creative struggle that will no doubt pick up speed in the coming months.

It's hard to deny that conservative governments have the potential to spawn great art and cultural movements. Anger needs an outlet, and liberals tend to be more inclined to resort to creative pursuits rather than hate crimes when they're angry.

But does that necessarily translate into great art? And even if it does, will it ease the horror of an incoming Trump regime that has already shown fascistic tendencies?

Not necessarily. Jessica Hopper has argued that a Trump presidency will likely make female, queer and POC artists more fearful and therefore less likely to tour and create. Moreover, Trump's promised decimation of the Affordable Care Act is likely to hit self-employed artists the hardest – those who are potentially most likely to make subversive, critical art.

Moreover, BBC journalist and filmmaker, Adam Curtis, argues in his recent film, HyperNormalisation, that crestfallen artists, lefties and liberals were so demoralized by the failure of the ’60s flower power movement that they disengaged with the world and retreated into themselves.

That is, their later creative output may have been political on the surface, but it had a navel-gazing quality that made artists feel better without achieving any quantifiable change. As the banks took over the global political system and began to strip America’s politicians of their power, Curtis points out that “The radicals and the left-wingers who, 10 years before, had dreamt of changing America through revolution, did nothing."

So, even if artists have enough personal security to continue to make subversive art under a Trump presidency, it may be the case that cracking jokes and writing songs does little except distract us from the terror of our reality.

Art is important, but so is direct political action, and the former can't take the place of the latter. If you want anything to change, you're going to have to fight for it.

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.

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