"With hindsight, it is clear that the United States failed the difficult test set by history. In the three decades that followed their triumph [over the Soviet Union] and their coronation, they proved unable to establish a new world order, to build a role as a parental power or indeed sustain their moral credibility, which is probably lower today than at any time in the last century. Their former adversaries have once more become adversaries, but their former allies no longer truly feel like allies. This moral collapse did not occur overnight; it is the culmination of a long series of blunders, gaffes, setbacks and missteps, under the aegis of a series of presidents whose policies were poles apart." Amin Maalouf, Adrift: How Our World Lost its Way
"The historic question that must be addressed is: Who is the aberration? Biden and perhaps most of his voters believe that the answer could not be more obvious. It is Trump. But this has been shown to be the wrong answer. The dominant power in the land, the undead Republican Party, has made majority rule aberrant, a notion that transgresses the new norms it has created. From the perspective of this system, it is Biden, and his criminal voters, who are the deviant ones. This is the irony: Trump, the purest of political opportunists, driven only by his own instincts and interests, has entrenched an anti-democratic culture that, unless it is uprooted, will thrive in the long term. It is there in his court appointments, in his creation of a solid minority of at least 45 percent animated by resentment and revenge, but above all in his unabashed demonstration of the relatively unbounded possibilities of an American autocracy. As a devout Catholic, Joe Biden believes in the afterlife. But he needs to confront an afterlife that is not in the next world but in this one-the long posterity of Donald Trump." Fintan O'Toole, Democracy's Afterlife
It gets tiring constantly having to bash on the political, social, military, economic and media leaders in the United States along with fellow citizens of every class and persuasion. But what is a journalist-and citizen-supposed to do when presented with the petulance of a sitting American president in Donald Trump who, defying precedent, refuses to submit to the fact that he lost an election and simply out of spite is placing land mines-in the form of edicts, firings, appointments and executive policy actions- for the incoming president Joe Biden. And what of the Republican party that enables this dangerous precedent?
The American people are currently being crushed by the COVID19 Pandemic. But here again, a journalist has no choice but to look at anti-maskers and herd immunity pushers and say, What the F*&^? What is it going to take to get Americans to be disciplined, suck it up and do what is necessary to get past this pestilential time both in political and cultural terms?
The United States Congress deserves no better. The American people are suffering physically and economically. Financial assistance is needed from the Federal printing press for states and localities. Taxes have to be raised on some class. Americans have to get off this "no more taxes" kick. How the hell is the United States supposed to fix its infrastructure and medical provisioning system if no one wants to pay for it? Tax a portion of the dividends after a days trading on Wall Street.
Failure is an Option
And what of the failed war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Bring the troops home? Sure, let's do that. But they will just be replaced by Special Operators, contractors who were formerly in the military and assorted paramilitary operatives from the CIA, NSA, and Defense Intelligence Agency. Who wants to give up a great testing ground for new weapons?
What to say about Iraq? Well, nothing much can be said about a puppet regime setup by the United States for the purpose of quelling the protestations of its citizens while the United States using the country as a staging area for a war against Iran.
These are just a handful of the types of "blunders" that Maalouf is referring to and it may, in the near future, cost the United States its democracy.
If leaders can't take care of their people, and citizens fail to hold their representatives to account, then what's the point of waving the American flag and being proud of it. Perhaps the most awful sight to see during the Pandemic of 2020 is the abject failure of the American healthcare system. As Maalouf points out, "The tragedy of 2020 has demonstrated that, if applied to strictly, too blindly, the consequences of Thatcherism [Reaganism, deregulation, privatization] could be monstrous, particularly in the domain of healthcare. Years of savage budget cuts in a sector, that, while not productive is literally vital, led to substantial shortages of staff and medical equipment, and this resulted in a cataclysm that has gravely compromised the moral legitimacy of economic liberalism."
And yet trying to make basic healthcare a "right" in the United States is a Herculean task.
United States Constitution Torn Asunder
Trump and his undead Republican Party are using the time offered by Trump's refusal to concede the presidency to willfully undermine American democracy. Rudy Giuliani and 73 million Trump acolytes -both rich and poor, White, Black and Latino-in the United States are setting the stage for autocratic minority rule; or; less politely, a coup. They are taking a page out of every propaganda campaign used by the United States and other warring nations throughout history: Prior to the start of a war, demonize your opponent and make them less-than-human. It makes it easier to kill and defeat them, to make them enemies.
According to O'Toole, "The majority, deficient in both patriotism and sanctity, is unworthy. If it seems to have won, that can only be because, being outside the polity, it has subverted the real polity by fraud. To deny its validity is both patriotic and righteous. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the use of the Supreme Court to hand electoral victories to the Republicans are no longer dirty tricks. They are patriotic imperatives. They are not last resorts but first principles. The great comfort of this mentality is that, when the majority can be conjured out of existence, so can the whole idea of defeat. The old norm, whereby the beaten party retreats into a period of reflection and considers why it lost, is gone.
One half of a two-party system has passed over into a post-democratic state. This reality has to be recognized, and a crucial aspect of that recognition is to accept that the claim Gerald Ford [US President after Richard Nixon resigned] could make in 1974-"Our Constitution works"-no longer applies. After the long national nightmare of Watergate, America could rub its eyes and awaken to a renewed confidence in its system of checks and balances. But the Trump presidency has been no nightmare. It has been daylight delinquency, its transgressions of democratic values on lurid display in all their corruption and cruelty and deadly incompetence. There may be much we do not yet know, but what is known (and in most cases openly flaunted) is more than enough: the Mueller report, the Ukraine scandal, the flagrant self-dealing, the tax evasion, the children stolen from their parents, the encouragement of neo-Nazis, Trump's admission that he deliberately played down the seriousness of the coronavirus. There can be no awakening because the Republicans did not sleep through all of this. They saw it all and let it happen. In electoral terms, moreover, it turns out that they were broadly right. There was no revulsion among the party base. The faithful not only witnessed his behavior, they heard Trump say, repeatedly, that he would not accept the result of the vote. They embraced that authoritarianism with renewed enthusiasm. The assault on democracy now has a genuine, highly engaged, democratic movement behind it."
The Trump Train-and its undead passengers-has left the station and it is going to be a very powerful force in American politics. Trump will play the role he likes best as a powerbroker controlling his many marionettes throughout the land, raising funds, handpicking candidates to run for congress and polluting the airwaves with demagoguery.
Turning the other cheek on this state of affairs is dangerous. President-elect Joe Biden must Exorcise before he can attempt to heal.
John Stanton can be reached at email@example.com
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