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A democratically-elected monster has bitten the dust

November 8, 2020

It goes without saying that yesterday was the day I’d been hoping for ever since America elected the orange monster four years ago. I was watching CNN when they called Pennsylvania, and thus the whole election, for Joe Biden. I was moved when Van Jones broke down in tears, and the rest of the CNN team was swept along in a wave of enthusiasm that washed over the country.

This is how America differs from Britain. We don’t do displays of mass enthusiasm, except when our sporting heroes prevail. The sight of a BBC commentator breaking down in tears at the prospect of a change of government after a British election would be inconceivable.

The willingness of Americans to go on the streets to celebrate, to travel for miles to attend political rallies, to proclaim their idealism and unashamedly show their patriotism by putting flags outside their houses is profoundly un-British.

It also has a dark side. It means that America is also susceptible to being carried away by demagogues who would appeal to negative emotions: fear, envy, religious intolerance and xenophobia.

We too are susceptible to these emotions, but usually in a quieter and more private way.

It’s also ironic that as people flooded on to the streets across the US, I stood in my garden and watched fireworks bursting into the sky, not in celebration of a new president in another country, but in commemoration of an attempt four hundred years ago by dissident Catholics to blow up parliament. Not that many people who hold fireworks parties think too much about Guy Fawkes, but divisions between Protestant and Catholic have blighted our society ever since.

Even if the discord in the north of Ireland is relatively subdued today, it still has the ability to flare up again, all the more potentially because of the attitude of the government to the Good Friday Agreement in the context of Brexit.

Unfortunately, we in Britain are still deeply divided, not only because of Brexit, but in terms of Scotland’s future and the unequal distribution of wealth between North and South. Unlike the United States, we lack a unifying moment. There will be no general election for four years. So the prospect of the kind of reset that is possible in America is unlikely any time soon in the UK unless a further crisis sends us to the wall.

But enough of the UK and its problems. I’m celebrating a precious moment for the United States. A democratically-elected monster has bitten the dust. Perhaps the Trump era had to happen in order to remind the country how easy it is to flirt with the dark side. If Hillary Clinton had been elected, it’s possible that the hatred and fear among a section of the population who have felt themselves threatened, ignored and condemned as deplorables would have remained bottled up, only to surface in even more dangerous ways four years later.

Nobody will ignore them now, especially as their representatives remain in Congress. Equally, nobody on the other side will be so complacent as to believe that the institutions once thought to be solid as rock cannot be subverted and corrupted.

The moment is now with Biden and Harris. For all the challenges they face in dealing with COVID, restoring the economy and restoring a sense of public interest after four years of rampant self-interest, an equal challenge will be political.

If they lose the senate after the Georgia run-offs in January, they have two years to persuade the electorate to keep faith with them in the mid-term elections, and perhaps even to finish the job of converting the senate to a Democrat majority. That will be a tough job. Incoming administrations rarely increase their support in congress.

What of Trump, the dethroned lord of misrule? Will he survive, prosper and come again? Much depends on the outcome of the multiple lawsuits and potential prosecutions from which he will no longer be protected once he steps out of the White House. It may be that he will concoct the modern equivalent of a papal indulgence in the form of a pardon for his potential crimes.

But that will not protect him from state prosecutions for financial crimes, such as the one that’s looming in New York. Even if they come to nothing, he still has to deal with the creditors who will come knocking at his door over the next couple of years.

Another factor that has yet to be considered is what other dirt will be revealed once his former acolytes start spilling their secrets. There have been no stories of sexual impropriety by the pussy-grabber-in-chief while in office. That could be because there are none to be told, but it could also be because those who might tell stories have been intimidated into silence. Trump’s White House staff are unlikely to emerge with their CVs enhanced. They will be looking for other ways to monetise their futures.

Even if Trump evades all the threats to his immediate well-being, starts a new career as a media mogul and tries to spearhead a fight-back, the power no longer lies with him. It’s in the hands of Biden and Harris to do what they promise – to act in the interests of all Americans.

The demise of the orange monster has been a moment to cherish, but it has not removed the threat to the stability of the world’s most powerful country. In the hills of the hinterland there are still people busy cleaning their weapons. The expectations of the winning side can still turn to disappointment and anger.

That said, for me, someone who has watched the antics of Trump with a mixture of horror and disgust, the past few days have been utterly thrilling and finally exhilarating.

Has a tide turned? Who knows? However the next four years turn out, it’ll be a fascinating ride.

From → Politics, Social, UK, USA

  1. It’s not been fascinating watching supporters behave like kindergarten misfits, who, if America had the requirement for both presidential candidates and voters to be “of sound mind”, as they are evidently not.
    Was the orange monster “democratically elected”? I think not as the anomaly of the Electoral College nullifies the principle of “one man one vote”!

    • Thanks Rachel. To your last question, in the ultimate decision, yes, it does nullify the principle. But then again, there are democracies and democracies. In my constituency, for example, my vote has never counted because I it’s overwhelmingly Conservative, a party I’ve never voted for. S

  2. Rachel Bowen permalink

    I don’t have the vote on France except for
    Local elections and won’t have that soon and am
    Denied the
    Right to vote for UK elections
    What is democracy!

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