It has been quiet here of late. I think that a brief pause to reflect on just how long 4 years can seem has benefitted us all. Such was the perceived length of Trump’s presidency, it seems appropriate to refer to the Trump Epoch.
Here in Europe, as Inauguration Day approached, we waited to see what unpleasantness remained to be drawn from Trump’s bag of tricks. There was an air of inevitability about the protest which resulted in the storming of the Capitol. Literally the very first week after the worst year in living memory and an idiot in horns and a fur vest managed to get past security in what we assumed was one of the most protected buildings in the USA. Then we realised that a bloodbath was only avoided because there was nobody committing the crime of protesting-whilst-black.
We are now in February and the pace at which Biden has come out of the blocks makes January seem a long way back. Executive Orders have been signed and swathes of Trump decisions have been reversed. Speeches of hope for everybody, regardless of political persuasion, have been made. And yet… and yet America faces humbling challenges: a pandemic which is indiscriminate in choosing its victims, a society polluted with COVIDiots, who refuse to follow safe practices or simply deny the virus’s existence. Top this off with racial inequality which no longer even pretends to be benign.
All this has been put in the hands of a 78 year old man. Let’s be honest, he only has 4 years to get done what he wants to do. He won’t seek relection, which should worry those with an eye on what happens next. The vice-president is inexperienced and lacks the history of bi-partisan networking that Biden has.
Harris will have been in the back of most voter’s minds last November. Those who could not stomach Hilary Clinton because she is a woman, will not have been delighted by Harris. Their numbers will have swelled with the addition of racist voters.
Even those voters with a closer political horizon may not have been impressed to have the Democrats re-heat a candidate who failed in a bid to become president, not once, but twice.
Much has been made of the record number of votes gained by Biden, but whilst he did not gain reelection, 74 million people voted for Trump, 4.5 million more than Obama got in his last win.
The long, long 4 years of Trump’s presidency were very difficult for Europeans to comprehend. Even as he left the White House for the last time, we were still asking ourselves “How did he get elected in the first place?”.
Trump was the least qualified candidate. He lacked all the qualities needed of a leader: gravitas, integrity, wisdom and the ability to unite, all delivered via inspirational oratory.
The 2020 election gives us the mind-boggling result that 74 million American citizens lived through 4 years of a Trump administration and liked what they saw.
This scares Europeans and American Democrats should be terrified. If Trump can garner such support, imagine what a well-balanced Republican candidate could achieve?
Those that regret the Trump presidency need to stop heaping scorn on the man himself. One cannot blame the guy who climbs to the top; blame those that helped him get there. I am not talking about the Steve Bannon’s of this world; it is the voters who are to blame.
Nobody should seriously suggest that America will be a better place if we only ever have Democrat presidents, but the bar needs to be set higher than Trump.
American’s love to say that they live in a Free Country and a Democracy. The electoral college system is a disaster, but let’s set that aside for now. Democracies thrive in societies that are well educated. Indeed plenty of scholars have shown that there is a feedback loop between the two.
The question is, does the US education system provide American children with the tools to become good citizens, worthy candidates and informed citizens who can choose their Presidents wisely?
Americans are famously patriotic. I still vividly recall my first US baseball game (the Oakland A’s if you must know) and being astonished when everyone stood for the national anthem, with their hands on their hearts no less. The stars and stripes must be the most revered flag in the world. The care taken over handling this piece of textile is comparable with watching someone carry a newborn baby with greased chop-sticks.
All Americans can recite the Pledge of Allegiance (a scene from countless movies). All those children, every morning, ending with the stirring line; “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I thought a lot about that line in 2020 as I watched the political chasm in the US widen even further. It was also the soundtrack in my mind to countless video clips of Black Lives Matter protesters getting tear gassed, racist Karens calling the cops on minorities minding their own business, a congress woman harassing a school shooting survivor, other second amendment obsessives bellowing about their rights whilst forgetting their responsibilities, maskless COVIDiots screaming at medical staff that Bill Gates wants to inject us with mind control bots, and of course the unedifying scene of a group of extras from a Village People video, defecating in the hastily abandoned offices of the Capitol.
JFK said “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. It seems that for many Americans, country has become too abstract and is reduced to the symbols which are held dear to the heart. The flag, the constitution, the anthem, the pledge.
A country cannot exist without its people, but until those people understand what liberty and justice for all really means, I see trouble ahead for American democracy.
Alex observes America from his home in Luxumberg.