A sinking ship

Like every other decent human being, and (apparently) the President of the United States, I was appalled by Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

For months, Donald Trump has recklessly sown doubt over the legitimacy of the U.S. presidential election. He has called his unwaveringly loyal supporters to arms. And now, we’ve seen the consequences — an act of domestic terrorism at the fount of democracy, conducted in the name of a sitting U.S. president.

What happened earlier this week is exactly what Trump and his loyal band of disciples wanted: to bring unprecedented disruption to an established, constitutionally-mandated formality.

And yet, despite this disruption, the Electoral College certification process was completed, culminating in the official declaration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice-president of the United States. In eleven days, they will assume those roles.

So, what happens between now and then?

First and foremost, Trump needs to go. Eleven more days at the helm is eleven days too many. While every major social media platform has deemed it too high of a risk to remain on their platforms, Trump remains in unilateral command of the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal. Through his actions, he has demonstrated an inability to continue to act in the best interests of the United States, and the “free world” he’s so frequently purported to lead.

Republicans argue that removing a sitting president eleven days out from the end of their term sets a bad precedent.

To those Republicans, I’ll tell you what I think sets a bad precedent: allowing a president to permit a large, radicalised element of their voter base to become so blind to reality to the point that they commit an act of domestic terrorism on the U.S. Capitol. And then, as that act is unfolding, to tell that radicalised element that said president “loves them” and that they are “very special”, and failing to deploy readily available troops to end the conflict.

Allowing that to go unpunished? That sets a bad precedent, and that’s why Vice President Mike Pence and Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to remove Trump from office as quickly and decisively as possible.

Should that fail, impeachment should (and will) be pursued. While it’s unlikely a trial will conclude before Trump’s departure from office on the 20th, should the Senate find Trump guilty, it would disqualify him from holding public office ever again — putting an end to any suggestion of a return in 2024.

Shutting down Trump’s future ambitions is an important step forward, but it’s by no means a catch-all solution.

To echo a sentiment I expressed in my last post, The end of the road, Trump is on his way out — but Trump-like figures are not. Just this week, Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have proven a willingness to put their own ambition above acting in the interests of the greater good of society. It’s people like these who represent the long-term threat that American democracy faces.

To be complacent is to be complicit — and far, far too many have been complacent.

That includes social media companies, especially Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has allowed Trump to post a variety of dangerous tweets in recent years, including threatening to commit war crimes against Iran. Facebook, on the other hand, has allowed Trump’s campaign to use its targeted advertising tools to prey on everyday Americans by selling his deluded vision of “making America great again”.

I could argue all day about the merits some see in keeping Trump and others within the regulatory confines of these platforms, as opposed to allowing their opinions to ferment in darker corners of society — but in my view, the reality remains this: deplatforming works, and it’s regrettable that it took an armed invasion of the U.S. Capitol — the first of its kind since that led by the British in 1814 — for social media companies to see that.

This is a topic which isn’t going away, and one I’ll likely write about in more depth soon.

Now, finally, it’s plain to see that the Trump ship is sinking. Many of Trump’s longest-serving loyalists are now seeking to jump ship and distance themselves from him. Shame on them, and shame on anyone and everyone who has enabled this appalling chapter of history and now seeks to absolve themselves of responsibility for it.

Soon, the Trump era will be over, and the time for healing and, importantly, reform will begin. Joe Biden and his Cabinet nominees appear up to the task. In particular, Merrick Garland strikes me as an excellent choice to lead a Justice Department which will face the difficult task of handling the high-profile prosecutions which are bound to emerge from the current administration.

More than anything, I hope that a sense of normality returns to U.S. politics.

Beyond that, I hope for progress. I hope that those in government opt to be more than a cog-spinning kakistocracy. To actively make life better for actual people, rather than corporations and the ultra-wealthy. It’s the failure of governments to do this that has led to the socio-economic conditions that allowed Trumpism to rise — which is why something must be done to address it.

There is much work that remains to be done, but I’m confident that when we all work together, the fundamental principles which underpin our combined existence will prevail.

4 thoughts on “A sinking ship”

  1. Nice piece Hugo, enjoyed it and agree. Keen to hear more of your thoughts on big tech as editors or platforms (and the associated regulation) in due course.

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