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.

The end of the road

The American people have spoken. This is the end of the road for Donald Trump’s presidency.

By virtually all accounts, voting has gone as well as could be expected amid a pandemic. Despite the fears of many, widespread civil unrest has not broken out. Donald Trump’s reaction has been contained to the expected: angry tweets and frivolous litigation. The results we’ve seen so far speak for themselves.

At this point, I’m willing to call it: Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be the 46th President of the United States.

Watching Biden speak earlier today was incredible. For the first time in four years, I felt like I was listening to a president, rather than an irascible school bully. If, like me, you’ve got a few minutes to watch it while sitting through CNN’s irritatingly repetitive ad breaks, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The reality is that this election could have gone either way. It certainly wasn’t the “blue wave” that many like myself had been hoping for. Had Trump received a few thousand more votes in the right places, we’d be staring down the barrel of a second term for Trump right now. Scary, I know.

My greatest takeaway from the last three days has been this: we need to stop pretending that Trump’s supporters are irrelevant — they aren’t. This election has unquestionably demonstrated that. In spite of the president’s innumerable wrongdoings, almost 50% of American voters have cast their vote for Donald J. Trump.

Since Wednesday, I’ve spoken with the few remaining Trump supporters I know, and one thing is abundantly clear: they genuinely believe the utter nonsense that comes out of Trump’s mouth — even the baseless claim that this election has been “stolen”. The thing I find most frightening about this is that these are people I consider to be relatively intelligent, and capable of thinking for themselves. If even they are willing to support Trump’s nonsensical views, it’s not at all surprising that 50% of America is as well.

I’ve come to the realisation that presenting these people with facts is futile. They simply don’t listen. It’s as if they’ve lost the ability to comprehend that maybe, just maybe, reality is comprised of more than what the imperious President Trump wants them to believe.

In the current social and political climate, the ability to think independently is more important than ever before, so it’s deeply concerning that people, smart people, seem incapable of doing so.

What do we do, then? How do we close the great divide that has engulfed political discourse not just in the United States, but the world?

Truthfully, I don’t know.

Answering this question will take time. Fortunately, there are few people better than Joe Biden to lead the effort to heal this division. A lifelong member of the D.C. establishment, he is brilliantly equipped to build a bridge between the Democratic and Republican parties, and restore political decency in the United States.

The next two months will be tumultuous as Donald Trump does everything in his power to undermine democracy. He will undercut faith in the institutions which have been sacrosanct in the United States for centuries. He will attempt to delegitimise a legitimate president-elect. The United States has weathered many storms in its 243-year history, and it will weather this one too.

There’s a longer, greater battle ahead. Soon, Donald Trump will be gone, but his cancerous grasp on society won’t. Bringing people back together will take time and work, it will be hard, and there will be setbacks — a Trump-like figure may well take the presidency once again, but I have faith that the people of the United States are capable of rising to this challenge.

Right now, though, there is real cause for celebration. This nightmare is drawing to a close. A woman of colour will serve as Vice President of the United States. Basic decency will return to the highest office in the land. For the first time in four years, the future is looking up.

For our sake, let this be the end of the road for Trumpism, and the beginning of the long road to unity. If it’s not, we’ll have bigger problems to address than Donald Trump.

The Disunited States of America

Our planet has never been a place of exemplary societal stability. It is a constantly evolving place, and we, its people, change with it — sometimes to our betterment, and sometimes to our detriment.

Today, as our world faces its greatest changes and challenges in recent times, it’s more critical than ever that we do everything in our power to ensure we change for better, not worse.

I’ll get straight to the point: democracy is under threat. Actually, that’s an understatement — democracy is under attack, and it’s under attack in the United States by the President of the United States. I cannot emphasise enough how concerning it is that we are even having discussions about whether or not the President of the United States will peacefully leave office if he does not win re-election.

While it would be simple for me to say that Donald Trump, a contemptible halfwit with neither a moral compass nor ability to lead is incapable of destroying democracy — the devastating reality is that he absolutely is, and is doing just that right now. If Joe Biden doesn’t win the presidency, I genuinely fear that it will be too late to heal the damage that Trump has inflicted on American society and the global community at large.

This is, of course, the natural problem with democratic societies: we choose our own paths, and sometimes those paths are bad. That’s not at all to say that I think democracy is bad, but rather to point out what is one of its most fundamental flaws. In the words of Winston Churchill, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.

As I’ve pointed out to numerous people throughout this year, the parallels between Trump’s America and Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s are staggering — explained excellently by Dana Milbank in his Washington Post op-ed “This is not a drill. The Reichstag is burning.” in September.

Fortunately, the constitutional safeguards which exist in the United States (especially the Supreme Court) make it difficult for Trump to unilaterally gain power in a similar fashion to Hitler. Nonetheless, the comparison is terrifying and a true indicator of how bad things have become in the land of the free.

I don’t like to be an alarmist, but I really do believe that there’s a lot at stake here, not just for the United States, but for our global society and its future.

The comforting reality is that Donald Trump will be gone at some point in the near future, but the forces that elevated him to power and his legacy will not. Removing these deep-rooted and pervasive forces will not be easy. It will take time. There will be resistance. But if we try, we will.

We have an entire generation of young people who have, for the first time in history, been not just allowed but empowered to educate themselves, to know right from wrong, to identify social inequalities, to fight for change. What is crucial now is that we take hold of that power, and hold authority to account. Taking hold of our future depends on us caring about it — if we can’t do that, we’re in deep, deep trouble.

We must stand up. We must make our voices heard. We must educate ourselves. We must vote. We must fight like our lives depend on it — because they do. Living a quiet life of complacency and blind acceptance is no longer an option. Democracy is under attack, and it’s up to us to protect it.

Frankly, I haven’t got the faintest idea what the outcome of Wednesday’s election will be. I do know there will be deep civil unrest. I do know there won’t be a result right away. But, I do not know what lies at the end of this road.

I suppose all I can say is this: in the coming days and weeks, may democracy win.