Trump’s attack on democracy

I was transfixed by what was going on on Wednesday in the United States, but did eventually go to bed and actually had a good night’s sleep. It must have been the Chianti. I wonder how well the Donald slept. This was the man who, in concert with one of his sons and others during the morning had whipped up a crowd of around 30,000 people to march on Capitol Hill to ‘Stop the Steal’. So many slogans, such great slogans. He told them that they had to be strong as they would get nowhere by showing weakness. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani had called for trial by combat to be re-introduced, so no incitement to violence there either. Vice President Pence,
although presiding officer at the official certification of the Electoral College votes, had already told Trump that there was nothing that he could do to prevent Joe Biden being declared President. And so the protestors took them at their word and stormed the Capitol building itself. That it happened was shocking, but should not be surprising. Since before he was elected as President his mantra has been that in any vote he will be the winner as he is sooo popular and if he does not win, then it means that fraud has deprived him of what is rightfully his.

What happens now?  As I start to write this, on the day after what is being called an insurrection and sedition, Congress has actually confirmed that Joe Biden is the duly elected next president. Trump has since said that, although he won the election, on 20 January there will be an ‘orderly transition of power’. This is thought by many to be an attempt to persuade those proposing that he be suspended from office under the 25th amendment that there is no need to do so. He’ll go quietly. Most commentators think it unlikely that there will in fact be a declaration that he is unfit to hold office. In my view, however it is a vital step. If his power as President is suspended, then he cannot use it to pardon either his co-conspirators or even attempt to pardon himself. If he were to do so, then it would mean that the ringleaders of this attack on democracy had got away with it. Which sets an awful precedent. The difficulty is that under the 25th amendment it is down to the vice-president and a majority of the president’s cabinet members to declare him unfit to hold office. I wish I thought that they were up to the task, but he’s surrounded himself with yes-men/women, so I'm not holding out much hope.

And then again, it would put Pence in charge. Pence, until the day of the storming of Capitol Hill, was the leading yes-man. He is an unknown quantity in terms of himself using the levers of power. He might, as a committed evangelical Christian want to bring forward Armageddon. He was, after all, the one who wanted the US Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem in order to move nearer to the fulfilment of prophecy about ‘the last times’. So who knows what he might do in the closing days of the presidency if he were in charge. But even if they were to do invoke amendment 25, that would still leave Trump free to pursue his dreams of standing again in 2024, so that he could have another go at making good on his desire to become the Mussolini of the United States. The only way this can be prevented, other than his premature death, or perhaps imprisonment, is by conviction and disqualification upon impeachment by Congress. Another unlikely event.

Something-else which is happening is that various of his lieutenants are resigning in 'shock' over his actions. They have apparently only just noticed what he has been saying for the last four years. These are the people who encouraged him in what he was doing during his presidency - because they gained from it - and so their change of heart will last only for as long as it suits them. But it has the result that there will be fewer people with any access to him who might be able in some way to moderate his actions - even if only from motives of self-preservation. Are these the people who would have had most to lose by casting their vote to suspend his presidency under the 25th amendment? We may find out in due course. What he might decide to do before leaving the White House is impossible to say, but at least his direct lines of communication with his supporters, twitter and Facebook, have now been cut off, or at least suspended. Although he’s still managing to continue to communicate his ideas by twitter messages through friends’ accounts.

So who were the insurrectionists? From what I saw, they were almost exclusively white. There were it seems many adherents of ‘Qanon’, ‘altRight’ and of course ‘The Proud Boys’.  Many  carried the Confederate flag. In other words, we are looking at a group of extreme right wing activists. And it is to these that Trump appeals with his cries of ‘America first’, his wall and his withdrawal from international agreements. But what he has really succeeded in doing is persuading these already deluded and highly prejudiced people, people who are in fact members of a cult, that he is their natural leader, someone who accepts them and their views for what they are. They already believe in the malevolent ‘deep state’ run by Lizards. And so when he tells people like this that he won the election and the vote count was a fraud engineered by the ‘deep state’, then his words fall on very fertile ground. He is typical of all would-be despots, people like Le Pen, Salvini, Maduro, Viktor Orbán and others around the world. He has a big lie which he hammers home and which he uses to justify all his actions and everything which his extremist supporters want to do in order to remake society in their own image. It is classic fascism. All this, from his point of view, to try to bypass the protections offered to us by democracy, because he wants to retain power indefinitely. And, of course, one of the reasons he wants to retain power is because, once he ceases to be president, he can be prosecuted for the numerous crimes uncovered by the Mueller investigation as well as, no doubt, tax and money laundering allegations. It would almost be better if Trump actually believed what he himself is saying. I don’t though think for one moment that he does. Even if the ordinary conspiracy theorist in his underpants really is convinced that the world is out to get him, I doubt that any of those wielding real power have the same fears or concerns about the Elders of Sion, the Illuminati or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Theirs is a rather more cynical view. And Trump is cynically using whatever rhetorical devices he can to cling on to power.

What’s now going to happen to the Republican party granted that, according to Donald Jr, the Republican party now belongs to his father? Well, it seems that a few of the Republican Senators and Congresspeople have finally recognised what’s been happening in very public view for many years. Most of them, however, although having been willing to talk behind Trump’s back about his unsuitability for office, have continued to do nothing and say nothing in public. I think they’re waiting to see which way the wind blows, the mark of true cowardice.  Many commentators think that the GOP will not survive this at least in its present form. They think that Trump will maintain his hold over a substantial section of his voting base, but that others in the party will finally decide that Trump’s inevitable diminution in the eyes of more moderate electors will mean that they have to declare independence from their erstwhile leader. How that will happen, I simply don’t know. What I do know, is that if this long period of madness is not brought to an end with Trump and his acolytes in orange jump-suits (his colour), then American democracy will continue to be on a knife-edge. Watch for the flight from Washington on 19th January carrying the Donald and his family (although perhaps not Melania) to a location which has no extradition agreement with the USA.

Paul Buckingham

9 January 2021

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