I don’t intend dancing on Donald Trump’s grave. The simple reason is that he is not dead politically and remains in office. There is absolutely no reason to believe that an egotist of his proportions is minded to accept the verdict of the American people so clearly expressed in the popular vote and in the state based Electoral College. On the contrary, he has been laying the ground for disputing the outcome of the election for months now.
The simple fact is that he has received the most votes of any losing candidate in US presidential history. Nearly half of the electorate voted to give him four more years in the White House. That fact alone demonstrates that a very substantial proportion of American citizens has a seriously distorted understanding of world politics (if they even care about them) and the role of America in combatting tyrannies and totalitarianism by fostering an alliance among all of the world’s liberal democracies and propagating the values upon which they are based.
The shocking thing about the coinage of American political debate is that the word ‘liberal’ is itself pejorative in so many minds. Right back to the candidacy of Governor Michael Dukakis, the ‘L word’ was a label calculated to denigrate an opponent as unreliable and weak. The great sin of Dukakis was that he was inclined to reprieve people sentenced to death.
The idea that guaranteeing every American citizen basic health services (as distinct from equal access to all health services) is socialistic or communistic speaks volumes about a society which is harsh on its weakest and indifferent to its disadvantaged. Having visited the American prison system, I can attest with first-hand knowledge to the vindictive and inhumane values of the American penal system. Whether the constitutional right to keep and bear arms creates circumstances in which a political majority consistently favours draconian punishment such as the one-time ‘three strikes and you’re out’ life sentencing of repeat felons, or whether there is something in the culture of white America which views mercy and reform as naïve values in facing repeated theft, the fact remains that America’s prisons are massively over-populated by black Americans enduring the harshest of prison regimes.
Nor does the fact that many States provide for the election by popular vote of State judiciary assist the development of enlightened sentencing policies.
The presence of armed militiamen toting assault rifles in the Michigan legislature and the thwarting of a plot by such extremists to kidnap the State governor is astonishing in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Trump’s dog whistle encouragement of such political thuggery and of racist activists, as at Charlottesville, was calculated and, apparently, not counterproductive as far as his electoral base was concerned.
For my part, I fully accept that opinion pollsters underestimated the electoral support for Donald Trump. This, I believe, stemmed from the phenomenon of ‘shy Trumpers’. There is also a well-recognised tendency for opinion polls to reflect what those polled believe the outcome will be rather than a clear picture of their private intentions. But I also feel that over the last week of the campaign Trump managed to convey a sense of determination to re-open the economy which must have had a broad appeal even to low paid minority voters who either wanted to save their jobs or to recover employment. There was a danger, which I pointed out earlier this year in this column that Trump would appropriate optimism and hope while his opponents became doom merchants in the eyes of worried and vulnerable voters.
One point which I think deserves to be mentioned is the apparent alliance between Catholic voters and Evangelicals centred around the issue of abortion. It is astonishing that Christian voters could hold their noses at the patent insincerity of Trump’s bible waving and espousal of the pro-life cause when virtually everything that he said and did lacked any Christian empathy or compassion for those he considered unworthy of his political patronage. Anyone who from time to time channel-hops to EWTN would see that there is a very strong strain of US Catholicism that is far more traditional and conservative than Catholicism in the rest of the world generally. Indeed, the extremely conservative Irish publication, Catholic Voice, carried pro-Trump messages for the last month, including advertisements calling for prayer for the re-election of Trump. Some American bishops went so far as to doubt whether Joe Biden was really a Catholic candidate at all.
Just as there were many German Catholics who helped elect Adolf Hitler in the hope of combatting atheistic communism, it seems to me that many American Catholics and Evangelicals chose to ignore what Trump’s own sister – an American federal judge – described as his defining characteristic – cruelty.
Will we now see a four year period in which Trumpism regroups and reasserts its control over its recently hijacked Republican party and in which Trump TV eclipses Fox TV as the means of mobilising an intolerant reactionary racist and uncaring alliance to elect Donald Trump Junior to be the next US president, after an extended period of Senate-led political paralysis? None of this appears either impossible or improbable.