Christ on a bike
Sister Assumpta was pushing her walking aid to the limit. She did not want to be late to the party organised by the Mother Superior, to celebrate the re-election of President Trump.
Did your hear that massive sigh of relief that has blown over 5 continents for the past few hours? I think that rarely has an election received such global attention.
The election of an egomaniac reality TV star with dictatorship aspirations four years ago had sent a shockwave of disbelief mingled with horror. Then people calmed down a bit. Surely, he wouldn't be as bad as what he had trumpeted during the electoral campaign. It was all for the show. He'd settle into the job. One does not mess with the second most powerful job in the world (Xi Jinping holds the #1 spot, he is just a touch more discreet about it). The Orange One would not be as bad as everyone had feared.
He proved to be worse. Far worse.
And the prospect of a second term (the last one, well, in a democracy anyway), now that became very unnerving.
The Orange Monstrosity had proven time and again that he is a clinically insane monster of egotism.
But the people of America rallied. For the second time, a majority of the people - an even greater majority of the people - refused to follow the call of abject populism, and lies, and criminally irresponsible lack of leadership in a pandemic.
Today, the Orange Monstrosity received his marching orders.
He will no doubt return to his reality TV activities.
He will still be present. But at least he will no longer be in possession of the codes for the launch of a nuclear strike.
We've all overdosed on articles on the US election. Now is the time to enjoy the gentle breeze of the universal sigh of relief.
But if you are inclined to read just one last analysis, you could do far worse than reading this one. Fintan O'Toole is the man who, alone, makes my digital subscription to the Irish Times worthwhile.
He is a journalist who writes about the present with the perspective of a historian.
The article is reproduced here:
Fintan O’Toole: The big danger is if Joe Biden believes everything is okay
Trump is not going anywhere, and Biden cannot proceed as if democracy is saved
On Thursday night, as he was inching painfully towards the presidency of the United States, Joe Biden gave a brief speech in which he urged the majority that supports him to be patient. “That patience,” he reassured them, “has been rewarded now for more than 240 years with a system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.”
The problem is not so much that Biden said this, as that he just might believe it. It was arguably appropriate, at a moment when the incumbent president was trying to abort an election he had by then almost certainly lost, to say, in effect: everything is going to be all right.
But the envy of the world? What world would that be? Perhaps the one adverted to by CNN’s international anchor and veteran correspondent Christiane Amanpour, when she tweeted, early yesterday morning: “The last President I covered who refused to accept the vote count in an election was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, 2009.”
The US “system of governance” is minority rule. It was designed to exclude women, black people and Native Americans. A universal right to vote was only really conceded in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and that was a result, not of the benevolence of the system, but of the heroic struggles of the Civil Rights movement. And that Act was gutted in 2013 by a Republican-dominated supreme court.
The Senate, which will most probably be able to thwart most of what Biden is being elected to do as president, is a bulwark of minority power, giving the same number of seats to California’s heavily Democratic 40 million people as to Wyoming’s heavily Republican half a million. This imbalance is becoming steadily more grotesque as the population shifts: by 2040 about 70 per cent of Americans will be represented by 30 per cent of senators.
And the very fact that the election result remained in doubt for so long was itself an expression of a “system of governance” in which the minority can take power against the wishes of the majority. Biden beat Trump by at least four million votes. But Trump came very close to taking the presidency again, as he did in 2016, without the consent of most voters.
So why did Biden indulge yet again the fantasy of American democracy as exceptional and world-leading? Because he wanted to suggest that, if and when Trump goes, everything goes back to “normal” and all is right with the world.
This is the fatal delusion that bedevils mainstream Democrats in the era of Trump. When Trump said “Make American Great Again” in 2016, Barack Obama replied that “America is already great”.
It was a terrible answer. It left Trump as the sole preacher of what James Larkin called “the divine gospel of discontent”. For tens of millions of ordinary families, stuck in jobs where wages are at best static and prospects are fearful, bigging up the status quo did not cut it in 2016, and does not cut it now.
Both Biden’s persona and his political history make him reluctant to confront the depth of the democratic deficit. Personally he does empathy, emollience, comfort. Politically he harks back to an extinct era when centrist consensus got things done. If he were a Beatles song, it would be We Can Work it Out, not Revolution.
This is admirable enough. By way of contrast to Trump’s violent rhetoric and contemptuous dismissal of the those who are not his people – which means most Americans – Biden’s basic decency and civility shine out as they would not have done in better times.
If ever there is a moment to soothe and console, it is surely when an incumbent president is openly assaulting the very fundamentals of American democracy.
But Biden cannot afford to linger too long in this mode. He is going to be faced as president with an unabashed Trump and his total command of the 46 per cent of voters who find his autocracy appealing and share his ever-deepening sense of grievance. He can’t fight that battle merely by saying that all is for the best in America’s best of all possible worlds.
In July 2011, after the neo-Nazi Anders Breivik murdered 77 people, Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said the correct response to the outrage was “more democracy”. Trump will become fascistic; Biden must double down on democracy.
Trump’s path is clear enough. He will not concede that he lost legitimately. He will continue to criminalise most of Biden’s voters, insisting that those who did not vote in person are part of a vast conspiracy to steal his victory by fraud. He will dump more and more conspiratorial poison into the groundwater of American public life. He will lead chants of “Lock him up!” against the usurper of the throne that is his by right.
Meanwhile, a Senate controlled by the representatives of a minority of Americans, and a supreme court outrageously rigged by the minority party, will block the implementation of the policies Biden is pledged to – on the environment, on healthcare, on education, on fair taxation.
In this context, Biden will look more and more delusional if he maintains the line that the world is looking on jealously at the wonderful workings of the perfect system bequeathed to the chosen people of the US by the flawless founding fathers.
He has to acknowledge, not just that there can be no return to a pre-Trump status quo, but that this status quo allowed minority rule, voter suppression, gerrymandering on a vast scale and the embedding at the top level of the legal system of partisan ideological warriors.
For all the failings of the Democrats’ campaign, Biden has won, and his win is of immense importance. It creates the opportunity to salvage a democracy that Trump and his enablers have driven on to the rocks.
But salvage is not enough – Biden has to understand and articulate the reasons for the shipwreck. Trump has exposed the illusion that an 18th-century system of governance could keep an invisible but steady hand on the wheel, guiding it always into safe waters.
The one thing to be said for him is that he has not done this secretly or subtly. His insistence this week that only votes in his favour should be counted is the clearest possible proof that the US has a system of governance that invites and facilitates its own subversion.
Biden has to say what was previously unsayable: that the system itself is broken and demands root-and-branch reform. When one side of a political culture has become passionately autocratic, the other half must become far more radically democratic.