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Make America decent again

Comment & Opinion

DIVIDED SOCIETY But for the pandemic, it’s likely that the US would be entering a second Trump administration.

James O’Connell

TAKE one frog. Place in large pot of cold water. Turn up heat.
You can get very used to crazy. SAD! But true.
The frog is democracy, in case you were wondering, and that pot has been simmering for decades. Today is a holiday to remember, honour the memory of murdered black rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. for example. For every Rodney King of yesteryear, there’s a George Floyd of last year.
It doesn’t take much for a situation to go from simmering to boiling over.
That point was well and truly reached with the election of Donald J Trump to the office of President four very, very long years ago.
What had been rising but still concealed beneath an ever-thinning veil of respectability suddenly became acceptable. Mainstream. Even for a president.
From white supremacists openly chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us’ at a march in Charlottesville being defended by the President with, there were ‘good people on both sides’, to Proud Boys — described by Wikipedia as ‘a far-right, neo-fascist, and male-only political organisation that promotes and engages in political violence in the United States and Canada” — being asked politely to ‘stand back and stand by.’
The rhetoric may have appeased the conservative, white evangelical Christians who continue to flock to Trump and the Republican Party. Ignore the violence, sedition and the occasional insurrection, feel the quality of supreme court judges and the possibility of overturning abortion legislation.
Strange bedfellows. Or not, as the case may be.
A norm-shattering, deeply disturbing Presidency that brought race back to the front and centre of politics in America and with a two-party system, it’s not going away anytime soon.
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence extolled the virtue that this was the first administration in decades that didn’t get involved in a new war.
About to exceed total US fatalities in WWII — that the coronavirus death toll will this week cross 400,000 in the self-proclaimed ‘greatest country in the world’ is but a minor inconvenience. Truth being the first casualty of all wars, old and new.
There’s the rub. But for the pandemic, political analysts and expert agree, it’s likely that the US would be entering a second Trump administration.
Had he taken it seriously, worn a mask, attended the odd meeting, there’s every chance the electorate would have forgiven his trespasses and, as his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said shortly after the election, ‘a smooth transition to a second term’.
Trump may not be in charge but ‘his followers’ are not going away. They’ve been emboldened by the highest office in the land, encouraged by media as mainstream as Fox News, and the clamour to replace Trump as the next Republican presidential nominee is already gathering pace. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is at the head of the queue to aid them in their quest to take back ‘their’ country.
Which brings us to the riot. The insurrection. The invasion of the US Capitol building in DC. Flagged in advance on all good alt-right chatrooms and websites, the world watched as the crowd turned into a mob and this mob did what it does best; trample on everyone else’s rights.
Composed of current and ex-military, elected officials, current and former police, conspiracy-loving political activists and to a man, woman, and child a populace that has been lied to repeatedly and ultimately radicalised.
In his 1935 novel, ‘It can’t happen here’ Sinclair Lewis may not have said, ‘When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.’
But he might as well have.
President-elect Joe Biden has an unenviable job on his hands. A health system in tatters, foreign policy on life support – with the current administration lighting as many fires on the way out as possible – and whether the general populace like to admit it or not – domestic terrorism or in old currency, white supremacy, on the rise.
Trump may have lost the House, the Senate and the Presidency, but if two-thirds of House of Representative Republicans voted to decertify a clearly legitimate election, hours after a riot in their own building, and 93 percent voted to not impeach the President for inciting the riot, right now, it feels like a hollow victory.
This is not yet a time for healing. This is a time to lance the boil.

James O’Connell from Ballinrobe, a former journalist with The Mayo News, lives in Colorado.