The United States is experiencing what is arguably its most chaotic year in living history. The administration has to contend with a pandemic that has robbed the lives of more than 212,000 if its citizens and is spreading uncontrolled.
The consensus according to various polls suggests Americans blame their President for his failure to lead them out of this grave emergency set to worsen during the upcoming cold season.
President Trump’s behaviour has been reckless. He has diced with his own life and those who work with him by ignoring scientific advice. Instead he has been hosting spreader events and holding rallies where almost no one is masked and he continues to do so even though he is recovering from the virus himself. Reports suggest that the West Wing is almost deserted because so many aides and staff have contracted the virus or are in quarantine.
Trump’s UK mini-me Prime Minister Boris Johnson has similarly made a hash of controlling the pandemic. He showed his disdain for masks by visiting a hospital with his face uncovered. The virus got him and he almost died. Johnson’s policies have been just as incoherent as Trump’s. Britain has the highest cases per capita worldwide and the economy is tanking.
Britons and Americans are paying a hefty price for their respective democratic choices. They went for over-the-top, big personality populist candidates lacking gravitas and known for their impulsiveness. Today ‘we the people’ are paying a hefty price.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suspects that President Trump is suffering from a “disassociation from reality’ and is forming a commission to assess whether or not Mr. Trump is unfit for the job.
I believe there has been method in Trump’s madness. His priority has been preservation of the economy and to that end he has deliberately equated Covid-19 to the flu and is now wrongly touting experimental treatments awaiting FDA approval as “cures”.
Buoyant Wall Street
The problem is that while Wall Street remains fairly buoyant, main street is taking a terrible beating. Unemployment is taking its toll on families who cannot afford to pay their rent, utilities, health insurance or, in many cases, to eat. Queues outside food banks are lengthening weekly. The airline and hospitality industries are in big trouble and small businesses are shutting up shop with many more to follow if Congress does not approve a new stimulus package very soon.
Moreover the President is also under fire for failing to condemn white militias and supremacists groups except when his back is against the wall. His empathy for unarmed black men murdered by police officers has also shown to be lacking. Instead he praises the nation’s police forces and hammers home that he is the ‘Law-and-Order President’.
Most of the time a democratic system of governance works well but as we have recently seen, it is no mere accident of fate that the US, the UK, India, Brazil, Italy, Spain are high among countries ranking among the worst affected by the virus. Conversely, life in China has normalised and its economy is healthy. Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia have also done well. Singapore has reported just 27 deaths; Vietnam a low of 35. Nobody has died from Covid-19 in Cambodia.
'We the people'
What accounts for the disparity between the performance of democracies and countries with an autocratic or semi-autocratic style of governance? I believe that ‘we the people’ have lost trust in the authorities which has fuelled conspiracy theorists.
‘We the people’ do not like to be told what to do because we have set-in-stone constitutional rights. We will not be told to mask-up and will not be told to get vaccinated because, after all, those vaccines could contain government microchips. Furthermore, who do our leaders think they are telling us not to hold parties, attend raves or cluster like honeybees on beaches!
Throughout the US the right to protest in public no matter the damage caused by angry, violent mobs that leech onto demonstrations. In numerous states citizens have the right to openly carry weapons and militias are legal under the constitution. So if those who predict an upcoming race war or a civil war are correct, authorities will be hamstrung.
Question: Is four years in office sufficient for presidential policies to bear fruit? One of the first things Trump did when getting his feet under his Oval Office desk was to undo just about all of his predecessor’s achievements apart from the Affordable Care Act whose future will be decided by the Supreme Court. Worse, the excellent relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia that was cultivated by President Trump and is so crucial to the US economy is up and the air.
Lastly, it seems that the 4th year of a president’s term is dedicated to campaigning for another four years which in Trump’s case has been all-consuming since the beginning of 2020. And now as flawed as it is democracy is under threat thanks to Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses next month.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East