Effects of the Trump presidency, mired in controversies and bad decisions, can be felt beyond the borders of the USA, writes Sue Arnold.
2020 MAY WELL go down in history as the time when western civilisation began to self-destruct. As the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, fragments in spectacular fashion, galloping towards an irreversible, inevitable collapse, the ramifications are largely ignored.
While the U.S. goes down the drain, massive global changes which have been let loose by President Donald Trump, his dictator allies and a Republican Party devoid of morals will affect the lives of us all.
Millions of Americans have caught the coronavirus through sheer irresponsibility. With experts projecting a death toll of 3,000 a day, the President bullies the country into going back to work with promises of an “amazing recovery”.
His refusal and that of his Vice President Mike Pence to wear masks or to ensure social distancing in the White House are the actions of grossly irresponsible nitwits. Now, the White House may well become another COVID-19 cluster with two employees close to both men diagnosed with the virus.
Daily, we witness the catastrophic decisions of a man who should never have been elected as President of the most powerful nation in the world. As someone who has spent a very large part of my life in the U.S., it’s almost impossible to understand how American democracy has been so easily brought to its knees. Instead, Trump has installed a kleptocratic dictatorship with very little opposition.
How could that happen? How has the media been effectively weakened to the extent that criticism of Trump slides off him like Teflon? How did the Republican Party become the Trump Party? What has happened to political morality (which may be an oxymoron)?
As a journalist who has worked in the U.S., I am staggered to witness the insults, bullying and put-downs which Trump displays on a daily basis at his press briefings. Why do journalists sit there? Why don’t they walk out? Why are the owners of non-Murdoch mainstream media continuing to publish the ravings of a lunatic President?
Now the narcissist in chief has decided to “open up the economy”, which means that he really doesn’t care how many Americans die from the coronavirus; getting the economy looking good (more lies) will, by some miraculous means, ensure his re-election.
The focus now is on blaming China for COVID-19 escaping from a Wuhan laboratory. A responsible mainstream media would instead be calling for accountability by the White House for a chaotic response which has caused unprecedented suffering and death.
Even thinking about the possibility of Trump being re-elected is a glimpse into the hell realms.
Another four years of daily threats, abuse, executive orders and the complete lack of any responsibility to the American public is impossible to contemplate. Yet even as the polls show a major decline in Trump’s electoral chances, they only serve as an injunction to take a stick to the postal service to prevent mail-out votes. To ensure that huge sections of the voting population are deprived of their right to vote. That every dirty trick and lie which can have a chance of persuading voting Americans that Trump is the only man who can save the nation will still be believed by so many.
His administration is now populated with Trump mates, people significantly unsuitable for any senior position. The Justice Department, FBI, intelligence community have all been nobbled. Hamstrung, unable to do their job. Anyone who contradicts or defies the President is dumped. Congress has completely failed to stop the damage.
In Australia, we have a pretty good medical system which ensures that most Australians can afford to pay for hospital, medical and complementary care. In the U.S., people pay thousands of dollars a month for health cover if they run their own businesses.
But with almost 15 per cent of the population now unemployed, workers who are the unfortunate victims of the pandemic will no longer have any health cover paid by their employers. If they get sick, too bad. If their kids get sick, too bad. The costs of any medical needs in the U.S. are astronomical, public health almost impossible to obtain.
People of colour, Hispanics, Native American Indians, the elderly and prisoners are paying the price of the pandemic. As more and more data is gathered, it’s clear that the majority of virus deaths are hitting the African-American population.
Experts estimate that 40 per cent of Americans are one paycheque away from poverty, unable to pay their rent, mortgage or food bills. TV footage of thousands of cars queueing up for food parcels all over the country is mind-boggling. Yet this is the reality of the U.S. under Trump.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this extraordinary takeover of the world’s most powerful democracy by one man is that there is still a sizeable majority who support him. Who would believe that any thinking person could support a President who conceals his tax returns, sacks a legion of men and women of integrity, stacks the Supreme Court and other courts with Trump supporters and bails out the super-wealthy with phony tax breaks? The list is long.
Environmentally, the Trump Administration has been a wrecker. At a time when the world needs drastic action to deal with climate change, he pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement. At the domestic level, environmental legislation has been trashed and polluters given the green light.
But let’s get to the essential question — what kind of person supports Trump? What happened to American values?
There’s no doubt that any thinking American will tell you that the nation had this trauma coming. Anyone who has watched Michael Moore’s searing documentaries on U.S. corporations and political corruption knows that it was only a matter of time before the proverbial hit the fan.
The American economy is based on consumerism. A trip to the supermarket is a test for making decisions as the shopper is confronted with aisle after aisle of the same goods, all different brands. Houses are crammed full of stuff. Yards are crammed full of more stuff.
Dogs wear designer gear. Society is tribal in many areas. I often stay in East Palo Alto, close to Stanford University. It's an area replete with luxury mansions and exquisitely manicured gardens, yet across the narrow street behind the house where I stay are hundreds of small apartments, overcrowded with Mexican families. On the street each day are Mexicans selling fruit to their wealthy neighbours driving past in their luxury SUVs.
America can’t survive without a servant class. People to harvest the fields, clean houses, mind children, sweep the streets and do the dirty jobs.
Hatred of the African-American community is rampant; the prisons are full of blacks who have committed minor crimes. The difference in sentencing for a white person as opposed to one of colour has long been a source of protest.
Then there’s a massive social disconnect as the nation is now coping with so many nationalities who cling to their cultures. In California, it’s important to have a grasp of Spanish as so many business outlets are staffed by Mexican and Hispanic workers. Add a virtual Chinese invasion, so evident in San Francisco where a trip on Caltrain could pass for a train journey in Hong Kong.
Politically, Americans don’t have to vote. In November, many will stay home, safely ensconced in their bubbles, hoping that the bad times will go away.
The alternative President, Joe Biden, will inherit a nightmare if he succeeds in winning the November Election. An economic, environmental and social nightmare that will have no easy or quick resolution.
One way or another, America and the rest of the world will pay a terrible price for the Trump presidency.
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