Voices: A British perspective on the US election

Voices: A British perspective on the US election
Source: Tom Brenner, Reuters

“If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, then the autopsy must read ‘Donald Trump.’”

Martin Luther King said most of these words 53 years ago, I took the literary liberty of replacing “Vietnam” with “Donald Trump.”

Today deaths from COVID-19 in America are more than double those experienced in the Vietnam War, Korean War, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined and slither ever closer to the quarter of a million mark. Donald Trump has overseen the most catastrophic loss of life that the US has experienced since the Second World War and he has made a nation already fiercely divided along political lines completely polarised by spinning a Cult Of Personality and disinformation so effective that even Josef Stalin would have been impressed.

The stakes have never felt higher in any US election that I can recall in living memory and never has the rest of the world been so dialed into the outcome. The election race has turned into one of those bizarre reality TV shows that you just can’t take your eyes off, mainly because no one knows what on earth Donald Trump will do or say next.

And that’s been the problem; it’s all about him. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying and he’s on TV talking about himself, consistently downplaying COVID and failing to take decisive action, which has allowed the virus to spread exponentially. In the time that Europe had a first wave, seen a lull in cases and is now experiencing a second wave, the US has never really left the first wave of the virus and cases are continuing to grow. Trump refuses to denounce racists and white supremacists, in fact, he invigorates them. Then there’s the misogyny and sexual misconduct allegations, the lack of tax payments, the misleading tweets, the alleged corruption….I could go on.

For those like myself who live outside America in the UK, it’s quite shocking when you first grasp how tribal and feral the political rivalry can be along red and blue lines. It is also surprising to see such long lines, waiting times, and the general difficulty people undergo just to be able to cast their votes. This is not something we have ever been used to. I can’t remember ever having to even queue to get into a polling station before and, as you might have heard, we love a queue over here.

Wildwood NJ USA, Trump Rally and counter-protest

The most baffling thing of all is trying to understand how people can still support Donald Trump in this election despite everything that’s gone on this year. He’s done such a good job of crying “Fake News” any time he’s faced with a new allegation (which, evidently, is often) that there are people out there who don’t actually believe anything negative that’s said about him. He’s spun a narrative that resonates deeply with a certain demographic: a narrative of fear; that “they’re coming to take your jobs and your guns.” He told the crowd at Pittsburgh International Airport on September 22 “I am the only thing standing in the way of your Second Amendment, it’s going to be taken away or obliterated.”

He has concocted a world in which America’s culture and very existence is under constant siege from, in his own words, “anarchy, madness, and chaos” and he, of course, is the only one who can stop it. This heightened sense of threat that Trump has created has led many to believe that the greatest threat to their country is their fellow Americans. The kind of heightened misplaced paranoia that can lead to people taking up arms against peaceful protesters, for example, and leaves the rest of us “doomscrolling” through social media in a perpetual state of anxiety about what’s coming next.

In one of the most eye-popping episodes of the election so far, the president stood on the front lawn of the White House shortly after his COVID diagnosis, claiming to be a beacon of health, gesturing with pale white hands but a face caked in war paint of a dark orange hue leveled on like cement. It was reminiscent of the thick white makeup of arsenic that Queen Elizabeth I used to lather on to disguise the pox that was slowly eroding her face. So we were treated to a bizarre horror show several weeks before Halloween where Donald Trump, who had removed affordable healthcare almost as soon as he came into office, claimed that getting coronavirus was “a blessing from God” and promised Americans free access to a drug “cure” that he allegedly has shares in.

This democratic vote is arguably less of a vote for Joe Biden than it is a vote to get Trump out. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris seem like a safe pair of hands that can stop America from creeping any closer to authoritarianism and protect the liberal freedoms that are the norm in most Western democracies.

For an outsider, and I’m sure a great many Americans, it’s hard to reconcile how Trump and Republicans can say that it’s a personal choice to wear a mask during the worst public health crisis in a century, but a woman’s reproductive rights should be controlled by the State, not her. Or that he can reject a bill to offer much needed financial support for Americans impacted by COVID but rush through the appointment of a new conservative Supreme Court Justice before Ruth Bader Ginsburg had even been buried.

Donald Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he has been stirring it ever since he became president 4 years ago, fanning the flames of hate and deepening the fracture in American society. Things are so bad that even if he loses there is a very real fear that he won’t go quietly and there could be armed uprisings and plots like the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer that was fortunately foiled by the FBI.

For the past few months, he has even been sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the political process itself by constantly discrediting postal voting, presumably so he can challenge the result should he lose. But even for him, undermining the democratic political process hits a dangerous new low.

We’ve all been trapped in a toxic Trump trance for too long, as Joe Biden has said, “It is time for America to heal.”

Here’s hoping that America can break the spell on November 3.

This Voices story was written by Laura Woods. Laura is a freelance writer based in London, UK.

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