When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, many said it was the end of history. Centuries of revolution after counterrevolution and endemic warfare had finally come to an end. Capitalism had triumphed over Communism. Daenerys and Cersei were gone, Jon Snow was sent to the Night’s Watch, and a new peaceful world order was established. There was no more history to report.
But even though the credits seemed to spell ‘The End’, perhaps they were really saying ‘To Be Continued’, because if you’ve lived through the last 30 years, you probably feel like we’ve had 300 years of upheaval packed into 3 decades. Be it the rise of the Internet, the War on Terror, or the Great Recession; we’ve had our fair share of turmoil. And yet, nothing was as much a slap-in-the-face as the Trump phenomenon, whose high noon is all but upon us.
Assuming the polls are anything to go by, just 8 months ago, the president was in a very different place to where he is now: sexual misconduct allegations, obstruction of justice, impeachment, you name it. He had fought off every challenge and the economy was growing. His ticket to re-election seemed clear. But then, a foreign invasion, an invisible enemy. Trump’s time to become a war-time leader, and have his ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ moment, right? Apparently not.
As a former US Homeland Security employee said in the recent BBC documentary The Trump Show, can you imagine if Winston Churchill had encouraged the British people in 1940 to go out onto the street every night and not worry about some Luftwaffe hoax? This pretty much sums up the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this article, at least 220,000 Americans have died from the disease; 100,000 businesses have closed never to reopen again; Tens of millions are out of work, probably putting them in the same tax bracket as Donald Trump.
And that’s not all: aside from a disastrous response to the world’s biggest peacetime crisis, the president isn’t expected to have the luxury of 100 million absent voters this time round. For this prospect, he has his appalling non-response to police brutality to thank; something which will no doubt galvanise many ethnic minority communities. In fact, at the time of writing this article, already 50 million Americans have voted.
Even so, let’s stretch our imaginations to entertain another four years of Donald Trump. If the segregationist-loving, abortion-hating healthcare-sceptic Justice Barrett is confirmed, the ultra-conservative Supreme Court will have virtually no checks on its power. The US’s undemocratic electoral system that was drawn up by the Founding Fathers to appease slave owners will continue to provide a tyranny of the minority, not to mention the Obama-era climate policies that already didn’t go far enough, will continue to be repealed. And here’s the deal: the window to act on the climate crisis may well be shut in 2024 and any international treaty that doesn’t include the US is next to pointless.
And as his day of reckoning approaches, President Trump’s messiah complex is as resilient as ever. Breaking free of Walter Reed Hospital, the way the Napoleon broke free from Elba Island, leading his troops into a disastrous campaign at Waterloo, just one question remains: Will the allies find common ground to stop him? (And send him off to a remote island in the South Atlantic while they’re at it?)
Ultimately, like in 1815, a new world order could be forged in the aftermath of this crisis, and we must be sure not to make the same mistakes as in 2008-10. For this to happen, powerful world leaders must worship science, reason, and compassion; not self-righteousness, impulsiveness and conspiracy theories. It’s very sad that it’s taken a global pandemic among other tragedies to reveal Donald Trump’s gross ineptitude for public office, let alone the highest in the world. That said, the true verdict won’t be delivered until November 3rd, possibly later. Whether the last 4 years have been a detour from which we can reverse, or a destination where we will remain.
As the course of history lays in hands of the American people, an historic phrase comes to mind: The whole world is watching.
Image Credits: Ted Eytan