Watching our neighbours to the South has become a bewildering experience for many Canadians. Honestly, it’s hard to keep up with the noxious combination of strife and insanity that we are seeing play out down there on a daily basis. It’s gotten so bad that many are very concerned if the very democratic nature of the United States will survive this. Their polarized political culture has gotten much worse, not better during the Trump years and it’s getting to a point where it’s really starting to detach from reality. Hell, just last night a poll came out that reported 56% of Republicans polled believed QAnon “is partly or mostly true.” If that isn’t a scary assed stat to you, I don’t know what else you need to prove that things are completely off the rails in the supposed “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.”
When a majority of any party members says that they believe a ludicrous conspiracy theory, apparently because their leader and President buys into in (or at least won’t shoot it down), things may be beyond the point of no return. It also shows that the guardrails of their society, whether it be politically ethical expectations or simple facts, are shot and out of commission. Just in the past couple of days we’ve seen two stories that really speak to that reality and bring out dangerous historical comparisons that are getting harder to ignore. First let’s start in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s visit there:
Folks, it’s one thing to willfully lie to the people or refuse to acknowledge the truth. It’s one thing try to craft a narrative to fit your designs. It’s something completely different to create completely false images and narratives out of nothing. It’s especially ugly when you are faced with people directly involved who refuse to play along with your plans, and instead of respecting their wishes, you try to replace them and act as if they don’t even exist.
That is what the Trump team did in Kenosha, where the owner of Rode’s Camera Shop wanted nothing to do with Trump trying to use the loss of his business for his political gain. When asked, he told them that he wanted nothing to do with their propaganda show. Instead of respecting their wishes, Trump trotted out the former owners of the store and acted as if they were the current owners. Those former owners played along dutifully, happily being a pawn in this moment while disrespecting the wishes of the people who actually own the place. And for what? To help Trump create the image that he wanted to help his chances of getting re-elected.
The facts or reality don’t help here? Hell, create you own, that’s been the Trump’s approach to so much for so long. But while it’s bad for Trump to simply lie and ignore facts, this is another level. This involved directly ignoring the wishes of the victims of that vandalism and “replacing them” with “victims” that were willing to give him what he wanted. That’s dark, ugly and reminiscent of the kind of things you’d see former Soviet governments do. Trump created his own Potemkin riot scene, complete with a cast of non-victims to play a role. It’s dark and another sign of just how far Trump is willing to go to win. We got another taste of how far Trump is willing to go to try to win, with a dark memo signed by Trump complete with dangerous language:
This is some of the ugliest politicking imaginable and the kind of acts that authoritarians take against their enemies. Trump’s memo threatens to restrict federal funds from going to what he called “anarchist jurisdictions”, specifically citing the cities of Seattle, Portland, New York City & Washington, D.C. The memo states that they’ll have a full list of “anarchist jurisdictions” in 14 days, that all U.S. agencies will have to report all federal funds going to these cities and in 30 days, White House will distribute guidance on restricting funds to them. Guaranteed this is all going to the courts and it feels very safe in saying the courts will shoot this crap down, but really that doesn’t matter. When you read the definition of what would constitute a “anarchist jurisdiction”, it would entrap basically any community that decided to reduce police powers or redirect funding to them, if they “unreasonably refuse” to accept federal government forces in their community, if the Trump administration feels the policing actions against protests aren’t sufficient or “any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate”.
Basically, it means that if your jurisdiction disagrees with anything Trump has forced on communities like Portland, or exercised their constitutional rights to run their jurisdictions as they see fit, Trump will force them according to this memo. He will deem them to be “anarchist jurisdictions”. This won’t hold up to a legal challenge on its face, but it also won’t for another, more practical reason; how it is applied. You notice the cities that are specifically mentioned already but did you notice which ones weren’t? Minneapolis was a notable omission. So was Kenosha, Wisconsin. So why would those cities be left out of such a likely illegal and morally dubious action? Well because Wisconsin is a swing state that Trump needs to win back to keep his office, and he believes that he can swing Minnesota into his column too. Whereas he won’t win New York, Oregon or Washington State, he won’t even come close. So he’s using them as his whipping boys , all to try to make a partisan point and advance his chances at re-election.
And here again we see another example of Trump doing whatever he can, legal or illegal, to try to hold onto his seat in the White House. This is not simply trying to play close to the line, this is trying to destroy any lines or barriers, either legal or ethical. We’ve seen other examples of Trump trying to do that, but this behaviour is escalating and getting worse the close we get to November. Just this morning we was Tweeting about getting his supporters to essential vote twice, which is clearly illegal and is illegal for anyone to suggest someone do. It’s examples like these that are showing the dangers of the current moment in the United States. And sadly, we likely won’t have any idea of how or if their democracy will survive until a while after the November 3rd election. While most losers in Presidential elections have taken their loss and walked away, Trump is showing time and again that he will do whatever, however and at whatever cost to hold onto power. We can’t assume this election result will result in any return to normal but if anything, these stories from the past couple of days were a stark reminder of just how far from any sense of democratic normality our American neighbours have strayed. We hope they get this back on track, but it’s hard not to be pessimistic given what we’re seeing right now.