james debate
james debate

Friday 9 October 2020

America is (quite literally) burning. The nation has never been more divided, weaker and less influential. Its officials self-deal and abuse the vital services of government for their own personal enrichment. For a hundred years it has not been so wracked by economic crisis and never in its history been brought to its knees by so rampant and ill-handled a health crisis. The people take to the streets for justice while unshackled armed vigilantes sow murder and carnage. Enough is enough, the chaos must end.

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I have been thinking a lot lately about the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, a key theme of which is the extent to which people adapt to and normalise even the most horrific of circumstances. The constant threat of nuclear war in the 1960s, the threat of terrorism throughout the early 2000s, even something as fundamental as the inevitability of death, all things that from another perspective might seem horrifying and unacceptable, and yet we accept as simply an ordinary part of life. 

I was thinking about this the other day while watching A Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Instead of the usual grand auditorium, there was Colbert filming his show from an office with a cheap handicam, chatting with his wife off-camera and interviewing his guests via intermittent Zoom connection. What struck me as odd (aside from the obvious) was how no one was mentioning just how unusual this arrangement was, it has simply become a normal way of doing a late night talk show. Four years seems like a long time ago. It is easy to forget that things were not always this way. That the America of 2016 was a stable and functioning nation seems almost unthinkable. 

Economic crisis, hundreds of thousands dead from an uncontrolled pandemic, a never ending circus of scandal and corruption, and civil unrest tearing the country apart. This is the "normal" in Donald Trump's America. Let's be clear, Donald Trump absolutely deserves criticism for all of this. 

In 2017 Donald Trump entered took the reigns of a healthy country with a robust pandemic response infrastructure, one that had successfully kept the ebola outbreak of 2014 at bay. He gutted that infrastructure and the result is a nation in chaos with millions of known cases and hundreds of thousands dead. He inherited a booming economy and record low unemployment rate, now we have an economic crisis and unemployment that hit double digits (and yes, there were economic problems even before the pandemic: record inequality, high regional unemployment, market instability). 
In 2016, America was a stable, prosperous nation and a world leader.  Now it is a pariah state, isolated and quarantined from the civilised world, beset internally by flames and carnage. 

When it comes to the man himself, so much has already been written that really what more is there to add? I could talk about Trump's moral failings, his racism and sexism, his rampant dishonesty, his petulance and ill temperament for the job. I could talk about his scandals, the abuse of power for which he was impeached, the obstruction of justice described in the Mueller Report, the well-documented campaign finance violations with respect to Stormy Daniels, and the alleged tax improprieties for which he is currently under Federal investigation. 

I could write a whole piece on all of these points and still only be scratching the surface and frankly what would be the point? Everyone already knows all of these things, they've been discussed to death over the past four years. By this point everyone in America has already heard these things and either decided that this behaviour is abhorrent or totally fine and will vote accordingly. I won't waste any time rehashing these things. Instead I will simply focus on one key point: the most abhorrent legacy of Trump is his corruption of America's institutions. 

Over the last four years this country has transformed into one where every facet of Government exists solely to benefit the ruling party (and in particular its leader). An FBI Director forced to make a loyalty pledge, an Attorney General chosen to act as the President's personal fixer, IRS directors whose sole purpose is to protect the President from investigation, a President who insists that criminal charges should not be filed against members of his party, NASA directors who conjure up phony and impossible moon missions timed conveniently for immediately after the election, a postal service whose directive appears to be to disenfranchise voters. 

Every part of Government, even those which historically have been completely apolitical, has been corrupted for the sole purpose of serving the personal interests of the President. Gradually America is being transformed from a nation of law and democracy into a sham mafia state that more closely resembles the petty autocracies of nations like Belarus and Russia. Such things have no place in America.

Let's be blunt. There is no good reason to vote for Donald Trump. There are a million reasons to vote for anyone who runs against him regardless of who they are. But equally as important as why Donald Trump needs to be removed from office is why Joe Biden is the best man to guide us out of this mess.

What America needs right now is a calm head. Someone who will do what is right even if it doesn't directly benefit them. No election is going to magically make the pandemic or other crises vanish, but at the very least the country needs a leader who won't exacerbate our problems further with their ego and desire for attention.

That Biden is an experienced set of hands goes without saying. The man has spent years in the highest halls of power. He knows Government and he already knows the key players and world leaders personally. He is ready to hit the ground running on day one and pick up from where the country left off four years ago. But it's not just experience, it's good experience. As Vice President, Biden was part of an administration that shepherded the country out of our last national crisis into an era of record prosperity. He was part of an administration that established one of the most robust public health and pandemic response systems in history, which successfully held both swine flu and ebola at bay, and most likely would have significantly mitigated the tragedy of Covid-19. Joe Biden is a known quantity, and one whose track record shows that he perhaps more than anyone else is capable of handling the problems that currently wrack the country.

But most importantly, Joe Biden is a good person. An authentic everyman in a world of political cynicism, for decades he has been a tireless fighter for working families. His commitment to bipartisanship and unity may seem naive in today's America, but it is a view that he is right to advocate. He represents the lost ideals of America, the ideals that we want the world to see in our country once again. 

Four years does seem like a long time ago. That the America of 2016 was a stable and functioning nation truly seems unthinkable. But it was, and it can be again if we do the right thing. This isn't a difficult decision guys. This administration has been a failure of historic proportions. Vote this laughing stock out of office so that America can rebuild and get back on track.

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