Amer­ica, ul­ti­mately, will right it­self

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

AMER­ICA, EVEN­TU­ALLY, will right it­self. It usu­ally does. As was the case 62 years ago, in 1954. Up to June of that year, a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Wis­con­sin, named Joseph McCarthy, was rid­ing high. For four years, as chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Gov­ern­ment Op­er­a­tions and its sub­com­mit­tee on in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Joe McCarthy scav­enged the cracks and crevices of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety and its ma­jor in­sti­tu­tions, at­tempt­ing, dur­ing pub­lic hear­ings, to un­mask and hu­mil­i­ate sup­posed com­mu­nists and fel­low trav­ellers.

Es­sen­tially, Mr McCarthy op­er­ated a witch­hunt. Yet, he en­thralled Amer­ica, even as, on no or flimsy ev­i­dence, he broke peo­ple and de­stroyed lives.

Joe McCarthy’s down­fall, how­ever, was as swift as it was un­ex­pected. His com­mit­tee was prob­ing al­leged com­mu­nist in­fil­tra­tion in the USA when Mr McCarthy at­tempted to im­pli­cate Fred Fisher, a young lawyer in the cham­bers of the army’s chief coun­sel, Richard N. Welch, and by ex­ten­sion, Mr Welch him­self.

Mr Welch’s de­fence of Mr Fisher was dev­as­tat­ing: “... Let us not as­sas­si­nate this lad fur­ther, Sen­a­tor. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of de­cency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of de­cency?’

The re­frain aroused Amer­ica’s sense of de­cency. Richard Welch helped to re­mind Amer­i­cans of the depth of their democ­racy and the moral foun­da­tion upon which it was con­structed. Some­times they for­get.

On Tues­day, Amer­i­cans elected their next pres­i­dent, in the per­son of Don­ald J. Trump, a man who, in the decades since the end of McCarthy era, comes clos­est in char­ac­ter and ide­ol­ogy to re­sem­bling the man who gave his name to this dark pe­riod of US his­tory.

Like Joe McCarthy, Mr Trump is a dem­a­gogue with a dystopian vi­sion of the United States. His misog­yny is no­to­ri­ous. So are xeno­pho­bia and ethno­pho­bia. He branded Mex­i­cans rapists and drug smug­glers and says he will build a wall on the bor­der be­tween the two coun­tries. He in­sulted African Amer­i­cans and at­tempted to dele­git­imise the coun­try’s first black pres­i­dent.

MAKE AMER­ICA GREAT AGAIN

He has threat­ened to tear up global treaties on trade and mul­ti­lat­eral ones on de­fence as part of his plan to re­turn jobs to the United States and in ful­fil­ment of his cam­paign mantra to “make Amer­ica great again”. Mr Trump has promised, too, to fight global ter­ror­ism by ban­ning Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the US and pledged to launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his ri­val for the pres­i­dency, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Don­ald Trump, largely, has ar­tic­u­lated a vi­sion of an Amer­ica that is in­ward-look­ing, less em­brac­ing of its di­ver­sity, and frankly, that has more in com­mon with the far-right move­ments in Europe that have been mov­ing from the fringes to the cen­tre of the con­ti­nent’s pol­i­tics. In­deed, taken to the log­i­cal con­clu­sion, Don­ald Trump’s poli­cies, will up­end the eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and for­eign poli­cies or­tho­dox­ies that de­fined the United States since the end of World War Two.

Clearly, Don­ald Trump’s mes­sage ap­pealed to large swathes of Amer­i­cans; suf­fi­cient for him to form the coali­tion that de­liv­ered the pres­i­dency. But fun­da­men­tally, it is a coali­tion of griev­ance; of peo­ple who, un­cer­tain about their lives in a rapidly chang­ing world, know what they are against and are will­ing to cling to Don­ald Trump’s, thus far, ephemeral plans for a bet­ter fu­ture. The prob­lem for the world, though, is that who­ever who leads Amer­ica, its largest eco­nomic and mil­i­tary su­per­power, mat­ters. Amer­ica’s eco­nomic be­hav­iour af­fects global mar­kets. It leads mil­i­tary coali­tions. Mr Trump con­trols nu­clear codes. Amer­ica’s leader should be thought­ful, steady and wor­thy of trust.

Don­ald Trump, maybe, can trans­form him­self. In the end, how­ever, Amer­ica will heal.

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