“It’s time to stop pulling punches,” wrote two eminent psychologists, “We are convinced Donald Trump is a psychopath”.
They cited their evidence: Trump breaks rules with impunity; he lies, on average, 15 times a day; he peddles fake conspiracy theories; he has been accused of sexually predatory behaviour by at least 25 women.
Their list is long. He is racist and xenophobic, they say. That he incites violence; he is obsessed with power and adoration. That his intentional downplaying of the pandemic led to countless American deaths. That has no conscience, and that he is corrupt to the core.
They suggest that Trump will do absolutely anything – “no matter how untruthful or illegal” – to win the presidential election on 3rd November. “Sadly, he now believes he is destined to carry on his mission,” they conclude. “He feels unstoppable. And he must be stopped before it’s too late.”
The news magazine, The Atlantic, another venerable American media institution, is equally convinced that Trump will destroy American democracy.
In an important article, due to appear in its November issue, but published this week on its website because of its “urgency”, Barton Gellman argues that America can no longer afford to pretend the election will be straightforward.
“Trump’s behaviour and declared intent leaves no room to suppose that he will accept the public’s verdict if the vote is going against him,” he writes.
Senior Republicans, led by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, have tried to calm fears that Trump is somehow going to steal the election. “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792,” insists McConnell.
But his reassurances were ignored by Trump. Twice this week he has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.
He tweets the Democrats are “rigging our 2020 Election!”. He tells any news outlet that will listen that mail-in (postal) ballots are rife with fraud.
“We have to be very careful with ballots, the ballots, that’s the whole big scam,” he said on Thursday. And he has suggested that the only result he will accept will be the one decided by America’s Supreme Court, which is why he is desperate to choose the legendary Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s replacement before she is even buried.
Today, Trump will announce his pick for the vacancy. He has promised it will be a woman, and she is bound to be a conservative. It has also been suggested that Trump, against all democratic best practice, will choose the person who promises to support him if – when – the election result goes to the Supreme Court.
The court has settled election disputes before. Only twenty years ago, the impasse between George W Bush and Al Gore over who had won the key state of Florida was decided by a controversial decision by Supreme Court judges who found 5-4 in Bush’s favour.
Their ruling was made on 12th December, more than a month after the 7th November election, and it was Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to be appointed to the court, who cast her swing vote in favour of George W.
Trump is clearly planning for a re-run of 2000, but unlike Bush – who exploited an unplanned situation when the Florida vote was too close to call – Trump is going to make sure the judges decide his – and America’s – fate.
He is whipping his base up into a frenzied culture war, ready to take to the streets if their white saviour loses to Joe Biden. He is standing by, unperturbed, as the Russians interfere, once again, in the electoral process. He is setting out his argument for a legal challenge – mail-in ballots cannot be trusted – well in advance of the poll.
And his conspiracy appears to have the support of the country’s top legal officer, Attorney General and chief Trumper, Bill Barr, who suggested recently, without any proof, that postal ballots are open to coercion.
As leading presidential historian Michael Beschloss told MSNBC presenter Rachel Maddow on Thursday night, this is how fascists operate.
“Look at Mussolini,” he argued. “This is the way dictators come to power. He is telling you what he intends to do, and we have got to make sure…we don’t get into the situation where Donald Trump announces he has won and puts us in a situation where our democracy is being stolen, second by second. This is not a drill.”
But does it matter to us, here in the UK, who is President of the United States, or that the current commander-in-chief is, to quote the New York Daily News, “lawless and corrupt”?
Frankly yes, because if the globe’s biggest economy, and still the most powerful nation on earth, falls prey to a dictator, then the world will be held hostage by a cabal of powerful, immoral men.
America under dictator Trump will be no different to China, where President Xi presides over the internment of one million Uyghurs.
Trump cannot hide his admiration for Russia’s life president Vladimir Putin, who has systematically plundered his country’s resources, while destroying opposition leaders and journalists. And if Trump does sabotage the elections so he can remain at the White House, what is to stop him from doing it again?
Trump’s foreign friends – Xi Jinping, Putin, Kim Jong-un – are all in post for life, and together with dictator Trump, and hangers-on such as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and Brazil’s President Bolsonaro, this diabolical clique would control the global economy and be responsible for world peace – or war. Our future would be in their hands.
The United States of America is an imperfect union. Its economy was founded on slavery, its Presidents can be too quick to start wars, and slow to end them, and its society is riven by inequality.
But it also gave the world the best template for democracy yet, its constitution. It is a country where anyone, including an African American from a modest family, can become president. And its culture, from Elvis to Beyonce, Steinbeck to Spielberg, Betty Friedan to Harvey Milk, has enriched all our lives.
America is too precious to be lost to fascism. But is it too late?