Power, populism and the politics of racism - Henry McLeish

Millions of Americans will have already voted as the US enters the final week of campaigning before the mid-term elections next Tuesday.

Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Minden Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev.
Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Minden Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev.

Historically the President’s party does not do well in the mid–terms, but for Joe Biden there is a great deal more at stake than control of the House and Senate on Capitol Hill. Traditional politics is being overwhelmed with hate, violence and racism and a Republican Party, incapable or unwilling to escape the gravitational pull of Trump, MAGA and authoritarian populism.

The nostalgic title of “Grand Old Party” seems a throwback to a different century. The Washington Post reported that, “Republicans have doubled down on moving extremism into the mainstream.” A moral collapse has seen the GOP oversee escalating violent and racial rhetoric and the confirmation of the worst candidates for Congressional seats that have ever appeared before US electors.

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Despite a summer revival for the Democratic Party, Biden’s approval ratings remain poor. Generic polling across the US has given the Republican Party a slim overall majority, with polling for House and Senate seats confirming the loss of the House of Representatives to the Republicans and offering fading hopes for the Democrats holding on to the Senate. But in this febrile and fragile tinderbox of politics, non MAGA Republicans, Independents and wavering Hispanic voters, could still come to the rescue of the Democrats.

There is no escaping the shadow of the next Presidential election in 2024 hanging over every aspect of this fast- evolving political civil war in America. The loss of both Houses of Congress, the consolidation of States Rights, a deepening nightmare of casual hate, violence and racism, a country awash with guns and the brutal politics of Trump, represent Biden’s worst nightmare as he contemplates 2024.

It seems alarmist to talk about American in these apocalyptic terms but there is no doubt that the conditions are shaping up for a battle over the political soul of the country.

Against this drum beat of violence and hate in the US, the serious assault on Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul was a timely reminder of the hate speech aimed at his wife, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who was undoubtedly the intended victim of this attack. “Where is Nancy,” was the cry!

CNN recently reported back in 2018 and 2019, that Republican House member from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, elected to Congress in 2020, repeatedly expressed support for “executing prominent democratic politicians, including Pelosi”.

Greene was also alleged to have liked a Facebook comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” as a way of removing Pelosi as speaker, CNN found. Republican leaders never condemn this form of inflammatory speech. In America, guns, conspiracy theories and revenge politics represent a powerful and toxic cocktail. This behaviour is incendiary, but in America, the Republican Party, turns a blind eye.

On another level, threats to democracy in the US are increasingly focussed on elections. To receive Trump’s blessing as a MAGA congressional candidate, Republican hopefuls must confirm first, that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by Joe Biden, thus becoming election deniers, second, support voter suppression especially as it impacts African Americans and third, confirm that you will only accept the ballot result if you win. This is democracy but not as we know it.

But to capture the deepening threat to democracy in America, the issues of race and constitution tampering must be recognised in the form of, the upfront messaging of Donald Trump and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of Steve Bannon, arch nemesis of democracy, white nationalist and authoritarian enthusiast who is seeking to build a new Republican US constitution.

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In an Opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, “Trump’s “N-word” rally flirtation cannot be ignored,” Jonathan Capeheart said, “President Donald Trump is the kind of racial arsonist who brings a gas can to an inferno. But not even I thought he would fool around with an accelerant like the n-word.”

This barely reported incident happened a few weeks ago when Trump was speaking in support of Representative Ted Budd at a rally in North Carolina. Surrounded by his” adoring flock,” Trump said, “You know Putin mentioned the “N-word.” Do you know what that is?” people shouted the answer they thought Trump was looking for-because there is only one answer. Hardly surprised by the response to his “purposefully provocative question,” Trump said, “No, no, no, it is the “nuclear word,” he said he was talking about Russian President Vladimir Putin threat to us nuclear weapons in in his war on Ukraine

Described as, “Trump’s tip of the hood to white supremacists” for what it was. No one uses the N-word when talking about nuclear weapons. Trump used it. And this at a time when talk of civil war is exploding on far-right social media. The question, is when will Trump drop the pretence and let the word out, “uncensored”? This is a terrifying backdrop to a possible presidential run by Trump or one of his Republican soul mates.

Next year will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s, “I have a dream”, speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Mahalia Jackson, Queen of gospel music told him, “Tell them about the dream Martin”.

He responded, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

These were tough times when the N-word was extensively used and became a symbol of racism, fear, and segregation in American history.

The significance of what is happening in America today must not be ignored.

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