Comment: Why Biden is the balm America needs at its most dangerous hour
“Why are you storming Congress?”
“How would I know that?”
That one small interaction between a UK television journalist and a Trump supporter who was blindly following the mutinous rabble storming the Capitol Building in Washington on Wednesday, says it all.
Angry people being propelled by a false belief that democracy has been stolen from them even when the facts tell them something else. Facts they don’t want to hear, numbers they ignore, and a reality they are not prepared to face. And all whipped up by a President who has made an art form out of fake news.
And with hellish scenes of insurrection on Capitol Hill shocking the world, Trump did nothing to quell the anger. These were his people. He has over years stoked and legitimized violent protest. He didn’t condemn them, he couldn’t, they were doing his bidding, fighting his corner over an election that he continued to say was rigged.
How dare a President fan the flames of violence against the very legislator that he leads and expect to carry on unabated?
But then, having marched his supporters, quite literally, up the hill and telling them he loved them, 24-hours later in a well-scripted address to the nation and with the imminent threat of impeachment hanging over him, he was calling them law breakers and saying they would be punished. His affection now a lie.
This was Trump all over. It’s all about Trump for Trump.
And if proof was ever needed of how far this President was prepared to stretch the truth, he was suspended from Twitter, the echo chamber that has helped him inflame his base over the last four years, but that has also been so hesitant to call him out.
Trump has spent the last four years telling Americans that had already felt disenfranchised enough to put their faith in him the first time around, that they have been cheated, lied to, and done down and dirty by the political elites. They were so wound up, they failed to spot that he was one.
From the moment polls closed, Trump went on the attack on social media predictably calling foul, eventually typing his demands in capital letters, should anyone not be listening, TO STOP THE COUNT.
Twitter had to continuously censor, remove or caveat his rantings with a warning that they may contain factual inaccuracies. Television networks stopped recording as he spewed nonsense from the White House, to the point of declaring that people were using binoculars to interfere with the count. Even his pet broadcaster, Fox News, tentatively called him out, and the BBC started broadcasting fact checks.
But none of it really mattered because the world had already become inured to the President’s lies. If he did not actually invent fake news, he certainly patented his own very effective version.
So, while his supporters at one count were shouting “count the vote” when they thought that would help him win, others elsewhere yelled “stop the count” for the same reason.
You can smile at the idiocy, shake your head at in the insanity, but this is the America that Trump has been able to mould in his own image.
Rich, vulgar and a bully, He was never going to go quietly and everything that has happened since November when he lost the election has simply added succor to the belief that this man was never fit for office.
But Trump didn’t happen in a vacuum.
The America of 2015 had many problems, many of which had been conveniently ignored – not unlike those of the UK in 2016 and now – a simmering underbelly of discontent. An underclass full of gripe and grievance many rooted in falsehoods but also with tangible evidence too of their inequality and economic and social alienation. A disenfranchised group who felt left behind and who had their own prejudices supported by Hillary Clinton branding them ‘the deplorables’. A population ripe for exploitation by a populist who told them he was on their side even as he rode in a gilded lift and partied in Mar-a Lago.
Trump didn’t make America great again, he made it a place of sickening brutality and polarisation. What did anyone expect?
There is no great mystery to Trump. He is who he has always told us he is. And the sickening events of this week were entirely predictable.
Since he announced his candidacy for president in 2015 with the declaration that he would build a wall and that Mexican immigrants were “criminals and rapists,” Trump has not hidden his identity or beliefs for one single day. It was about division. About a confected ‘them and us’.
The Republican Party knew that and has gone with it and their supine reaction to his increasingly bizarre behavior make every one of them that refused to condemn or reign him in, as culpable for what happened as Trump himself.
But if there can be a winner from the horrific scenes of mob rule and violence in Washington this week, it was Joe Biden. For the quiet man whose election had seemed more like a pleasant relief than cause for hysteric celebration, the events have revealed Biden as the right man for this hour.
Biden’s understated gentility is in sharp relief to the strong-arm politics that Trump has come to symbolize. He’s a tormentor, a narcissist and a pugilist and Biden is his antithesis.
At this moment, it isn’t more brash dynamism that America needs, it’s healing. And Biden is the balm to soothe the barmy.
To allow Trump to serve out his short term left in office would be a travesty of democracy. Now would be a good time for him to display some grace that has so far been absent from his presidency and resign.