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The idiots have saved the world, this time

DM168

DM168 Reflection

The idiots have saved the world, this time

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the US Capitol building on 6 January 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital to protest against the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo: Jon Cherry / Getty Images)

Did they actually think that the power of the state is acquired by sitting in a specific chair and that sitting in the Senate President’s chair (Mike Pence, still) and briefly occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office would make Trump president for life?

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Just six days into 2021, it was a show destined to become the year’s greatest ratings hit – the storming of the US Capitol building by Trump-aligned “patriots” and other assorted misfits. As sentient beings around the world watched the heavily unsurprising and yet still shocking opening act of the last two weeks of Trump, I actually felt rather encouraged: it seemed Trump fever had reached its peak and was about to break.

Was it a bargain-basement violent event? Yes. Anti-democratic? Indeed. Reckless? Hell, yes! But the most precise word for it: stupid. God bless incompetent idiots, for they will save the world from better-organised conspiracies that would cause lasting damage.

Did they believe they could stop anything? Seems so. Did they think Trump would be at the front, leading the charge, driving the sharp end of his Confederate flag into the heart of the “libtard” democracy? Anything’s possible.

Did they actually think that the power of the state is acquired by sitting in a specific chair and that sitting in the Senate President’s chair (Mike Pence, still) and briefly occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office would make Trump president for life? Possibly. (Elizabeth from Knoxville, Tennessee, certainly did assume they were starting a revolution.)

Their violent-but-dumb insurgency has shaken the rest of America and helped at least half of the GOP to snap out of the mental condition otherwise known as The Fear of Trump.

And that’s what makes me hopeful. Often in history, a crazy and downright inhumane set of ideas gets developed, and perfected, by equally crazy and downright criminal con artists who then infect nations with a fever so strong that only genuinely horrible events can break it. In the early 20th century, nationalist and later fascist fevers gripped the world and the cycle of madness was broken only after a terrifying toll of 100 million deaths over two world wars, coupled with a near-total destruction of most economies involved.

The Yugoslavian nationalist fever of the 1980s and the 1990s, something I witnessed, ended only after a decade of civil wars that could only be described as soul-destroying, with millions of people displaced, hundreds of thousands dead and the dreams of millions shattered. Three decades and countless sufferings later, though some still cling to their old nationalism, most of the people have finally moved on, exhausted.

Ever since 16 July 2015, when Trump descended on his escalator to vomit his own brand of hatred to the cheering rent-a-crowd gathered on that day (they were paid $50 and a sandwich), I wondered what kind of price the US would have to pay for the then still-incoming sins of embracing Trump and Trumpism.

(Side note: I went up the same escalator in November 2018 – it is as fake and tacky as Trump’s hair, and leads to what must be the saddest Starbucks in this quadrant of the galaxy.)

As Trump shattered everything and Ctrl-Alt-Del-eted the world for America, he ejected a massive amount of hatred pollutants into the world’s mainstream. Returns were prolific and powerful: white supremacists raged in Charlottesville and everywhere, soon-to-be-drilled pristine areas of Alaska, 350,000 unnecessary Covid-19 deaths, years of climate change fight lost, shattered relations with allies and warm rapport with the globe’s dictators. And lies, so many lies. Alternative facts too.

When Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, the writing was on the wall. The only uncertainty left was how much his final performance would cost this damaged nation, and the world, before it finally woke up.

Most Americans are horrified and angry now, and even some of the prominent GOP politicians are pulling away from Trump, fast. What many of them were afraid of, splitting the party or being primaried by Trump, suddenly feels less threatening. (The GOP does appear to be in great danger of splitting, and it is their own fault.)

But here’s what’s troubling: Trump’s forces, if better organised, could have inflicted far greater damage. Competent and well-organised players can destroy the world. (The insurgents were neither organised nor competent, thank God.)

Every populism is a national fever. Breaking it was the best parting gift that Trump and his army could have given to his country. It didn’t cost millions of lives, and he didn’t succeed in shattering the dreams of billions.

Next time, however, another autocrat will come America’s way, and he/she could be much more competent while equally attractive to the nationalist base. One can only shudder to think of the damage next time it happens. And it will. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.

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  • Branko Brkic – I sailed with Ukrainian and some Polish crews on merchant ships for 15 years. Not one of them wanted to go back to the soviet socialist system. Life was not easy in the Ukrain but it was much better then under communism. We, you and me and all of the citizens of South Africa must defend DEMOCRACY. The ANC is not democratic. It must be removed. PLEASE SUPPORT the democratic opposition with a bit more guts than you have been doing. Ya nie gaverau for ruski herashor, ponyat?

  • The strength of their DEMOCRACY saved the United States of America over the last few days. South Africa NEEDS a STRONG DEMOCRACY! Think! Vote for a liberal democratic party. As the Americans have just done.

  • Wholeheartedly agree.. their constitution and (a few) principled leaders are what saved American democracy. I never thought I would say this but I was deeply impressed by Mitch McConnell’s speech during the debate immediately after the “storming” of the Capitol.

    We have an excellent constitution and a governing party hell bent on neutering it and ushering in socialist hell.

  • As far as I could establish, only good things resulted for the Americans in the Republican’s time; hell, did the economy and jobs grow.
    Only time will tel if the Democrats can do better.

    • Ralph : the donald was handed a booming economy on top of an 8 year bull market and he added massive tax cuts. He was also handed control of the House and the Senate to go with his perfect trifecta of being the Administration and until recently Twitter as his megaphone. His Mexican paid wall, his trade deficit, taming China and Iran and Russian mischief? Nothing. What he achieved was to lose Republicans the House, the Senate, the Whitehouse and add $7,500,000,000,000 to the federal deficit. One term LOSER well deserved. All he achieved was tens of thousands of lies and adjectives. He can now look forward to several criminal prosecutions. I long for March when we have more to talk about than Covid, Trump and Kopdoek.

  • Despite the ongoing devistation of the Zuma years I feel similarly about Zuma and his bumbling co-criminals who hopefully have taught us about how not to fall for populist leaders. Has he saved us from better organised, more violent, charismatic despots who exploit genuine human need? (And I don’t just mean our friend Julius and his boys)

  • A very pertinent take on a vital issue. BUT … looking at some of the responses thus far, shows the kind of lack of consensus and outright divergence that will continue to haunt humanity. The supposition that it is either gross ‘capitalism’ or blind ‘communism’ that will rescue us, is quite breathtaking ! Currently, it seems it is a crude juxtapositioning of America and China as representatives of these extremes. This seems to overlook the fact that China is simply in the process of doing exactly what the Americans have done for decades. Accumulation of raw ‘power’ and hegemony for its own sake. I had hoped (naively) for the third option of a more ‘European’ nuanced approach to the issue, but alas…. they have just signed a huge economic ‘deal’ with China and consigned themselves to a new servitude ! ‘History’ I guess will continue to repeat itself in the manner Branko’s article outlines. How sad !

  • Regarding the comment about being ‘deeply impressed’ by McConnell’s speech post the insurrection … it ignores his culpability in single-handidly (with the support of equally corrupt Republican senators) ensuring the acquittal of a psychopathic and delusional president from impeachment. This speech is nothing more than the last-minute efforts of a smarmy senator (and a racist one who wanted to make sure the first black president would only be a ‘one term’ president) to rehabilitate his tarnished and disgraced reputation.

    • 100% agreed again! All these “law & order” “fiscal conservatives” who have suddenly seen the light, have totally ignored their own culpability and done so only to save their own hides. How else are they meant to protect the land of the free (sic) from the unwashed masses? Seems they’ve all forgotten Lady Liberty’s philosophy: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” Again, how sad.

    • Agreed. As one of my FB friends put it: I am deeply impressed with McConnell’s bravery in calling out Trump – I understand where he is coming from, as I too have occasionally undone my seatbelt, seconds before the plane stops rolling to a halt, so I am well aware of the kind of courage this took…

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