When you look at the American television networks you are viewing what is really a tragicomedy. Very much of it is comical especially when they are increasingly, focusing on Donald Trump. But that is not
really new. They have been doing so for some time. What is new now is that they are fully into the Silly Season, as we term it. We use it to refer to the period leading up to general elections. But the Silly Season is really a period where frivolous, illogical activity and outlandish behaviour stand out. This has been the pattern in the US, more so since the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2020. I don’t think in that regard we can compare with them. Our indicators might be a bit different. At this time in the US much of it is comical but the tragic aspect is there. The House of Congress making nine attempts before picking a Speaker who in any event did not last long was certainly comical but also full of tragedy as Congress was unable to do its work. Given the US’s role in the world, European leaders in particular, are worried about the prospect of Donald Trump regaining the Presidency. No one is sure what he will do. In fact, he is probably not even sure himself. The coalition to defend Ukraine will probably be dismantled. While we criticise Biden for his failure to constrain Netanyahu and to be more outspoken on what is happening in Gaza (of course funded by the US)! with Trump it will be ‘open sesame’. It was he who moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018 and to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In his view that day marked “the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
After Tuesday night’s Primary in New Hampshire with Trump’s victory, the path seems clear for him to be the Republican nominee for president of the US. It will then be a fight between the incumbent 81-year-old Biden and the 77-year-old Trump. Do we remember when the US used to be critical of the ages of Fidel Castro and Mao Zedong of China? Mao died in 1976 at 83 and Castro served as president of Cuba to 2008 when he was 82 years old. Biden, if he is re-elected will serve into his mid eighties and Trump in his early eighties. This is obviously a concern for American voters and even more so for the rest of the world.
Robin Wright in an article in the New Yorker on September 8, 2020, wrote, “The US feels like it is unravelling. It’s not just because of a toxic election season, a national crisis over race, unemployment, and hunger in the land of opportunity, or a pandemic that’s killing tens of thousands every month. The foundation of our nation has deepening cracks-possibly too many to repair anytime soon or perhaps, at all.”
He ended his article quoting Yale’s historian David Blight, “Are we a myth? Well, yes, in the deep sense. Always have been.” I am currently reading “MYTH AMERICA- historians take on the Biggest Legends and lies about our Past” edited by Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer. That book focuses on the myths which have always existed in America’s history.
Trump is the leading character in this tragicomedy. He continues to claim that he won the last election and that he was the legitimate president. Not Biden. That has been his fixation over the years and continues as he seems about to contest again against Joe Biden. He has been twice impeached and faces 91 criminal charges in 4 criminal cases along with civil cases. This is the man who could very well be the next president of the US. His efforts to delay his criminal proceedings and his masquerade in court where he verbally abuses prosecutors and Judges is sheer comedy. He has even defied gag orders issued against him. His biggest claim so far is to say that as president he has absolute immunity even to the point where he can shoot/kill another leader. He has been able so far to get away with his bizarre and freakish behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other genuine democracy.
His mental competence is now being questioned even by his one contender for the Republican nomination. He confuses Niki Haley and the Democrat Nancy Pelosi. He claims he is running against Obama and refers to the upcoming World War II. Even when using a teleprompter, he repeats sentences. His major advantage as someone said jokingly about him is that his enemies would not know what next to expect from him. He refused to engage in Republican nomination debates and might well do so, refusing to debate the Democrat contender. These seem not to bother his Republican base. In fact, he has captured the Republican party and is moulding it into his own image. The criminal charges against him are interpreted as a conspiracy against him. But he argues that their real target is the people, and his mission is to defend them. So, Trump is at centre stage, stealing the spotlight and getting the Republican party to bend to his idiosyncrasies. The New Hampshire Primary despite his victory is showing up some weak spots with Independents and moderate Republicans, if there are many left sceptical about supporting him.
Meanwhile it is left to some of us to follow the tragicomedy and to see who the real star is. Will he be a tragic or comic figure? That is the question and time will tell.
- Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian