Monday, April 12, 2021

After the Capitol attack in Washington Britain’s Trump Boris Johnson should distance Britain from Trump

After the Capitol attack in Washington Britain's Trump Boris Johnson should distance Britain from Trump

WAS shock among the feelings you experienced while watching a mob’s attempts to storm the US Capitol?

Any sense of shock or of surprise is perhaps a sign of having not been paying attention.

Here is a president who has asked for violence, who ruled with violence, who condoned violence.

“Liberate Michigan,” he said in April, in response to Covid-19 stay at home orders from the state governor. Later that month, protesters pushed into the state Capitol building holding guns and posing for photographs.

At Wednesday’s rally, he told his supporters to march on the US Capitol building, and they did.

His losses have been repeatedly characterised by an approach worse than sore losing. He has perpetually framed his disappointments as the result of a conspiracy against him. Ted Cruz, he said, did not win the Iowa caucus in 2016, but stole it. Hillary Clinton’s supporters, when it looked like the balance was in her favour, were rigging the election.

When he lost this election, it was down to electoral fraud.

He has stirred mistrust and hatred of the media. Outside the Capitol building on Wednesday members of the mob trashed broadcasting equipment, piling it in a damaged heap and using a camera cord to create a noose hung from a tree.

That imagery was particularly distressing given the ongoing Black Lives Matter campaigning both in America and worldwide. It was stark, the difference between how this gang of domestic terrorists – because lets not mince our words here – was lightly treated by police in comparison to the scenes across America during racial equality demonstrations.

As a white man reclined unmolested behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, many pointed out this was a perfect picture of white privilege. They were right.

Trump has spent his presidency scenting the air with blood and the scenes this week were nothing but a predictable outcome.

Predictable too, yet simultaneously gobsmacking, has been the sight of Trump’s enablers scurrying from the sinking ship.

Even as recently as Sunday, when the contents of a one-hour call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger were released, the majority of Republicans remained silent.

As Democrats called the conversation, in which Trump berated Mr Raffensperger and pressured him to change the presidential votes result, an “impeachable offence” most GOP politicians said nothing.

Suddenly, on Wednesday, they found their voices. Too little, and too late.

Too little and far too late, the social media platforms that have enabled Trump stepped up. Mark Zuckerberg announced the US president would be banned from Facebook at least until the transition to Joe Biden is complete.

Twitter suspended Trump – but for a measly 12 hours.

Senior Tories were suddenly emboldened to rethink their relationship with the man they had praised as a close ally of Britain, a great friend of the UK.

Priti Patel was quick in her criticism. “His comments directly led to the violence and so far he has failed to condemn that violence – and that is completely wrong,” she said.

Ms Patel might pause to reflect on her own language, and that of her party. So often they use the language of war to paint immigrants as the enemy. Words, she might stop to think, have consequences.

Her boss, Britain’s Trump, merely tweeted that the scenes in Washington were a disgrace. Not the man who incited them, no direct condemnation there.

If it was possible for Boris Johnson to be mortified, then surely chagrin would come at the memory of suggesting Trump was as deserving a candidate for a Nobel prize as his predecessor Barack Obama.

This is a time of profound mistrust. Mistrust in politicians, mistrust in the media. Blunt populists selling their own particular spin as pure truth-saying are powerful.

People are desperate for quick fixes, but a quick fix is only possible for a neat problem. That’s where Trump –and others of his ilk – are successful. They offer fast resolutions.

As I mentioned recently, in Glasgow’s Govanhill there is a microcosm of this issue. Political and social failures have been placed at the feet of immigrants, specific immigrants, with right wing groups and bad faith actors taking advantage of people’s fatigue and distrust of the mainstream by spinning them a story of falsehoods.

No matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary, they will not listen, nor accept nuance. It is black and white, you are for us or against us.

The QAnon conspiracy theorists take advantage of this public mood. Scotland’s Save Our Children groups are doubtless bolstered by well-meaning people who genuinely fear for children exposed to sexual abuse and wish to help them.

These good feelings, though, are being ill used by right wing conspiracy theorists. It’s a perfect bluff: whip up exaggerated fears and when no evidence is found, call it a cover-up.

Four dead, and appalling scenes as a building symbolising America’s democratic freedoms was breached and democracy itself threatened. This was the inevitable climax of Trump’s presidency.

If you think this a denouement, though, you would be wrong.

Trump’s supporters are still there. They will not stand down, they cannot be voted out. They cannot be talked around.

Whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are capable of healing divisions and righting the damaging wrongs of the Trump presidency remains to be seen. They have a sore task ahead of them.

But this is not America’s problem. This anger and mistrust is an affliction that affects the UK also. Perhaps we can’t imagine insurrection but we have seen it. We have seen attacks in recent years in the UK yet we seem unable to join the dots to make a whole picture.

The denouement of years of strife is yet to come. How it will manifest itself remains to be seen but to avoid such bloody scenes we will have to start calling out Trumpism for what it is and where we see it – especially, on our own doorstep.

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