By the slimmest of margins it seems, American democratic institutions and the stability of life for the rest of us survived a test. There was a coup attempt. It followed the playbook forewarned by knowledgeable people: constitutional law professors of the Harvard Law School, writers in The Atlantic (as I quoted in the blog Should We Fear a Coup in America?). Fortunately, Mr. Trump’s cabal and committed supporters while brilliant at media manipulation just weren’t smart or lucky enough with the details. They toured Capital Hill but they didn’t map out a detailed plan to secure the building. The congressional members were able to hide and the Capital Hill security were able to lead the intruders in another direction. But insurgents tried. Coercion of the White House legal team, voter suppression, usurpation of the truth, strong-arming the legal system and state officials, rallying cries to overrun the government were attempted. Couldn’t see beyond themselves in the end. They didn’t calculate the impact of Covid. Mike Pence lost his conviction. Poor execution for the march up Pennsylvania Avenue to Capital Hill for when they occupied the building, the worst they did was defacate on the carpet. But what they did try scared a nation. And brought American democracy to the brink. The American constitution was found wanting, full of loop-holes because no one writing the constitution or making law imagined someone like Trump’s type and his ambitious circle to come along and manipulate the pillars of American society to coerce people with lies and fabrications about the corruption of the state, make lies truths in the minds of tens of millions of Americans, still in their minds, lies they would believe in and defend fervently.
In the end, it looks like the character of the American people showed itself. We have witnessed a fervent defence of the American dream. Hundreds of thousands wore out their feet walking the streets in thousands of neighbourhoods and got out the vote. They rallied that hand-on-the-heart sentiment and stood up against the usurpers. In he end, at least so far, the dream narrative is still stronger than the greedy ambition of those using for their profit the Trump aggrandizement. The operative word on so many lips of ordinary people with the rise of the Biden administration to replace Trump’s is the word ‘relief.’ We are relieved.
The Americans are like the British were, and any other empire people: determined. The inauguration ceremony and celebration was so well done, delivered such story in such a way, ending in an extraordinary fireworks -and anyone who thinks that doesn’t matter a lot should reconsider the power of narrative in the human story- so complete a statement that Trump was trumped. A statement was made so clear about who was in power now. Trump for all his bombast, was deflated, slinked off to his golf course in Florida after a pathetic last rally, his rivals laying claim to office with a grand inaugural display of power, clearly assuming the reins of power they would not be denied. It is after yesterday a clear message that Trump is gone. Will it be permanent? The politics to come will let us know.
Fascinating it is how that display of political power yesterday came in the song of artists and voices of children, not the parade of military might. Wars aren’t fought with armies any longer. Putin knew that first taking over the Crimea and then attempting to take over the Ukraine that would also have been a conquest won except for some gamers. A handful of gamers tracked the missiles that brought down the Malaysian airliner back to Moscow putting an end to Putin’s media campaign blaming Ukrainian rebels, and like Crimea using that lie to move into the Ukraine. When Putin lost that battle he went back to military display of might, curiously.
However, for all the sentiment for unity and cooperation displayed in the Inauguration, there is a with no doubt after yesterday’s display, a new power in Washington and it will be exerting the steel force of its power on those opposed to it. Let’s not kid ourselves. This is America. The machinery of the security state will be coming down hard on all the camouflage wearing, gun-toting militia types who have had their way under Trump. They’ve had their day. The Senators who sided with Trump will be feeling a lot of heat, some of them already stepping back. Some of them, the ones not too smart, who went too far in their support, who showed the insurgents around Capital Hill the day before the insurrection, for example, may not get the second chance Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and some of the other braggarts will get. Guy Fawkes scared the Jacobean elite in 17th century England. It left a deep mark, now a holiday, on the political consciousness. Immediately, King James’ tolerant policy became oppressive crushing his enemies. The new head of the government power in the USA, with both houses in tow for a couple of years despite the division in the Democratic party vision, may actually use their force of might for good. It is America though. They could well lead a green revolution but they’ll make money dong it. Better than we had, if the heavy hand of the new government will serve humanity’s interest as most cost effective, secure the well-being of the planet and social harmony as an asset then we’ll make it. That’s what they are suggesting, a new order. We shall see. As the execution of the Inauguration day infers, the new government is good at getting things done.
For me, November was a test of American character. And I have to admire that character now. Americans have been the worst of actors in the world, and also the best. Like any empire in its day. The rise of Democratic party power making such a statement to the nation with the flawless orchestration of the inauguration suggests the American narrative arc has some life left in it. How remarkable what intelligence and organizing skill put that day of inauguration together, all the skill and cooperation and logistics management to produce such a bold statement. What an inspiring statement: a call for unity and dignity and respect. If given a chance America could be great again. If they do in fact put their minds to changing the climate collapse and rein in social media and restore fairness to the electoral system and address the racial and economic divisions, restore international cooperation, then we may all have hope, a chance at avoiding chaos and collapse, another dark age. If Europe and Asia and America can find a common ground for managing this global society, not exploit its wealth for self-serving interest but for the betterment of all, humanity may have a chance. The rest of us are too small on our own, not determined enough; America has to be in the game if we’re going to make this. Is America showing us their good side now; are they going to follow human ideals, not the profit and corruption of the military-industrial barons, the petroleum barons? Will they get their house in order?
They’ve sent that message to us in Canada. Put their foot down and are telling us to shape up. No Keystone XL pipeline. First day. Feeble exasperation from Jason Kenney means nothing now. Canadians and the Alberta electorate backed the wrong horse. Didn’t see their way into the future but retreated to the past. Billions of dollars that Alberta and the federal government put into a bet on the pipeline, counting on Trump, is thrown back in our face, our debt, putting us in the back seat of the future, mud on our face. America has woken up and we’d better watch out or be left behind. Now we have to change our tune, not just talk about Climate Change but get serious about it or be quickly, a backwater. America is too fast for us. They are a determined people who when they see the future, grab it. We grab onto their coattails.
Ontario’s premier Doug Ford should take note. Ontarians who embraced Doug Ford by giving him a majority government, the ‘buck a beer’ premier who had no policy book going into the election, we Ontarians going to pay a price not getting ahead in the new world, but wallowing in bullying rants of a man who is out of his league and has only one ambition for his public, to help himself and his friends at the public trough. Push civil society out of the way and take what he wants. That’s what we have done to ourselves. We imitate the U.S unfortunately, do what they do, but a few years after. Never learn. That’s Ontario’s history as I see it. We’ll be left behind, too much for our provincial imagination to catch up on. We opted for the old world. Doug Ford got rid of the environmental commissioner, first thing he did, and then he eliminated all environmental oversight in the province, and then he gave out permits, most to friends, to build on wetlands and in designated environmentally sensitive areas. World-class we want to think of ourselves. Well we’re not proving it by electing a boorish premier and cohorts to lead us into our future – nothing world class about it. He has been very good at providing for his business buddies passing legislation favourable to them. He did this behind everyone’s back when we are distracted by Covid. At the same time, he made a mess of managing Covid and just to top it off, yesterday writes an embarrassment an email to President Biden on his inauguration day, taunting him. Remind you of anyone south of the border formerly in public office? So embarrassing. Ontario keeps electing such premiers. Well now it’s our test of character. What kind of character is the Ontario citizenry made of? Can we stand up and be counted on to responsibly forge our way into the new world reality or be a backwater, mud on our face? Are we going to do anything about the climate crisis, racial, social and economic injustice? Are we strong enough to stand up and make this a better world or are we going to want our buck a beer and no green cost increase in our hydro bills, the very choice we made in our last election? What is our character? What are we going to do now that America is showing us the way once again?