The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
The nasty Covid-19 virus that broke out in China and set off a chain of national shutdowns has kept many distracted from the looming election of the leader of the world’s richest, most powerful country. Property developer turned politician Donald Trump, who is widely regarded as something of a caricature outside the community to the right of Genghis Khan, is moving himself into position to make an earnest play for a second term. In his weekly column, Simon Lincoln Reader sets out the fault lines in Trump’s opposition to illustrate how easy the Democrats appear to be making it for Trump to stay in the White House. And, on the subject of blinkered politicians, SLR points to the distinct and scary possibility that governments have instructed economic lockdowns on the basis of flawed statistics. This data is from scientists who might not believe in drinking bleach or swallowing hydroxychloroquine to prevent being overwhelmed by Covid-19 – but their intellectual shortcomings have arguably further reaching consequences than any eccentric ramblings from the leader of the First World. And they are a reminder that constructs such as political polls – which currently suggest Trump has a tough battle on his hands – are to be taken with a pinch of salt.- Jackie Cameron
By Simon Lincoln Reader*
As the hours wind down like never before toward November’s US election, the strategy of the Democratic Party has emerged in what is arguably the most ambitious gamble political operatives have ever made. Throughout the pandemic its presumptive candidate Joe Biden has been holed up in a bedsit surfacing occasionally to mumble incoherently to nakedly supportive media; examined together, his appearances betray careful preparation – but not even rehearsal can help a man addicted to gaffe detonation. This approach reduces Biden to sleeper candidate status; insofar as the polling can be trusted, it’s working.
Allied to this is Barack Obama’s uptake in campaign responsibility. His role as keynote in virtual commendation conferences is achieving more emphasis than Biden’s own participation: the candidate must be carried, or hauled, over November’s finish line – because there is no other way.
There could have been other ways but precious few Democrats entertained these and when they did, it was too late.
The most sensible way would have been an attempt to understand Donald Trump’s supporters, but this should have been occasioned immediately after the election in 2016, it would have required humility and the courage to confront the self-promoting activists positioned within western media. It didn’t happen.
Instead Trump’s opponents made the mistake of going after him. They seized upon his wild language, sex scandals, business failures and everything else, subjecting him to unprecedented hostility and show trials that recent information has discredited to near shams. So enraged was the adversarial progressive orthodoxy that it didn’t or couldn’t notice the laughing shadow that stood behind.
The madness that consumed their judgment has worked to some degree. Democrats still believe that Barack Obama’s greatest scandal was to wear a tan suit – wiped from memory, or excused, was his documented use of state institutions to target his political adversaries and his meddling in the domestic affairs of Middle Eastern states, amongst others.
It was on display again recent weeks, after Obama confessed some of his relatives praised the drug hydroxychloroquine. There was no condemnation and importantly, no accusations of witchcraft from the Chinese Communist Party (admittedly because this would have been awkward – but still not as awkward as interning religious minorities).
What was silence for Obama was pitchforks for Trump when he did the same thing, proving that with enough madness and hype you can frame anyone into a Richard Nixon, or even a Jacob Zuma.
In four years divisions have circulated above the north western skies, mutating into adaptable forms. In two days, Britain witnessed two notable incidents of the aloof sneering and ugly resistance that link neatly to the American spectacle.
The first involves the work of Professor Neil Ferguson. It is now proven that the model Imperial College used to frighten the UK government was error-ridden, decades old junk science. As calls for charges of scientific misconduct to be laid against Ferguson increase, natural laws to which the rest of us subscribe should determine that contrition be an appropriate response – especially considering that had this happened in the private sector, heads would have rolled and executives would have been chased out of the City.
But for people like this, doubling-down is the natural default: on Sunday, Imperial College team members defended their mess by claiming that all critics are just possessed with the wrong kinds of politics.
The second involves a lockdown resistance march that occurred in Hyde Park the day before. Protests, whether they be to articulate solidarity with the European Union, or warn of impending environmental collapse, are near civic obligations. But the march was condemned by a duo from the hysterically named openDemocracy, who dumped steaming coils of fantasy onto the Guardian’s pages accusing its “masterminds” of attempting to incorporate COVID-19 into a culture war.
Reaction to the march and the defence of Ferguson took place in the context of a recorded 2 million citizens in the UK now seeking unemployment relief – but none of openDemocracy’s employees, no member of Ferguson’s team and no university that accepted the model as fait accompli will have their salaries reduced. Consequences, you see, are for little people – whose circumstances are not worth exploring.
Trump is having a poor battle, one that could ultimately shape the war’s result. But the route to November for Biden is an acknowledgment that the Democratic party’s preoccupation with him restricted its options – so exorcising his shadow is not an attainable objective. If Biden wins, the strategy will have laid the foundations for remote-control democracy: it is brilliant, risky, cruel – and will achieve precisely nothing in healing divisions.
Because these are now so stark that mediation has been outsourced to Black Swan events. In Britain, the remain and leave camps of Brexit have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 – now ardent remainers, such as Lord Sumption QC, emerge as lockdown sceptics, and loud Brexiteers have decided that that freedom is actually overrated, and demand the right to stay at home.
- Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Medium.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.