13 February 2020, The Tablet

Did the democrats play into Trump’s hands?


 

Deep divisions in American society predate Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House, but he has certainly made them worse. Yet politicians of all flavours bear responsibility for the petulance and cynicism that increasingly blights American democracy. The Republican Party, for instance, was not very happy with his nomination for the presidency in 2016, and some of its leading members kept their distance from him for a while. The outcome of the impeachment process showed that all but one of the Republican senators – the exception being Mitt Romney from Utah – had now been recruited into the Trump game plan of divide and rule. His and their calculation appears to be that the more bitterly divided America becomes, the better their chances at the ballot box. It is a curious way to “make America great again”.

The principle of “losers’ consent” in any democratic system holds that any party that fought and lost an election has to accept and live with the outcome, out of respect for the electorate and for the electoral process. Since Mr Trump’s election in 2016 the Democratic Party has never in its heart complied with that. Nothing symbolised this more eloquently than the gesture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, visible just behind President Trump when he finished his State of the Union address to Congress, dismissively tearing up her copy of the text. This stated, as clearly as any words, “He is not my president”.

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