America’s last election?

Could November see the last presidential election in the US? If Donald Trump were to win, the possibility could not be discounted.

Consider Trump’s utterances and style and his fundamental belief that the US is under a diffuse threat which only he recognises and which is broadly speaking the fault of foreigners and outsiders. These are the hallmarks of a would-be fascist leader – fascist not in any stereotypical left-right sense but in the simple and original sense that he believes in leadership by a single strong personality who alone has all the answers and who alone can put the country or the world to rights. It goes without saying that he also believes he himself is that personality.

Add to that his clearly and repeatedly stated belief that elections are rigged if he does not win them. Add also his almost maniacal sensitivity to criticism, which prevents him from staying silent when anyone refuses to acknowledge his greatness, let alone makes a point against him.

Now suppose that he were to win and therefore have at his disposal the full executive power of the most powerful country in the world. He would still be restrained by the rule of law, you might say, but other holders of that office have been tempted to trifle with the boundaries set by law and Donald Trump is not a man to trifle. Voicing criticism of President Trump need not become a criminal offence, but critics might find themselves suddenly accused of other crimes, or harassed by agencies of the executive. Sedition would suddenly be everywhere, often self confessed in plea bargains by anyone who crossed the executive, as we see in China. Simplistic ethnic or creed based explanations for any setback the country might experience would be commonplace, as they already are in the candidate’s speeches, but how easily could that turn to suggestions of a “final solution”?

Yes, the language is deliberate, these terrible outcomes could rival those of 1930’s Italy and Germany. But beyond that, why would a President convinced of his own popularity and essential rightness submit himself to the uncertainties of another election? After all, elections as we have been told are rigged unless they give the right result, so perhaps there would be a state of emergency postponing the next election, or more likely there would be large scale disqualifications from voting affecting people who – perhaps for no better reason than their ethnicity or religion – could not be counted on to make the right choice.

Americans are rightly proud of the strength of their constitution and might dismiss such fears as fanciful. We should all hope they are right, but history suggests such an outcome is not impossible.

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The Pope and coal

The Pope may (or may not, a draft document was leaked) be about to suggest that global warming has a moral dimension. The fossil fuel industry in the U.S., the coal industry in particular, is outraged and right wing presidential hopefuls are scrambling to condemn this “interference” in secular affairs. The Pope has been told to “stick to his job” – whatever that means.

Is this not passing strange? Has morality no bearing on everyday life? Then what is its point and purpose? Or is the idea rather that business is exempt from morality? By all means argue that the Pope is wrong on a point of morality, although I can see that is tricky for politicians who are also Catholics. By all means argue that he has his facts wrong, if indeed it turns out he has (we don’t know at this point). But to argue that a religious and moral leader can have nothing to say about what is and isn’t a moral problem or then about where he thinks the weight of moral argument comes down is surely just absurd.

It does not leave the impression that these presidential candidates know the difference between a moral issue and a funding opportunity. It does not inspire confidence.