Bad dream

Seeing as how Eskom can no longer meet SA’s electricity needs, it must be some consolation that days are longer at Christmastime in the southern hemisphere. Up here, it is the darkest season. Darkening it further is the thought that this time next year we could be getting ready for Donald Trump’s second inauguration.

Here’s how it happened:

The impeachment fizzled. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saw to it that the trial was quick.  Following Trump’s acquittal, Republicans stuck resolutely to their talking points. It was the Democrats, not Trump, who had abused power. They had plotted coup against a president whose legitimacy they never accepted. 

This message was amplified by Fox, Breitbart and the rest of Trump’s propaganda network and would be his mantra throughout the campaign. He bragged that the failed impeachment was proof  not only of his innocence but of his courage. The deep state had come at him when he tried to break its grip, and he had faced it down. 

By the time the president’s personal lawyer Rudolf Giuliani was indicted on charges related to his quest for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine, America had moved on. Trump disowned Giuliani and said he had been freelancing.

Biden stayed smeared and it soon became apparent that his path to the Democratic nomination would not be as easy as the polls had suggested. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar came out of nowhere to take second place in Iowa, putting the sensible centre in play. Bernie Sanders established himself over Elizabeth Warren as the standard bearer of the left with a win in New Hampshire. 

Biden regained his footing in South Carolina but with Klobuchar catching fire and splitting the centrist vote, Sanders started racking up delegates as the primaries ground on. Biden survived, but it was anything but a happy and united convention that gave him the nomination. The left went off to its tent in a huff. For many others, there was bitter disappointment that a woman was not at the top of the ticket. 

It is unclear what role if any Russian active measures played but they were probably superfluous as Representatives Ilhan Omar and Alexandra Occasio-Cortez, among others, generated a steady flow of soundbites for the Trumpist outrage machine.

Trump was in his element, thrilling MAGA-hatted crowds with his preposterous braggadocio and whipping up 40-minutes hates — not just the two-minute variety of 1984 fame — against the Democrats and the “faceless bureaucrats who conspire with them to deny the people’s will.”

Off the campaign trail Trump seemed at unusual pains to play the statesman, racking up what looked like legitimate accomplishments. Inspired by the success of Britain’s Boris Johnson, he stole the Democrats’ clothes and unveiled a serious effort to replace Obamacare with something better, as he’d promised in 2016.  

Then there was the trade deal with China. He was given credit for brokering a peace between Russia and Ukraine. Victory was declared in Afghanistan. The Taliban complied with the terms of a ceasefire, and US troops came home. North Korea launched no missiles. Some suspected this was all good to be true. It was as if America’s adversaries were eager to help Trump win a second term.

Biden, meanwhile, floundered. He never escaped the question of why, as President Obama’s point man on Ukraine, he had not objected to his son serving on the board of a dodgy Ukrainian energy company. As the campaign wore on, his 77 years told. He grew increasingly testy and gaffe prone. Having served in the Senate since 1973, he was an easy target for Trump to brand as a swamp creature. And so on election night, we watched a replay of 2016 and wondered whether we should emigrate to Canada.

Please let this be nothing more than a bad dream.

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