THE DEATH OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM AND THE ABSENCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY ARE ONE IN THE SAME

Mickey Skidmore, AMHSW, ACSW, MACSW

As the world recently marked the first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, it seems clear that what should have been a wakeup call about extremism and illiberalism in the United States instead showed that not even a violent attack on Congress could reorient the right away from radicalism. Rather, it seemed to reinforce the idea that there are no more guardrails on US politics, and that the future of democratic governance has become only more imperilled in the last year.

Millions of myopic – (and I am being charitable) – Americans continue to support, with an evangelical fervour, a crass, calculating charlatan who, since his persuasive defeat more than a year ago, has slipped further into madness and a thicket of crazed conspiracy theories.

A strong argument can be made that Trump ought to be in a hospital or, preferably, in the dock. But, historical precedent and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s lack of urgency and unforgivable delinquency, will likely save him from being charged and possibly convicted for his catalogue of blatant violations of a constitution he swore to preserve and defend.

As president, Trump enabled, encouraged and applauded not just rhetorical but violent attacks against citizens and institutions he has denounced as treasonous for being obstacles to or having thwarted his loony designs and actions, culminating in the January 6 insurrection and coup attempt – yes, insurrection, not “riot” or “protest gone awry” – on Capitol Hill.

The consequences for America’s future and the planet’s fate should be apparent to anyone not blinded by the ignorance and intolerance that defines Trump and his familiar (and somewhat surprising) legion of “liberal”-despising acolytes and apologists.

The already irreparable damage and harm that this rank, but capable, demagogue has exacted on enlightened America and the rest of sentient life on earth stand as a blunt harbinger of the alarming scope and significance of the damage and harm to come.

Court-approved gerrymandering and Democrats’ congenital tepidness and ineptness have combined, it appears, to translate into Republicans re-taking the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate as well after the 2022 mid-term elections.

The sole purpose of Trump as “Godfather part II” will be to satisfy this seething narcissist’s appetite to avenge the phantom wrongs committed against him by his enemies – wherever they exist – with a Mafioso’s brutish disregard for decency and the rule of law.

Beyond the daily, grinding dose of chaos and bedlam, Trump – the sequel – will inevitably result in a broad, systemic assault on the on-life-support remnants of what can generously be described as US “democracy”.

The Republican Party has proven that it is populated and led by lunatics, in the prostrate service of lunatics – inside and outside the agreeable, reality-allergic studios of Fox News.

Four more years of Trump as commander-in-chief, surrounded by dauphins and sycophants and unperturbed by any political or humanitarian constraints, is a prescription for not only an existential threat to America’s constitutional republic but to human existence.

This is not hyperbole.

When Trump egregiously ignored his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution on Jan. 6, the prescribed constitutional remedy of impeachment and conviction failed. Rather than asserting its constitutional rights, Congress has surrendered them to extreme partisanship and yielded to corruption. Thus, a new breed of legislators have followed who seek recognition and power and are largely uninterested in passing actual laws. Genuine legislators are scarce, as many members would rather aim for viral recognition on social media and remain in office (power) at all costs.

Trump’s denials have injured many people in many ways. He denies facts. He denies losing. He denies the lethality of a mutating virus. He denies the efficacy of masks. He denies violating scores of women. He denies paying hush money to his paramours. He denies being a Proud-Boy-adoring white supremacist.

The querulous “debate” about Trump’s fascist credentials should, by now, be a quaint and amusing anachronism. The 47th US president remains an unabashed fascist.

As partisanship grips America, more turn to the Supreme Court to revoke actions that either party finds offensive. But even the Supreme Court can not escape the tentacles of the pervasive corruption Trump has unleashed, culminating in a malignant normality.

During his time in office Trump often gaslit and convoluted the concept of “American exceptionalism” to fit his own twisted Orwellian view of this as well. Simply put, this idea is nothing more than adhering to the principle that no one is above the law. Most citizens in America have integrated this ideal as perhaps a foundation of US culture. And it has been said to be the fundamental principle that ensures the functioning of democracy.

Trump has exploited a lifelong ability to slither from being held to stiff, tangible account. He has demonstrated repeatedly his distain for being held to the same rules, laws, and standards as everyone else. And he has so thoroughly corrupted his administration and the Republican party that they will not hold him accountable for numerous, blatant and egregious offences. Despite compelling evidence of video and audio recordings (that we’ve all seen with our own eyes on TV) as well as a mountain of other evidence of his violation of countless laws (at the State and Federal level); and despite a disgraceful number of his cabinet being indicted or imprisoned (not to mention the many he pardoned after being found guilty) there has been no accountability for Trump’s infractions. 

Now his minions (base) increasingly operate with a similar attitude. Increasing numbers of his sycophants defy and disrespect lawful subpoenas mirroring Trump’s violation of norms reflecting the attitude, spirit and behaviour that they too are above the law if things don’t turn out as they desire, threatening to unravel 200+ years of democratic principles and giving way to the tyranny of the minority (Skidmore, 2020). The acceptance of the rule of law (including the ideal that no-one is above the law) was the foundational glue that ensured the stable functioning of democracy. It is the underlying principle of what many recognised and referred to as “American Exceptionalism.”

The death of American Exceptionalism and the lack of accountability in my view are directly linked, and tantamount to one in the same.

References

  1. Mitrovica, A. Donald ‘Godfather’ Trump Part II, Al Jazeera  12 Dec 2021.
  2. Skidmore, M. The Tyranny of the Minority.