What Did We Learn?

Trump is gone, after four long years. Hallelujah. The virus still thrives, more than a year on from its debut. Alack and alas. But what, if anything have we learned from these testing times? I shall venture to offer a few opinions, if I may. Shall I start with this. I watched Trump giving his inaugural speech in 2016. Had the authoritarian despots of history been gathered at the Capitol to listen in, they would have been startled at the similarity of his message to theirs. Accusations of plagiarism may have followed.

Four years later, some of those same despots will have recognised his post-election rallying cries. His scarcely concealed threats. His blatant contempt for reality. His call for insurrection. And there, thankfully, the similarities stop. At this point, well armed troops are supposed to storm the barricades on behalf of the successful tyrant. An assortment of deplorable rednecks is simply not good enough.

The USA of 2020 is not Germany of the 30s, or a host of Eastern European countries in the decades after WW2. Trump is gone. His American legacy will hopefully be cemented with his conviction in the Senate for insurrection. In the U.K., his legacy is limited to the Baby Trump blimp being put on display in the Museum of London.

Whilst Trump’s fascist tendencies and unsuitability for high office were obvious from the word go, it was easy to see why white supremacists, neo-nazis and other groups aligned to bigotry rallied to his flag. But he needed to attract a broader church. He ran a textbook populist campaign, trotting out the same old tropes, attached to convenient new ‘enemies’. It worked. I’d hear the same message from his supporters. “I know he lies, he’s a misogynist, he’s a bigot, but…”

His supporters always knew there was a but. But they just never quite grasped what the but actually was. The but was that Trump had reached out to the prejudices that existed within them, promising retribution on their behalf, appealing to their darker side, using hatred to build a coalition of deplorables that could sweep him into the White House.

I’m quite sure that many of them still don’t understand or accept that Trump turned them – at best – into apologists for fascism. Yet their big talking points, their language, their failure to acknowledge reality was always evident. On more than one occasion, I watched bloggers discuss the issues of the day and provide a script that would not look out of place in the minutes of a David Duke meeting. The same phrases. The same bigotry.

The collision between politics and pandemic follows a similar path. You need only watch the news reels from the 80s as HIV/AIDS terrorised the US to see how little has changed. It’s simply that the Chinese are now on the receiving end of abuse, rather than gays. Fauci is still demonised. And now, as then, sceptics make all sorts of wild claims that defy common sense and will read poorly in the years to come.

So what have we learned? Here is my conclusion. We don’t really learn from history at all, do we? We simply act on human impulses according to what suits us at the time. Which makes for a repetitive and painful lesson.

5 thoughts on “What Did We Learn?

  1. A best case: Trump forms a new political party because the GOP throws him out on his ass in the next quarter. The new Trump party recruits a slate of ding bats to run in about 90% of the congressional districts, all the senate contests in 2022 and they do well. A split conservative/batshit crazy party results in a supra majority for the Democrats. Third parities are pretty toxic for the party they split off of.
    The political pendulum was skewed to the right past its due date by 9/11, the right was given fresh fuel by my nation’s reaction to some skullduggery by the Saudis. The pendulum stayed right longer than it would have in a natural cycle. It caused the right to rot from within, hence people like Trump and Cruz becoming leaders of the right. A split in the right is a natural progression.
    If in the next two years, Trump is convicted of a felony, the GOP made dodge a very big spear. The Hatch Act looms…


    1. The best case, surely, would be his conviction either in the senate or another court. But he’s poisoned the political well, and that’s not a problem easily solved.

      It still blows my mind that intelligent people support him. I could have titled this post, ‘what were you thinking?’ Or ‘what did you expect to happen?’. They wouldn’t get it. They’re not likely to. If a smart person isn’t asking him or herself why they seem to feel more comfortable in the company of nutters, liars, bigots, then they’re lost. I’ve bid a couple of them farewell.

      In a nutshell: there’s a famous black and white photo from Nazi Germany of a crowd of people, all giving the Nazi salute. You’ve seen it, I’m sure. There’s one chap not saluting. He is the good guy. The others have signed up to aid in the gassing of Jews and gays, the massacres of civilians in neighbouring countries and the occupation of foreign states. They’ve been fed a diet of ‘fake media’ and all the other Trumpian stuff.

      And every one of those saluting gentlemen is quite convinced that they are the good guys.


  2. The impeachment is political theater. The real jeopardy for 45 is and always will be the courts. Fraud has no stature of limitations , it starts when the fraud is discovered-there are a lot of slimy rocks to be flipped over in Trumpland . There are enough never Trumpers in the GOP, who hold high legal jobs in our state governments , to pester the old boy until the day he dies . My dream of a Trump party splitting the GOP is a dream, nothing more.
    The idea that the political pendulum has started to swing back to the center is demonstrated by the left holding two branches of our government. The senate election in the Peach State is telling, the presidential vote in Arizona as well. Nevada in 2016 was no fluke. If Trump is able to put together a slate in 2022 for the house and senate, the resulting swing of the pendulum would make Poe proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The GOP have an opportunity to do the right thing, for themselves and the country. Convict Trump in the Senate. It might cause short term pain, as party splits usually do. But the other effect of a split is that the radical extreme faction tends to die out and there is long term gain. Of course, most politicians are just looking out for their own short term interests, so…

      The Democrats also have an opportunity to the right thing. For example, border security. No one denies that every country has the right to secure their borders. Trump turned the issue into a toxic bomb, swamping the conversation with bigotry and ridiculous talk of a border wall. He killed the debate, killed any support he might have picked up and probably set back the problem more than any other president. Anyone who supported Trump on the basis of securing borders needs their head looked at.

      Biden can continue where Obama left off, with sane policies, strengthening over time, and humanity and decency on display rather than…well, you know.


  3. To quote your last paragraph. “So what have we learned? Here is my conclusion. We don’t really learn from history at all, do we? We simply act on human impulses according to what suits us at the time. Which makes for a repetitive and painful lesson.’


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