IT MIGHT be comforting to think no matter who emerges the victor of the US presidential election, the world will go on. The sun will rise, the birds will sing, the majority of the planet will be unchanged.
But these are no ordinary times. And this is no ordinary election.
That much was plain on Monday when, under cover of night, Donald Trump convened a gathering of supporters to witness the swearing-in of Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court justice at the White House.
Mr Trump’s party had pushed his nomination of Ms Barrett – whose jurisprudential philosophy ironically holds that it is for the people, through the legislature, to decide contentious matters – mere days before the election.
Monday’s night-time ceremony matched the unsettling tone of the most worrisome US presidential campaign in recent memory.
A chaotic first debate between Mr Trump and Joe Biden gave way to the spectacle of a US president, fond of denigrating masks, being airlifted to hospital after a covid19 diagnosis.
Whereas in 2016 Mr Trump asked voters to “make America great again,” this time his crusade has involved telling white supremacists to “stand by,” calling Mr Biden’s vice-presidential pick Senator Kamala Harris a nasty madwoman, smearing his country’s top scientists, and defending his murky tax moves by citing the privilege of the wealthy to act “smart.”
Little wonder Mr Biden says this election is a battle for “the soul of the nation.” He understates the case.
The next US president will play a crucial role in the three biggest existential threats facing humanity: the climate crisis, nuclear proliferation and the spread of contagion.
Mr Trump has done his best to rubbish climate deals like the Paris Accord and pulled away from nuclear treaties. In relation to the latter, this involves not just Iran but also North Korea and the looming expiration of a pact with Russia.
But it should not be forgotten that Mr Trump has also severed ties with the World Health Organization at the height of a global pandemic, while telling Americans they need not worry about covid19 as they die by the thousands.
With global economic recovery depending to a great extent on the US, implications abound particularly for countries like Canada, the UK, China, TT and others. Mr Trump’s stance on Venezuela has borne little fruit, as that country’s spiral continues, with all its risks to us as that country’s much smaller and very close neighbour.
Ms Barrett’s appointment could undermine rights relating to women, the LGBTQ community, and race. Symbolically, the global reverberations will be dire. Autocratic regimes openly embraced by Mr Trump have as much at stake as he does.
America, the world is watching.