How to break a democracy

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -


IT'S SAFE to assume few Trinis are following the hearings into the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol Building in Washington DC in 2020. There are, however, many parallels here in TT.

US society, which is headed for a reckoning, sits on restive tectonic plates of racial enmity, sweeping inequality and the politics of division. Testimony on the events of January 6 from insiders close to the Oval Office almost beggars belief.

Various accounts uncover feverish efforts to illegally overturn the results of the 2019 US presidential election. Worse still, there's compelling evidence of a meticulous strategy to weaponise Donald Trump supporters to stage a coup.

The 10,000-strong mob's mission was to ensure “their president” remained in office. It's their unshakeable belief the election had been stolen from them. Supporters were conscripted into a bloody push to do the same thing they accused others of. Where did that belief come from? Trump and his oblong minions themselves.

Many have likely forgotten that Trump planted the seed for the insurrection several months before the Capitol putsch. Trump started telling crowds at rallies the only way “they” would lose the election is if it was rigged. By the time the former president exhorted his grunts at the January 6 rally to “fight like hell, or you won't have a country anymore,” the fuse was already lit.

Ongoing hearings are providing more evidence of those involved in orchestrating the deadly assault from the conductor's podium. Naturally, the former president is the focus of all attention; which suits him perfectly.

Against all reason, Trump is more popular than ever, at least with his horde. Although he left office with the lowest approval rating of any US president (39 per cent), Trump remains the front runner for the Republican nomination in 2024. Several Republican fixtures are redefining the violent insurrection perpetrated by armed marauders as “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” What this demonstrates is how far people will throw their morals and principles into the long grass once it suits their self-interest.

This is partly why Trump hasn't gone away. The faux-tanned tycoon dominates headlines a year and a half after he demitted office under a pall of infamy and was enveloped in a spectre of treason. Still, his acolytes are ensnared by Trump's reality-warping powers, even if those powers don't improve their lives.

Many of the people cavalierly dismissed as Trump “crazies” believe their way of life was snatched from them. As such, there's an investment in adhering to the lies fed to them by Trump and his surrogates.

This state of being allows the disaffected in America to deny what their eyes and ears tell them. It's easier to believe every judicial figure in the US is corrupt rather than accept that the story of a stolen election is a monstrous fiction.

Donald Trump's singular talent, honed across countless rallies, is to keep hitting supporters' pressure points. Trump speaks their language even though he hasn't lived a fraction of their experience. The former president has benefitted from and contributed to an epidemic of cognitive distortion in the US. I believe what I believe and that's my right.

Here in TT, notwithstanding irrefutable proof of our uninterrupted socio-economic decline, many citizens find solace in their version of false belief. Things either aren't as bad as naysayers make them out to be or the same conditions exist in every other country on the planet so shut up.

Government supporters take their cues from the corrosive leadership. This they do without hesitation because it chimes with their false narratives and crooked ideologies. If the country isn't where it should be it's because of a venal opposition that hasn't been in office for almost seven years.

Special interest groups and individuals masquerade, albeit nakedly, as non-partisan organisations. Their raison d'etre is to curry favour with the Government. When state contracts, briefs, or special dispensations are on offer their members will be first in line for consideration.

This prime and primal directive allows lobby groups and party hacks the luxury of life-in-the-mirror dimension. Here incompetence, corruption and political victimisation appear only as their opposites. Meanwhile, the rest of us with neither influence nor insulating wealth suffer the consequences of failed governance.

In TT we are barrelling towards our reckoning even as we look on in horror at the unravelling of American society.


"How to break a democracy"

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