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  • Writer's pictureFred Guerin

A National Disgrace

The first United States presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden took place on September 29, 2020, with a further two scheduled to take place on October 15 and October 22. In the history of American televised debates this was most definitely rock-bottom.

There were no winners or losers because there was no debate. Trump does not know how to debate or even make anything approaching an argument. Instead, he tweeted, trolled, interrupted, bullied and lied for an hour and 30 minutes. He refused to condemn white supremacists and in fact told the neo-fascist 'proud boy' storm-troopers to 'stand back and stand by'.

It was puerile, it was vile, it was disgusting. Biden was weak and ineffectual, even when he talked directly into the camera and yelled for Trump to ‘shut up’. However, he did state one lasting truth: Trump is a clown and has been the worst president America has ever had. The problem is that American voters are the real losers here: they learned absolutely nothing about candidate, policies, platforms or proposals. America was diminished as a country. It was an embarrassing shit-show.

The day after, The NYT editorial staff wrote that “Trump’s performance on the debate stage was a national disgrace" and that he is “vandalizing the principles and integrity of our democracy.”

It is as if Trump’s rise to power was some sort strange aberration or anomaly--that this is all about his personal character flaws.

The reality is that since at least Watergate America has gradually devolved into a lawless fascist regime. It commits and sanctions human rights abuses and war crimes around the world--from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli--it justifies torture, imprisons whistle-blowers, criminalizes protest, passes laws that discriminate against immigrants, women and blacks; suppresses unions and worker rights, rules in favour of corporate polluters over public health and safety, and has elevated the executive branch above congress which permits the office of the presidency to operate 'above the law'.

In the past 50 years America has created a militaristic, industrial, surveillance capitalist state unrivaled in the world. It has entrenched a duopolistic system of political representation that seesaws between republican neoliberal thugs and a bankrupt, feckless liberal elite.

America, without any help from Trump, has engaged in endless imperial wars; encouraged and institutionalized massive wealth disparities by not taxing the rich; let fraudulent banks off the hook and even bailed them out after they have brought the entire nation to the brink of economic collapse. It has militarized the police and permitted unchecked police violence. It has promoted mass incarceration; encouraged the rise of reactionary and alt-right extremists; scorned the weak, the homeless, the poor and the unemployed; promoted hatred and fear of 'socialism'; embraced anti-intellectualism, a cult of ignorance, while glorifying jingoistic ultra-nationalism.

This is not hyperbole. It is simply the reality on the ground. These are the intellectual and material conditions that enable authoritarian fascism.

Yes, Trump is, indeed, the worst president ever--but his rise to the office of the presidency was, tragically, all too predictable in a failed state that has been lurching toward fascism for the past 50 years.

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