America’s disarray
Abortion rights activists protest following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, ending the constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years. (Photos: AP)

Elections have consequences.

In the 2016 US presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged that, if elected, he would name judges to the supreme court that would overturn Roe v Wade. He kept his word.

That is more than can be said of the judges he appointed. All three, when questioned during their confirmation hearings as to their disposition on the issue, declared that they would adhere to the principle of stare decisis or settled law.

Arch-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas widened the goal post. He declared that previous supreme court decisions affirming LGBTQ rights, the use of contraceptives, and same-sex marriages were “demonstrably erroneous” – an open invitation for challenges that he would be prepared to uphold. Bill Maher, host of the HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, humorously observed that Thomas, who is married to a white woman, was careful not to include the 1967 supreme court decision on interracial marriage, which up to then was illegal in some states.

America is in a deeply divided state, perhaps more divided than it has been since the days of Jim Crow. The division is not confined to a single issue as was the case with the Vietnam War. It has to do with its values, culture, and social fabric — in essence, its identity — and common ground seems to be disappearing fast.

Joe Biden

The two Americas that have emerged are showing an increasing unwillingness to coexist. The resulting dysfunctionality is palpable, notwithstanding the recent agreement on very modest gun regulations.

The ongoing January 6 committee hearings in which several avowed Republican officials and White House insiders have provided compelling testimony of Trump’s alleged direct involvement in attempts to subvert the democratic process and in inciting the violent attack on the Capitol as well as the satisfaction he savoured in the possibility of his own Vice-President Mike Pence being hanged have hardly moved the needle in the current divide. Trump only has to deny everything and that is good enough for most Republicans. He makes Jim Jones look like an amateur ‘ginnal’.

Trump leads President Joe Biden in almost every recent poll as to who Americans would prefer to be president. Most of the election deniers backed by him are winning Republican primaries in spectacular fashion, never mind that the claims that the election was stolen have been thrown out by several federal courts as being devoid of substance.

Donald Trump (Photo: AP)

Despite the many accusations of Trump’s immoral conduct and his acknowledged penchant for groping women, he continues to be embraced by evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians. The divide trumps even traditional moral principles.

America is not used to this. Its self-asserted role as the leader of the free world is hardly compatible with its dissonance as to what it wants to lead the free world to do. It has lost much of its credibility in lecturing other countries on democratic values, accepting election results, and allowing the peaceful transfer of power. It can no longer offer lessons in consensus-building — Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have not failed to take note. This clearly is an opportunity for a reset in the global order.

Nature is supposed to abhor a vacuum. Not so in America. If ever there was a time and an opportunity for someone to step forward to summon Americans to their best selves and offer a vision as to how the great United States can redeem its greatness and be the shining light of the world, it is now. But where is he or she?

Clarence Thomas

America approaches the next presidential election with a choice between two octogenarians, at which stage, even if it is still possible to formulate a vision, it will be a challenge to articulate it and inspire people to embrace it.

The Republican party has been virtually displaced by the Trump cult in which undying loyalty to the “one don” defines its purpose. The Democratic party appears to be a shaky amalgam of disparate tendencies and ideologies with unidentifiable leadership. The situation provides fertile ground for extremists and anarchists eager to grasp the vacuum that nature is supposed to abhor. They are wasting no time.

Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole nailed it perfectly: “Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.”

Bruce Golding

Bruce Golding served as Jamaica’s eighth prime minister from September 11, 2007 to October 23, 2011.

Bruce Golding

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