OPINION

The toxic legacy of the conman in chief

It's all too late.

Some of the enablers and sycophants who have lived nicely off Donald Trump while he fouled the beacon of democracy are turning against the Conman in Chief - just as he is about to be turfed out of power.

They sucked up to him when he had power and they are lacing up their kicking boots as he loses power.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell finally said a few days ago, "The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken", defying Mr Trump's fantasy that he has been defrauded out of the White House. "If we overrule them all, it would damage our republic forever," he said.

The time to worry about the republic was on February 5 last year when he led his fellow Republicans in the Senate to clear Mr Trump of all charges of wrongdoing.

Trump supporters storm the Capitol on Wednesday. Picture: Getty Images

Trump supporters storm the Capitol on Wednesday. Picture: Getty Images

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said: "Today, the United States Capitol - the world's greatest symbol of self-government - was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard - tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution."

Senator Sasse also voted to clear Mr Trump of wrongdoing when the president had threatened to block military aid for Ukraine if it didn't open an investigation into Joe Biden.

Senator Sasse said at the time: "It's clear that the President had mixed motives in his decision to temporarily withhold military aid from Ukraine."

Really?

And let's call out the other enabler: our own Rupert Murdoch.

He owns Fox News. Only a fool would say he doesn't determine what happens on his airwaves and pages. He doesn't write the copy and the scripts but every journalist in his employ knows where the boundaries are. They know what tunes to play.

Fox News continued to air baseless conspiracy fantasies until way after the election. Its presenters pumped out the lie that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.

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But only recently did Mr Murdoch's New York Post indicate that perhaps Mr Trump should accept the truth and "stop the insanity".

The Democrats are not innocent of partisanship - but Trump has taken it to a whole new and dangerous level.

Dangerous for Australia. The United States has become an unreliable ally.

Earlier this week, The Financial Times reported South Korea "aims for military independence as Asia threats rise". It was, reported the FT, "reducing its long-held dependence on American troops. The shifts tacitly acknowledge the dual threats of waning US commitment and China's military expansionism".

South Korea isn't Australia - it sees Japan as a threat and North Korea is an enemy next door - but the perception of the United States in Seoul must surely be a thought in Canberra, particularly when China crops up in DFAT seminars.

The Germans - who know a thing or two about despots - have been horrified by the rise of Trump.

Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, tweeted: "Inflammatory words turn into violent acts - on the steps of the Reichstag, and now in the #Capitol." The Reichstag was the German parliament which was set ablaze in 1933. Hitler rose from the ashes.

It is usually way over-the-top to compare a current situation to that madness in Germany which led to the final conflagration in 1945. The word "fascism" is bandied around too easily.

But in the Trumpian madness you see how a psychosis can overcome a people. It is an illness from which recovery is not instant or easy. There is no vaccine.

There has been a strain in American politics since the Civil War which never really accepted the pro-slavery Confederates' defeat in 1865 . The far right has continually been there in numbers, through the lynchings and the denial of basic rights like voting to black people.

But those numbers have never been high enough to threaten democracy itself. Under Trump they have become significant and dangerous.

But he's been shown the door, you say. Common sense will return.

Don't be so sure. We've had a close shave. Had Donald Trump been a bit more self-disciplined - a little more able to feign mental balance - he might well have won the election (and the Senate would have a Republican majority).

Joe Biden and the Democrats need to be magnanimous in victory. They need to put their partisanship aside and address the most important task, the repair of American democracy and civic society.

Both are broken and that is a tragedy for all of us who love America and what it once stood for.

The scenes from Washington were desperately sad, though in Beijing and Moscow, they would have warmed the hardest hearts.

I am not hopeful.

  • Steve Evans is a Canberra Times reporter and was a BBC correspondent in New York.
This story The toxic legacy of the conman in chief first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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