The move by the US political and corporate establishment to ban Donald Trump from public office and social media is so breathtakingly stupid and potentially dangerous you could be forgiven for thinking it was orchestrated by Trump’s hard line supporters themselves – were they not also so breathtakingly stupid and potentially dangerous.
Indeed, its staggering folly can be exposed with just two words: What then?
In the first case it undermines the American left’s greatest weapon in its repudiation of Trumpism, namely Joe Biden’s resounding election victory. While the razor thin result in the battleground states should serve as a dire warning for coastal wokesters, there is no doubt Biden won the election fair and square and won it well.
And so why trash a triumph of democracy with convoluted congressional proceedings that will have no impact on who gets sworn in on Inauguration Day? At best it is a wholly symbolic crucifixion of Trump at a time when, according to the President-elect himself, the nation desperately needs unity and healing. At worst it will be a rallying point for a Trumpist resurgence.
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Is there a moral or legal case for Trump to be impeached? Certainly. In the space between the election result and the storming of the Capitol, Trump transformed from a cartoonish and roguish figure to a genuine threat to the American democratic process.
I suspect this was more the result of his rampant narcissism than any calculated or sinister malignance but that is neither here nor there. The only salient fact is that Trump must go.
But the fact is he is going, and going as a result of the people’s will. Why on earth would Washington politicians muddy the waters by allowing him to claim he has been removed only by a congressional conspiracy?
Trump has always claimed the election was rigged and illegitimate. The attempt to remove him via impeachment only reinforces this view and gives his diehard followers the evidence they need that he is a victim not of the American people but the Washington elite. It could not play more perfectly into Trump’s hands.
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Indeed, the clear driver of Trump’s increasingly deranged and erratic behaviour since his election loss was his inability to accept that the American people had turned against him. His alternate facts had deserted him and he was trapped in a cage of inconvenient truth. Now the Democrats have just handed him a get out of jail free card.
I genuinely cannot imagine even a kindergarten-level Australian political strategist performing such a self-damaging act. Indeed, a veteran Labor advisor texted me these exact words as soon as the move was afoot:
“WTF are Dems thinking? There will be chaos, guns and nuts everywhere running amok. It will make the storming of the house seem like preschoolers arguing in the sand.”
The same strategist was almost alone in the Australian left in publicly predicting a Trump victory four and a half years ago. As of today I suspect he has more political brainpower than the entire Democratic caucus combined.
The conspiracy theories of tens of millions of Trumpers have, in their own minds, been confirmed. God knows what this will mean for the next election campaign but you can bet your bottom Bezos it won’t be a civil one.
As for Trump’s deplatforming from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – not to mention the deplatforming of an entire platform in the form of Amazon’s removal of Parler – one also has to ask the question the tech giants clearly never asked themselves: What then?
There has long been talk that the lay down misere option for Trump would be to launch his own cable propaganda network dubbed Trump TV. After all, he already has 75 million potential subscribers.
But television is a notoriously expensive and complex medium. How much cheaper and easier it would be for Trump to launch his own social media site. All he’d have to do is set up the platform and the content would provide itself for free.
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There he and his acolytes could spread whatever conspiracy theories and plot whatever revolutions they wanted. The only difference is it would be largely unchecked and unchallenged by mainstream views.
This is the staggering hubris of political and corporate elites, or perhaps just their staggering naivety. Like the cartoon mouse that covers its eyes and thinks it is invisible they assume that if they cannot see something it no longer exists.
But even this assessment is probably too kind. It would be generous to think that the Silicon Valley strategy is to wipe Trump from the public sphere and hope that his 75 million voters will then miraculously forget about him or forget about their fears or miraculously change their minds.
My strong suspicion is that they actually forget that Trump has voters at all. That they are so far removed from the seismic rumblings of real people in middle America they think Trump is the only person they have to worry about. It is a critical mistake.
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In all the endless coverage and holier-than-thou pronouncements that have accompanied Trump’s election loss and the ugly scenes that followed, I have seen and heard almost nothing that fully appreciates the vast numbers of people who voted for him despite his myriad failings.
The great irony is that the one man who does seem to appreciate it is Joe Biden, who, having achieved a record voter turnout, was quick to realise that the second highest ever turnout was for his opponent. Hence his impressive and immediate appeal for unity upon claiming victory.
It is of course a national sport to speculate that Biden is suffering from some form of dementia or another. But even if he is it would still make him smarter than most of his colleagues.
America is a country that desperately needs peace but is beset by provocation. It contains in its belly an angry mob — or, perhaps more accurately, two angry mobs.
Both need reminding that democracy is their salvation, not their jailer. Washington parlour games only serve to make them feel that they are forever in exile.
Joe Hildebrand is the summer host of Afternoons on 2GB and 4BC.