Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday October 2, 2020
The decline of the American Empire
Whatever went on between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday night, it wasn’t a presidential election debate, it was an unpresidential disaster.
For the TV viewers unlucky enough to have stuck it out through this 90-minute waking nightmare, the experience was like standing in front of a 10-storey fan into which heavy artillery were constantly firing mud. Or like watching two guys wrestle in the gutter over a nickel.
From start to finish it was a high-decibel cacophony of insults, accusations and angry interruptions as the ever-pugnacious President Trump — staying true to brutal form — mocked the intelligence of his Democratic rival, accused Biden of being a stooge for socialists and even attacked his son, Hunter.
And while even a saint would have been rattled by Trump’s rude and blistering attacks, it was nonetheless disappointing to hear Biden respond in kind by calling the president a “liar,” a “racist,” and “the worst president American has ever had,” as well as telling him to “shut up, man.”
No matter who you think won this ugly verbal brawl, the losers were clear: the American people and every American ally around the world that still looks to the United States for leadership.
One of the most common responses of the American pundits who watched this dumpster fire was that they were ashamed of what they’d witnessed. That’s a stunning admission in a country known for its patriotism — but it was entirely appropriate.
No matter who wins this election, the office of U.S. president has been diminished, for now, shorn of the respect that should be due to the world’s most powerful leader and, in turn, to the world’s most powerful economic and military nation.
How can this supposed beacon of democracy continue to shine when the democratic process of choosing its highest official is debased in this way, its light heaped with dirt? And how can the widening fractures in the U.S. on racial, economic and political lines be brought together when Trump, who might still be elected for another four years, not only treats his opponents with contempt but refuses in a public debate to denounce white supremacists? “Stand back and stand by,” was his bizarre and troubling message to one of these groups, the Proud Boys.
No wonder the dismay over this debate, as well as the state of disunion it signifies, spread far beyond the U.S. “There is a consensus in Europe that this is getting out of hand, and this debate is an indicator of the bad shape of the American democracy,” observed Ulrich Speck, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin.
“European leaders must (be) thinking, ‘The American leadership is over,’” concluded Nicole Bacharan, a political analyst living in France, adding that authoritarian leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin “must be telling themselves … they can do everything because the U.S. isn’t a leader anymore.”
The gleeful reaction in China, the emerging powerhouse that is challenging America’s global dominance, was also instructive. “Such a chaos at the top of U.S. politics reflects division, anxiety of U.S. society and the accelerating loss of advantage of the U.S. political system,” said Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party propaganda sheet.
The relative decline of the U.S., and its global economic and military empire, had been observed before Trump’s rise. His presidency has accelerated this decline and even if it is reversible it will take years to do so.
For Canada, which remains America’s closest neighbour and ally, the debate should serve as a reminder of this sad reality. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)