US election: Why Donald Trump's downfall is vital to the future of democracy and the Free World – Scotsman comment

There are some who take the view that the US presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden does not really matter all that much to people in Scotland. They are dead wrong.

Democrat Joe Biden must help restore faith in journalism and science if he wins the US election (Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democrat Joe Biden must help restore faith in journalism and science if he wins the US election (Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

For, while a Trump victory would not cause any immediate, tangible harm, it would send an alarming message that would fundamentally undermine what we have come to regard as the ‘Free World’ – the countries where democracy is an important institution to be fostered and defended, where politicians are held to account if they lie, and where leaders subscribe to the idea of international co-operation to solve problems that affect us all, like climate change and the Covid pandemic.

The current US President’s most significant act in relation to climate change was to renege on America’s signature of the Paris Agreement, with its withdrawal from that landmark international treaty due to take place this week. And his foolish, arrogant and bizarre responses to Covid-19 have included his decision to withdraw the US from the World Health Organisation.

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His apparent hostility towards Nato, the military alliance set up to protect democracy against the tyranny of communism, has led some to fear that the US could quit that body too, although the outgoing US ambassador to Nato, Kay Bailey Hutchison, claimed last week Trump had “come to the realisation that Nato is very valuable" – not a statement any of her predecessors would have needed to make.

‘Sympathy for autocrats’

In sharp contrast, Trump has displayed a fawning attitude towards despots like Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and even North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

After Trump met Putin in Helsinki, the late Republican Senator John McCain described it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate”.

If Donald Trump wins the US election, democracy in the Free World will be dangerously undermined (Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

All this matters. When Trump called bin Salman a “friend of mine” after the murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi embassy, the message was clear – the American President, an office once worthy of the title ‘the Leader of the Free World’, does not care if governments kill people they do not like.

Giving carte blanche to tyrants will only encourage more and there are plenty of ‘populist’ world leaders willing to subvert democracy for the sake of power. If they are in need of a simple how-to guide, they should look no further than Trump and his sinister friends in the global illiberal elite.

Step one: attack the media

The first step is to attack the media. Trump is the man who made the idea of “fake news” globally famous despite the fact that he is a proven, serial liar. The news organisations he has accused of spreading fake news include some of the most respected names in journalism: the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC News, CNN, the BBC… the list is almost endless. There is a simple reason: he has no other answer to honest reporting about him. At some point, all journalists who tell the truth about Trump will be accused of faking it.

This tactic enables his supporters to dismiss anything critical about Trump and also draws them further into a conspiracy theorist-style web of deceit. Trump’s mendacity was exposed for all to see when he visited the UK in 2018. After the Sun newspaper reported his criticism of then Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump claimed it was “fake news” and that a recording of the interview would prove it. However, the Sun’s own recording demonstrated their account was accurate.

Similarly, Dr Anthony Fauci, a world-leading expert on infectious diseases who has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has found himself under public attack by Trump for daring to speak the truth and offer his professional opinions about the Covid pandemic. At a weekend rally, when Trump supporters began chanting “Fire Fauci”, he replied “don't tell anybody but let me wait 'til a little bit after the election”.

Immunity to Trumpism

Trump, the self-declared “very stable genius”, has no time for experts, for people who know what they are talking about, or for science if it contradicts his arrogant opinions.

This is what life was like for scientists in the Soviet Union. Reporting honest, scientific findings that challenged some aspect of communist dogma or caused a problem for the dictators who enforced it would be a bad career move at best. “Fire Fauci” is a threat that is likely to be carried if Trump wins and it will make other officials more cautious about telling the truth, more eager to massage reality to fit whatever fiction Trump has decided to turn into fact.

If America falls into such a wretched condition, it will suffer the consequences just as it has been suffering from Trump’s mishandling of the Covid pandemic. The Free World will lose its leader, possibly for good, and populist liars seeking to emulate their hero will proliferate.

We hope Scotland will prove to be immune to Trumpism but, regrettably, there truly is no guarantee.

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