There was too much news today so we’re just going to try to sprint past a bunch of it really fast, gathering whatever we can from our peripheral vision.
US and them
Two major political events happened in the United States today. One will strip major political figures of their power and will hugely empower others. The other was a spectacle, made for TV.
The election of the two candidates in Georgia for the Democratic party changes the course of the next two years. It will put the entire machinery of the US federal state out of the hands of the Republican party and represents a triumph of democracy- of the determined wish of Georgia’s voters (and particularly Georgia’s Black voters) to have their will reflected in their elected officials.
But it also triggered something else- the defeated Republican party candidates had tied themselves to Trump. Now all the others could see what the electoral consequences of that were.
Trump isn’t a kingmaker. He can’t make anything. He’s a wrecker. And he handed the Georgia elections to the Democrats. His attention-seeking and suggestions of overturning the election resulted in a Democratic turnout even more extreme than that in November. Both Republicans were leading their races the day of the Presidential election. They swore allegiance to him in ad after ad, groundless challenges to his loss and all. They did it to prevent him from turning on them and driving his base away. He did it anyway.
The storming of the Capitol (in the same sense that I stormed my front door when I came home from school aged 10, by having my Mammy open it for me) was dramatic, undemocratic, violent, malignant and stupid. In that sense, it was an ideal expression of the spirit of the outgoing presidency which had inspired it. It interrupted a ceremony confirming the election result that a clique of elected Republicans had planned to disrupt with their own undemocratic, malignant and stupid objections.
By the time the police had gently shooed the white supremacists, conspiracy nuts and Facebook-loons out of the building, like armed ducklings who’d wandered in from the local pond, standing with Trump didn’t look as hot a ticket to political success as it had yesterday.
Granted, associating yourself with a violent occupation of your legislature which has ended bare minutes earlier isn’t usually a great look. But more importantly, there was nothing in it for them any more. Trumpism is now a political dead-end, snuffing out every political career it touched. It ended its eponymous proponent’s career. It ended the Georgia Republican candidates’ careers. It has ended Mitch McConnell’s power over the US legislature.
Power in the US is still transferred by the silent drifts of citizens’ votes. Occupying a building, however violently, was never a threat to that. Only someone who couldn’t tell the difference between the trappings of power and its democratic reality could have expected otherwise. Of the two big political events of the day, one was democracy. The other was just a (bad) show.
The much-leaked new Covid restrictions were confirmed for Ireland, but with a twist. Where the UK announced they were scrapping their end of year exams, the Irish Minister for Education came up with a wheeze of her own. Leaving Cert students would keep coming to school, even through the heavy Level 5 lockdown for three days a week.
This came a surprise to those students’ teachers (whose unions hadn’t been told about this) and to the Government’s scientific advisors, who quickly pointed out nobody asked them about this plan.
Expect this notion, like last year’s Ministerial assurances of the Leaving Certificate’s certainty up to the moment of cancellation, to melt away like the driven slush over the next few weeks.
Thank you all so much for your subscriptions, paid and unpaid alike. You’re all very good for sticking around. An unusual number of Gists this week. I hope you’ll stick with me for more.
photo by Ronnie Macdonald under cc licence