Is either of these men up to the task?

Donald Trump is right about one thing: Someone really does need to make America great again.

Whether President Trump or his Democratic opponent Joe Biden is today chosen by the American people to occupy the White House for the next four years is a matter for the American people.

But it is not an embellishment or cliche to say the great union and its dream stand at a dangerous crossroads.

They've been boarding up shops in downtown New York City and fortifying the White House ahead of today's election, rightly concerned about the violent protests that could come from either side - depending on the outcome. That this is occurring in the land of the free and home of the brave should be of enormous concern for all those who cherish democracy, as we all should.

There are legitimate concerns about how Mr Trump will react in his final months in office if he's forced to endure the ignominy of being reduced to a one-term president.

Mr Trump's supporters have over the past four years been too eager to point to a recovering economy and made-for-television diplomatic coups, while turning a blind eye to the President's disdain for truth, gross personal indiscretions and intrusions into proper democratic processes to favour himself and friends.

 

 

But the Democrats are not without fault.

They have served up a candidate in Joe Biden who is complete dross, a Washington fixture for decades who was at his best as a solid sidekick to former president Barack Obama.

Last time, the Democrats served up Hillary Clinton, a candidate who - sadly - squandered the first real chance of the US having a female president through her overinflated sense of superiority and entitlement.

For all his own shortcomings, Mr Biden is, however, the best hope America has of reversing the downward spiral of hyper-partisan politics which has infected daily discourse in the great democracy.

What once was and still should be a contest of ideas and an appeal to the hearts and minds of all Americans has morphed into an ugly brawl between unchallengeable "good" and assumed evil in which both sides insist they are in the right and the other wrong.

Mr Trump has clearly been the chief instigator when it comes to inflaming tensions with the way he has demonised the truth-telling "mainstream media", undermined democratic institutions and sneered at the scientific advice about COVID-19. The Republican Party has - in its thirst to hold on to power - been complicit in this spectacle.

 

 

Yet the Democrats have also been drawn into the contest, losing perspective and decorum along the way.

There are few better examples than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her overdramatised efforts tearing up the President's State of the Union speech for the cameras.

The example set by those from within the maligned "Washington establishment" who should know better has only emboldened their supporters to take to social media with fury, committing the same sins as those they despise - blind to their own hypocrisy as they cloak themselves in righteous purpose.

Whether it's Facebook, Instagram or the hate-fuelled platform Twitter, the big tech firms lap it up and adjust their algorithms accordingly to serve up content that simply confirms each user's views.

This toxic cycle matters not to them.

To the tech behemoths each and every user is no more than a pair of eyeballs they can sell to advertisers.

More engagement equals more dollars for them, while for the rest of humanity it means the creation of invisible but inescapable partisan echo chambers that confirm narrow world views and lead us to conclude that respectful debate is wrong.

 

 

With all these factors at play, recent US politics has often felt like one of those B-grade horror movies that can be more humorous than scary.

But this is no movie, and the horror is now real and present, with the contagion of hyper-partisan politics showing up here in recent elections and in how people - even "honourable" (sic) former prime ministers - conduct themselves in that putrid swamp that is Twitter.

Last weekend's Queensland election was a textbook example of mistruths being told on all sides - where senior political players and their acolytes fed social media with slurs about their opponents, forever in search of another dopamine hit and the self-gratification that seems to come with a few extra "likes".

Americans today will choose between the debauchery of Trump and the vacuousness of Biden. What they need is a renaissance of their union.

It will happen.

The promise of America and the strength of its people are too strong not to resist.

As Australians we should look to America and consider the lessons being taught.

Each of us should then pledge to play our own small part in protecting our own great democracy.

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Editor's view: Is either of these men up to the task?


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