HI THEN, BIDEN : Notes From Joe Biden’s Inauguration


Trump is gone. So long, and thanks for all the fascism.

Yesterday marked the inauguration of Joe Biden as the USA’s 46th President. Trump left the White House at 8am, and left in his typical style – refusing to concede, refusing to refer to Joe Biden by his name, and wishing his followers “a good life,” before vowing to return.

We’d really rather you didn’t, Donald. Hopefully impeachment will see to that anyway – if the Senate moves to convict him, he can never run for office again.

Which means someone far worse might run instead.

But anyway, let’s not dwell on that. Whatever happens, we have four years at least of something vaguely resembling normality. This should be celebrated, so celebrate we shall. Crack open the bubbly (or the non-alcoholic version if you’re bold enough to do Dry January this year, of all years), sit back, relax, and be thankful to your god that the president who amounted to little more than a sack of racist sausage meat piped into a tangerine skin-suit is gone.


WINTER CHILLS

Yesterday had a curious feel to it. Obama’s inauguration felt like an explosion of catharticism, with American citizens of multiple races, faiths and backgrounds openly weeping. Trump’s felt like bad dream. But Biden’s had a sense of apprehensive relief washed over it.

While yes, Trump is gone, Biden’s task is no easy one. Over 400,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus and counting. A flatlined economy. Racial tensions at their worst in decades. Armed militias threatening civil war. It’s an in-tray from the depths of hell itself, and Biden knows it.

Despite this, the day was still full of optimism. The weather, sensing an opportunity, decided to go all teenage art-student and become a fully-blown metaphor. Cold winds and snow buffeted the Capitol building, now besieged by former Presidents’ egos rather than conspiracy theorists. Despite the inclement weather, the line-up was a pretty incredible window into recent history, as they always are.

Michelle Obama looked incredible, obviously, and her husband (Barry something?) looked dapper as all hell, too. George W. Bush looked older but dignified (remember when we thought that he was a moronic president?), Bill Clinton looked gaunt, and Mike Pence looked like the kid at the birthday party who had to be invited, but who has never been popular on account of his penchant for shaving cats.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate who has been prominently critical of Trump since the Capitol attack, was present, as was Ted Cruz, who is still a Trump supporter, and who wore a mask saying “Come and Get It.” The sooner politics is rid of that supine toad, the better.

The pomp and ceremony was in as full a swing as it could be – the millions of Americans that would usually attend replaced by flags and all guests socially-distanced. Trump, if he were able to Tweet, would probably have chimed in with some stupid bollocks like, “Not the same numbers as my inauguration. The People love the OLD President!!! Fav Prez. SAD.” Thankfully, he wasn’t, so he didn’t. In fact, he was off in Florida at a party, probably enjoying his last days of freedom before he’s indicted for crimes against his country.

The military band played through all the hits, the trumpeters playing with their masks pulled down to their chins. Presumably, if one of the trumpeters were infectious, blasting out a banging version of “The Star Spangled Banner” would make the trumpet itself some kind of face-loaded coronavirus canon.

But anyway. They were probably all fine.

A couple of hitches aside, such as Ron Blunt’s microphone positioning looking like he was motorboating a miniature robo-Madonna:

…the ceremony started smoothly.

Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, the first ever “Second Gentleman of the United States,” emerged onto the podium looking every bit the part of the history they were about to make. President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill followed them soon after, and, I’m not going to lie, watching Joe Biden walk down stairs is an alarmingly heart-in-mouth affair.

Leo O’Donovan, the priest who presided over the funeral of Biden’s son, Beau, gave a moving sermon, and Biden himself looked quite close to tears. But then it was time for some star power.

Who else but Gaga.

By her standards, Lady Gaga was quite dressed-down for the occasion, wearing a black top with enormous gold brooch, and a billowy red dress/tutu/thing (I’m not good with ladies’ fashion. Or men’s fashion, actually). This prompted my Mum to quietly remark, “She looks like a loo roll holder,” and then Gaga took hold of her golden microphone and belted out the national anthem.

A prominent Democrat supporter, she looked thrilled to be there. It’s worth noting at this stage that Trump is reportedly furious with how many celebrities were a part of Biden’s inauguration and subsequent party. For his inauguration, he got something like Boyz 2 Men, Smash Mouth and Barry from Eastenders.

By contrast, Tom Hanks hosted the party that was shown after Biden’s inauguration.

Then came the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the US’s female and mixed-heritage Vice President. It was at that moment that the weather, with a pique of dramatic flair, suddenly changed to glorious sunshine.

It was quite the moment. Perhaps it’s best described by Harris’ words herself following the election victory being declared – she may be the first, but she won’t be last.

And, from one queen to another, J-Lo took to the stage next. She belted out a medley that started with “This Land Is Your Land,” which was a bit odd for me as it was the first thing I learned to play on the banjo.

You might want to turn your speakers or headphones down.

As you can imagine, her version was better. She also spoke in Spanish to the millions of Latino Americans watching, which was quite something to behold at a President’s inauguration.

And then came the moment. Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, and only slightly looked like he was forgetting the lines to repeat as they were read out. After a brief, weird pause (they were running ahead of schedule, and it’s not the swearing in that make him president – turning midday local time does, for some reason), he stood up to make his maiden speech as President.

And what a speech it was.


A TIME FOR HEALING… ONCE WE STOP DYING

The sun, fully embracing its role as a metaphor, showered Biden in wintery sunlight. The wind remained, which caught his thinning hair, and the sunshine made it look like some vanilla candyfloss was stuck to his head. But Biden had a message, and no amount of cranially-mounted confectionary would stop him.

The word unity was used in almost every sentence. The last four years have divided America in ways not seen in a generation. Biden set out his stall, and, indeed, his soul, to bringing America back together again. He called for healing, restoration and reunification, and vowed that America would face the coronavirus together.

He vowed to be a President for all Americans, and to end “The Uncivil War.”

He lamented those who used lies to sell their stories, and urged Americans to listen to the truth, rather than fabrications. It is clear that the “fake news” craze and conspiracy theories that have dogged democracy for the last few years will be challenged from the outset by the Biden administration.

He made a global pitch to America’s allies around the world, not least the UK, saying that the US would reestablish itself as a paragon of democracy and liberty. “America has been tested,” he said, “And we have come out stronger for it.” Perhaps the most stirring aspect of the speech from an international relations point of view was the brilliant turn of phrase, “We will lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

Give the speechwriter an Emmy – that is sterling work.

Biden was passionate, articulate and stirring. A true boon for American democracy, just when it needed it most. Yes, towards the end of the speech he tired a touch and some slurring of words appeared, but it is clear that this is a man who is fully intending to rally the “firebrand” label he received over many decades as a senator.

Whether or not he has the stamina we will have to wait and see. But, if his first executive actions are anything to go by (rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, reversing the withdrawal from the WHO, etc), he’s got the bit between his teeth.

For some reason Garth Brooks came out to sing Amazing Grace, which was odd. But then 22 year-old Amanda Gordon, the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate, delivered a ten minute poem about unity, and it was staggeringly good. Her mastery of English was spectacular and her message on point. Expect to see her name up in lights over the next few years.

Finally, to deliver the benediction, Rev. Dr. Sylvester Beaman delivered a prayer straight from a Gospel Church. “HALLELUJAH,” he cried.

After watching what looked like something close to sanity regaining the White House, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person around the world agreeing with him. Hallelujah, indeed.


A NEW DAWN

All of that being said, we cannot be too excited about Joe Biden.

He isn’t that same firebrand he once was, though his passion and heart still clearly remain. He takes over as a Democratic president, but his party is split into two camps much like the UK’s Labour Party – the moderates, like him, and the harder-left, like Bernie Sanders, Alexadria Ocasio-Cortez and the like.

Biden will be loathe to implement anything close to socialist policies as there is simply little stomach for it in the rural heartlands of the United States. He has vowed to be a president for all Americans and I believe he will try to stick to his word.

This isn’t to say he won’t implement his own ideologies, however. His vision for America depends on helping the worst off, and after four years of total free-market capitalism and the vast enrichment of the 1%, a division of wealth is needed across the country. What’s more, the Democrats now control the presidency, the senate, and congress, making legislation far easier than the gridlock that Obama faced during his two terms in office.

But, first things first, his in-tray. Tackling coronavirus once and for all, repairing the economy, battling climate change that has ravaged states like California, impeaching Trump. He’s got his hands full, and whether or not he will be fully up to the task remains to be seen.

There is no doubting, however, that Joe Biden Jr. is a good man. He is principled, compassionate and driven, an anathema to Trump’s divisive rhetoric. However he does, the principles behind his actions are in the right place.

The rest of the world wishes him well – he will need it.


I’ll leave you with one final image. As Biden was giving his speech yesterday, and as he became president, a lone marine sat by the grave of Biden’s deceased son, Beau. Biden has suffered huge loss and tragedy in his life, yet he remains true to the principles that guide him.

That alone makes him a far better president than Donald J Trump could ever hope to be.

#BLOCKED : Trump’s Social Media Suspension and Free Speech


And so, on Friday night, the most prolific Twitter account of all US Presidents, living or dead, (presumably) was permanently shut down.

Donald J Trump, outgoing President of the United States, was no longer allowed to tweet from both his personal Twitter account nor the official POTUS account. But that’s not all – Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch joined suit, Facebook had already suspended his account until after Joe Biden’s inauguration, and Parler, the “free speech” app, was removed from Apple and Google’s app stores.

Trump’s endless Twitter tirades were, at long last, silent.

“Hurrah!”, you might think. “For too long have we been forced to listen to incoherent ramblings of a Grade-A nutsack. Now, finally, his nonsense brought to an end. Hurray to the end of stupidity!”

And yes, there are a few obvious upsides. Since he incited mob violence at the Capitol building last week, Trump showed next to no contrition on Twitter, using it instead to praise his followers and tell them “We love you.” Now that he has lost access to his nearly 90m followers, it will be far harder for him to incite disruption or even more violence during the final days of his tenure.

This is, quite obviously, a good thing.

But there is far more to this story than simply “tangerine madman gets silenced.” There has been a debate for quite some time about exactly how Twitter and Facebook should be classified, regulated, and kept in check. There is a profoundly grey area between platform and publisher that Facebook and Twitter have been deliberately muddying in the name of profit for quite some time.

A platform takes no responsibility for the content posted on it, as it is the user’s responsibility to ensure that it is within the platform’s community guidelines. A publisher, on the other hand, has to take responsibility itself for the content posted upon it due to regulation, such as around hate speech.

Twitter and Facebook have both deemed themselves to be platforms. As such, Trump’s huge following and demand for attention meant serious money for the two tech colossi through advertising revenue. While they might not have liked what he said, it meant megabucks for them, so they let him crack on, no questions asked.

Trump’s actions over the course of the 2020 election campaign and its aftermath, however, took things to a new level. He has compacted the grey area into a more defined line – not least because whatever line now exists, Trump not only crossed it, but then took a dump on it for good measure then blamed it on Antifa.

An uneasy truce had been balanced between politics and social media for the last few years. We have seen incredibly-rapid changes in the relationship between the people and politics, and social media has been the primary catalyst for it. However, we are now starting to understand the power of social media, and the companies who wield it.

This may well be the end of the first age of digital democracy. It’s worth exploring where we go from here.


IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE TWEET…

It’s very easy to be critical of social media. God knows I have. Trolls. Racists. Lunatic fringe parties getting undue attention. It’s easy to write the whole thing off as a colossal shitshow that should just be shut down.

But to do so would be to forget some of the positive things that social media has done. While it’s easy to look at Trump’s “patriots” going postal in Washington and think, “This wouldn’t have happened without Twitter,” nor would the Black Lives Matter movement. Nor would the #MeToo movement. Or Captain Sir Tom Moore’s NHS fundraiser. The list goes on.

Social media’s deepest weakness is also its greatest strength – it gives a voice to everyone. And, in a political sense, this cannot be seen as anything other than a good thing.

Democracy only works when every person in a country can express their opinion through voting. By extension, this requires freedom of thought and freedom of speech to engage with opinions constructively. I profoundly disagree with the idea of privatising the NHS, for example, yet there are compelling arguments to be made in favour of it, such as quality of care or better resource management (or, at least, hypothetically). These arguments deserve just as much discussion as my own.

But here is where we start to see the issues. The democratic ideal of creating policy through scrutiny, debate and compromise only works when we are able to change our minds, or at least see the good in opposing arguments. Unfortunately, we currently seem to live in a world where people are more willing to hunker down with their own side than even contemplate an opponent’s point of view, even if their team has such extreme factions that they might even be overtly racist (see antisemitic Corbynistas on the far left, anti-Islamic or anti-BLM Trumpers on the far right).

How have we got here? A million different reasons. A vast expanse in the wealth gap between rich and poor. A deliberately divisive and misleading media. Geolocational viewpoints that are entirely at odds with one another (i.e. liberal, Labour-voting major cities versus more conservative rural constituencies). A First-Past-The-Post voting system that disenfranchises millions of people at every election. There’s a myriad of explanations as to why the country feels so divided – there is a pervasive underlying narrative of “Us” vs “Them.”

Social media has merely exacerbated the pre-existing malaise that was afflicting us. Hard right and hard left fringes have always existed, but now they have a means of finding other, like-minded people, rather than being confined to the backs of pubs or weird online message boards.

However, whether you like it or not, the fact that they exist is a good thing.

Why? Because freedom of speech and freedom of thought are vital to the workings of democracy. Opposing viewpoints are needed to keep the mainstream ones in check. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says in his frankly incredible video below, our democracy is like a sword – the more you temper it, the stronger it becomes.

Just watch. Seriously, just watch. Sword analogy at 5.12.

We need to have opposing viewpoints that challenge our own to ensure that our own views remain appropriate, considered and relevant. If we become lazy and fail to strengthen our own arguments, other, more insidious ones can take hold.

But in order for this to happen, the opposing views must be heard. Really, really listened to, and treated with respect, no matter how daft or insulting they are. You don’t have to respect the arguments themselves, but the person’s right to make them. Because the only way to defeat them is to have a better argument and to change the minds of those championing them.

If you ignore the arguments of someone who disagrees with you, those arguments will simply fester like a bad wound, getting more and more painful until finally – POP – the boil bursts, and it’s too late. Frustrated at not being taken seriously, opponents will go to further and further lengths to be heard. This includes disinformation and conspiracy theories like QAnon – there isn’t a morsel of reality in anything they say, but to those who have been ignored, they welcome them to the fold like long-lost family.

That is where we are with Trump. That is where we are with Brexit. That is where we are as a society. Fringe voices are summarily dismissed out-of-hand, so they simply double-down until they sound insane, but are still more representative to those that follow them than the beliefs of the status quo.

Done right, social media gives voice to those who are owed it. But those of us in the status quo are still refusing to listen.

So what does Trump’s suspension mean?


FREEDOM OF IMPEACH

For all that I’ve just said, there was little else that Twitter or Facebook could do about Trump other than suspend him. Five people are dead due to the events that unfolded at his command. He’s reportedly unstable, at odds with reality, and liable to do something profoundly dangerous (or, at least, profoundly stupid).

A man with that much power should not have a platform for inciting violence or for damaging democracy.

It’s also understandable that Trump and his supporters are apoplectic about it. Along with the removal of Parler, they feel as though their freedom of speech is being curtailed.

And they have a point, too. I can’t believe I’m agreeing with something Donald Trump Junior posted, but:

Leave it to Trump JuJu to make a relatively profound point but still tailend it with something eye-wateringly stupid. “Mao would be proud.” Do sod off.

Yes, still playing with the design software.

The decision to suspend Trump was made by Twitter itself and its CEO Jack Dorsey. At its core, it’s an editorial decision. Yes, an editorial decision to prevent loss of human life, attacks on democracy and so on, but still an editorial one.

So why aren’t other hate-speech spouters being suspended? Why is it one rule for Trump and not for others?

Put simply – because there is no regulation.

Dorsey’s Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook have long argued that they are merely platforms. They are private tech companies that have their own policies for content, which means that they cannot be treated in the same way as traditional media such as TV or newspaper journalism.

But, now that Trump has crossed the Rubicon, it’s clear that that’s not the case. The second they silenced him, they demonstrated the influence that they wield.

These two companies have more power, financially and ideologically, than the world’s great superpowers. And yet they are not elected, have no accountability to the people, and have so far even managed to evade regulation.

This is the crux of the matter, and what happens next. Social media, in the current, polarised political climate, must be regulated.

Yes, we must learn to listen. We, as a society, have a responsibility for our own democracy that doesn’t begin and end on Twitter. In fact, for all the power that it wields with influencing government decisions and news headlines, only around 22% of US and UK citizens use it. Finding an end to polarised politics doesn’t just lie with sorting out social media.

But the fact of the matter is that it makes the problem so much worse.


REGULATION STATION

So, what to do?

Over the course of the US Presidential Election, Twitter took the first steps. By adding fact-checking addendums to Trump and his cohort’s tweets, they showed some signs of understanding how dangerous the swirling cauldron of disinformation has become.

Just for balance, here’s my friend Trump Jr again demonstrating the Twitter notice:

And it’s here that I believe the tides will turn. Once factual accuracy becomes a mainstay of social media, and once the extreme fringes have fewer places to turn, the more that they will engage with reality. It’s those defending the status quo who have to listen more, but their opponents will be armed with better arguments if they aren’t derived from some spiralling, online bollocks about Barack Obama being King of the Paedos.

Social media companies must start taking responsibility for the content that’s published on their sites. And, indeed, so should traditional media, too. I am desperately keen to emphasise that I do not remotely believe in curtailing free speech and I believe more than most that arguments from all fringes should be heard. But those that are based on lies or falsehoods should be flagged as such.

To all those who complain about being “silenced”, I would give a platform. But every time the platform is given, they must be asked, “Where is your evidence?” This question must be posed every time they speak.

Every. Single. Time.

Because if we can get to a point where political discourse is about interpretation of facts again, where the debate is held sanely and respectfully, and we can learn to trust those we disagree with to act in good faith, we can start to claw our democracy back from the brink.

Because right now, make no mistake – both for our friends across the pond and for us right here at home, democracy is looking shakier than ever before.

CAPITOL PUNISHMENT : Trump Supporters Ransack Capitol Building


NB – As you might have noticed from the cover image, I was given some new design software for Christmas. I will be trialling it in this post.

Apologies in advance.


Well, folks. We made it. We got to 2021.

We dragged our way through what was certainly the strangest year of my lifetime, and probably most other people’s, too. And, while the coronavirus has mutated, is running rampant, and we find ourselves in lockdown once again, we can at least take comfort from the fact that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The vaccines, those glorious little vials of diluted evil, are our ticket out of this nightmare. And we Brits are the lucky ones – we have the most easily-produced and easily-distributed vaccine being made on our very own shores. While we’re not out of the woods yet, the end is in sight.

And so, as we sat with our families, significant others, or just on our own as the clock struck midnight last week, we had reasons to be cheerful, at long last.

2021 might, we thought, just might be the year where we can get everything back to normal, at long last.

What’s that? Trump’s incited a riot and his supporters have broken through police barriers to storm the Capitol building? Four people are dead? Trump’s been blocked on Twitter and Facebook and has been described as being, “Out of his mind?”

Wait, does he still have access to the nuclear codes?! Oh Christ. I thought a US Civil War was on the 2020 apocalypse bingo card, not 2021…

For God’s sake. Here we go again.


ORANGE GORILLA-WARFARE

Yesterday already had huge potential for unrest. The US Congress was debating the much-contested (by Trump) Presidential election result, with a view to ratifying Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President-elect and Vice President-elect. Once confirmed, there was no going back – no more legal challenges, no more denial, just acceptance. If confirmed by Congress, Biden would be inaugurated as President on the 20th of January.

And, to make the process that little bit smoother in his typical, societially-consciencious way, Trump held a massive rally in Washington DC yesterday morning. He and his lackeys spat venom at the Democrats, insisting, despite everything, that he had won the election by a landslide.

And it’s worth remembering at this point just where Trump has got to in the past few weeks. He has:

  • Filed 62 lawsuits against various states claiming that the election was fradulent, losing 61 of them (and winning a mere handful of votes in the successful one);
  • Given the Democrats control of the Senate by losing two seats in Georgia (despite calling the state’s top election official, Republican Brad Raffensperger, and asking him to illegally find him votes);
  • And made significant firings in the civil service, replacing top officials within the Pentagon and other crucial defense positions with his own loyalist puppets.

And so it was little surprise that yesterday’s rally was touted as being a final opportunity to “Stop the Steal.” Trump even said it himself.

And so it was. Trump whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

And Rudy Giuliani openly called for violence. No, really.

And so, perhaps just enjoying the last moments of his boob-ermensch Presidency, or perhaps truly wishing for civil unrest to overturn the election, Trump paved the way for what happened next.

If you can spare a few minutes to watch this astonishing report, I would highly recommend it:

Inspired by Trump’s words, thousands of furious protestors stormed the Capitol building. The building itself was ransacked, with windows smashed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sign being removed from the door and destroyed, and all politicians and civil servants evacuated.

Republicans and Trump loyalists took to Twitter to beg the protestors to stop, to no avail. Trump himself asked, begrudgingly, for peace…

But that had about as much impact as a Nerf gun fired at a concrete bunker.

Rumours spread that the National Guard refused to arrive to disperse the crowd – the Head of the Guard had recently been replaced by a Trump puppet. Eventually, arrive they did, supposedly under orders from Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice President, rather than Trump himself.

Commendably, once the protestors had dispersed, Congress gathered again later in the day and Joe Biden was confirmed as US President-elect. But the damage was already done. Scenes of carnage at the heart of US democracy were viewed across the world by allies and foes alike.

A dark day for Western democracy, indeed.

I hesitate to use a tweet from Piers Morgan, but given his nose was once so far up Donald Trump’s nethers that he could wear him as a hat, it’s perhaps fitting to use this as the defining image of the chaos:


YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’VE BEEN TANGO’ED

The depressing thing about all of this is that we saw it coming from a mile away. Being a lefty-liberal snowflake who commits the cardinal sin of listening to facts and data rather than opinions, I was genuinely surprised by how restrained Trump’s presidency has been.

Yes, I consider inciting racial hatred, suggesting bleach injections and riding roughshod over the American consitution, as he has done consistently for the last four years, to be restrained. Because yesterday the true face of Trumpism finally came out, and it could have been like that from the start. It took until the very last minute for it to emerge, but emerge it did, like a particularly angry spot finally popping on a teenager’s face.

Trump is quite clearly an underdeveloped, sociopathic narcissist. He, or at least his political advisors, cleverly positioned him as the champion of the people, despite being the son of a billionaire, albeit an emotionally-abused one. He has no concept of decency, higher power or responsibility – the only person Trump cares about is Trump.

So it’s little wonder that, rather than allow the peaceful transition of power like nigh-on every President that came before him, he instead chose to denigrate one of the most respected and authoritative positions in the world.

Trump knew no other way to behave, as he’s simply not been told “No” enough times in his life. This will be Trump’s legacy and his lasting effect on American discourse.

A sad, greasy, orange stain on the history of one of the world’s superpowers.

And what of the rioters? What of those who desecrated one of the altars of democracy?

Strangely enough, I feel more pity than anger. Yes, of course there is no place whatsoever for the kind of actions that they took. There is no excusing the damage done to both the physical manifestation of democracy and to the concept of it itself.

But when you watch the video above and you listen to these people, they aren’t anarchists. They aren’t trying to dismantle the processes of government for shits and giggles. They consider themselves to be freedom fighters, rebelling against a system that has economically left them behind and culturally left them alienated.

Trump and his merry band of fascist populists tapped into that anger. So, too, have conspiracy sites like QAnon, Flat-Earth Theorists or even Margaret From Down The Road. It is almost impossible to critically assess a theory when it aligns into your own world-experiences – “I feel abandoned, and these powerful people are telling me it’s the fault of these other powerful people.” It’s an easy pill to swallow.

So while I have no sympathy for the vandalism and violence, I have plenty for their motives. It is Biden’s unenviable task to reach out to these people and convert them, as they are soon to be abandoned by the Republicans, too. Disgusted with Trump’s behaviour, the GOP’s Faustian Pact with Trump is soon to be coming to an end, with rumours abound that Mike Pence might remove Trump from office sooner rather than later via the 25th amendment.

While a smattering of Trump loyalists might stay with him to the last, the fact that Mitch McConnell, a key figure in the Trump administration, proclaimed yesterday that the election results should stand before the riot even started, shows that it seems as though most Republicans are ready to finally wash their hands of him.

Trump’s time is up. What his followers do next, however, is anyone’s guess.

usa flag waving on white metal pole

IT’S OVER… RIGHT? : The 2020 US Election


Good grief. That was a deeply stressful few days.

Full disclosure – I wish I had been able to write about this sooner, but in a very odd turn of events I found myself on the island of Tenerife during the US election. My partner and I had a holiday booked for last Tuesday and, well… it wasn’t cancelled, the holiday provider gave us a thousand and one assurances about it being COVID-safe and the tourism industry was already on its knees…

So we went. And very lovely it was, too. Thanks for asking.

I implore you to spare a thought for my poor partner, however. All she wanted to do was unwind, relax, and pretend the world wasn’t on fire. I, on the other hand, stayed up until 2.30am most nights, watching John King relentlessly go through the state-by-state voting data like an electoral Terminator on CNN Worldwide, and spent the days glued to Twitter to watch the results come in for illustrious districts like Susquehanna, PA or Muscogee, GA.

Thankfully, my partner knows me well enough by now to allow me such indulgences. But it was all a bit surreal, watching arguably the most important election in a generation while surrounded by masked, sunburnt Englishmen pounding back the Amstels at 10am.

But, at long, long, looong last, Joe Biden was predicted to have enough votes to be named President-elect. With him comes Kamala Harris, the first female VP, the first VP with mixed heritage, and an all-round boss.

In normal times, that would be that. But, lest we forget, Donald Trump remains President of the United States for now.

And he is not going quietly.


ELECTION FRIGHT

The sentiments running up to Tuesday evening consisted of cautious optimism from the Democrats to nervous alarm from the Republicans. Opinion polls, having been running for weeks, had Joe Biden with a considerable lead over Trump, moreso even than Hillary Clinton back in 2016. Opinion polls had been wrong (so very, very wrong) in the past, but they had learnt from their mistakes, updated their methodologies, and were confident that their predictions were accurate.

Or so they said. Turns out, once again, they were wrong.

Initially, they appeared to be not just wrong, but disastrously wrong, again. At the end of election night, the clear Biden victory was nowhere to be seen. Not only were he and Trump seemingly neck-and-neck on the popular vote (i.e. who got the most number of votes overall), Trump looked like he was in line to win some of the key battleground states that Biden needed to stand a chance at gaining the presidency.

I stopped watching at around 2.30am GMT. It was clear that, after initially falling behind, Trump was going to win Florida. Florida is an exceptionally odd place, and this carries through to Presidential elections, too – it has a number of wildly variable districts within it that vary from OJ-drinking, retirement village sunset towns to bohemian, multicultural hotspots. Florida has often been the state that decides elections (e.g. Bush v. Gore, 2000), and, this time, it was Trump’s.

This did not bode well. At the very least, it proved that the predicted Biden landslide was not forthcoming. Despite the chaotic nature of his presidency, despite the embarassments, and, most of all, despite the fact that 250,000 Americans are likely to die of coronavirus because of Trump’s leadership, he was still very much in the race.

The momentum was with Trump. If trends continued without any major upsets, it looked like he was going to win a second term. But this was no ordinary election – I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a global pandemic on at the moment.

Having survived it once, it was always going to be by destiny’s hand that Trump should be undone by the coronavirus at the second time of asking.


GOING POSTAL

In the run-up to the election, Joe Biden relentlessly campaigned for voters to vote by postal ballot in advance of election day. Ostensibly, this was to protect the public – voting in the US usually results in huge queues of people waiting to exercise their democratic rights in the street. Given the coronavirus’ propensity to spread at public gatherings, Biden wanted as many people as possible to avoid the crowds on election day.

Trump, by contrast, rallied hard against postal voting. He claimed, without a shred of evidence, that it was far more likely to result in fraudulent results, to be subject to tampering, and to undermine democracy. His blasé attitude to the coronavirus was apparent in the run-up to election night, as he flew from rally to rally of thousands of crowds and encouraged them all to vote in person.

It is worth noting at this point that even though postal votes are done before election-day voting, in many states they are counted after the in-person votes on election night.

…Can you see where this is going?

Millions upon millions of Democrats voted through by postal ballot. Very few Republicans did by comparison, who voted in-person instead. As such, on election night, when the first, in-person results started coming in from the battleground states, they were heavily skewed in favour of the Republicans.

Then the postal votes started to be counted.

The best example of how Trump’s lead slowly evaporated is Pennsylvania, the state that eventually won Biden the presidency. At midnight EST on Tuesday, Trump’s lead was around 550,000. By 7am, it was at 700,000. These are big numbers for a single state, even one the size of Pennsylvania.

Then, at 10am, Trump’s meltdown began. The lead shrank to 590,000 by 10am. Early in the afternoon, Trump’s son Eric helpfully tweeted:

But as Twitter itself was starting to point out, the claims coming out of Camp Trump were unfounded, untrue and increasingly desperate. They knew what was coming.

Thus began what is hopefully the last great embarassment of Trump’s presidency – the continued, unfounded claim that the election has been fraudulent.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted:

Knowing that his lead was disappearing, he started claiming that the votes being counted were illegal and that there was vote rigging happening in the counting stations across the battleground states. He urged his supporters to prevent the rest of the count from happening in the states that he was going to lose, although perhaps unsurprisingly not in the states he was going to win.

In a moment of agonisingly painful desperation, Trump gave a statement from the White House saying that he had “won” Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania and that the continued counting was tantamount to election-rigging.

It was deeply embarassing to watch, and it was all in vain. By Friday, his lead in Pennsylvania had gone, along with his presidency.

Then, on Saturday, the media outlets began declaring for Biden. It’s a strange element of the US elections that the winner is declared before all votes are counted, but they only do so when it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that a candidate has an insurmountable lead.

CNN. MSNBC. The Associated Press. Within a few minutes of one another, they all made the call. Then, finally, Trump’s preferred broadcaster, the heavily-Republican Fox News, conceded defeat, too. Joe Biden was to be the USA’s next President.

And that was that, you would think.

And if you did, you’d be forgetting that there are still a few weeks left for 2020 to eke the last few drips of joy out of us.


T-RUMP PRESIDENT

As of Wednesday, 11th November, a full week after election night, Trump still has not conceded defeat.

He is trying to mount legal challenges in all of the states where he initially led but was then thwarted by postal ballots. He’s applying pressure on his Republican allies to stay in line, where their immediate reaction would probably be to distance themselves as far as humanly possible from an increasingly volatile rump president. And, perhaps most worryingly, he’s fired a number of Pentagon staff and is filling the roles with allies.

So. What’s going to happen?

Well, for a start, he stands as much chance of winning all his legal challenges as I do in a one-on-one wrestling match against a mountain grizzly – something very, very suprising might happen, but he’s probably going to get mauled.

His allies are, one by one, falling away, and more and more Republicans are urging him to concede defeat and not damage the party further (including, very notably, Fox News). While a few hardliners might stick around long enough to go down with a rapidly-sinking ship, it seems far more likely that as the final routes to an unearned victory disappear, Trump will start to find himself feeling very, very lonely.

And an actual coup? While the reports coming out of the Pentagon don’t make for pretty reading (he’s refusing to share vital national intelligence documents with Biden, for instance), it is, at the end of the day, a mere tantrum.

As Biden himself has said, a Trump concession would be “nice to have” but isn’t vital. Come January 20th, Trump will be evicted from the White House, or, should he refuse to go, create a logistical headache that is, at most, deeply amusing for his critics. Ultimately, though, he cannot prevent Biden from, you know, actually running the country.

So while this is all a bit alarming and deeply embarassing for the democratic process, don’t panic – it will all be over soon.

Trump hates losing. According to reports about his childhood, his emotionally-abusive father essentially refused to even acknowledge his son if he ever failed at something. It is, to use a word coined by the toussle-haired, Tango’ed tinpot totalitarian himself, sad.

He will do everything in his power to stop what’s happening. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have much power any more.


HOUSEKEEPING

A little while ago, I announced that BTL would be constructing a number of “Politics 101” cheat sheets to explain the British political system, major political philosophies and other things you want to know about. These are still under construction, but I’m hoping to have them up and running in time for Christmas.

I know, I know – just call me Santa Clause IV (One for you New Labour types).

Additionally, in the next few days I’m going to be writing a love-letter to politics in general, where I’ll explain how we can all get on a little better and try to repair the damage of the last few years. This will be an essay addressed to those on both Left and Right, and I’d hugely appreciate it if you could share it with friends and family when it’s up.

Lastly, I’ve finally caught up with the twenty-first century and have started using Instagram. While I’ve yet to construct a page for Between the Lines, I have decided to flex those creative muscles by writing three short poems a week about political goings on.

This is called Poetically Incorrect, and you can find it here. As a taster, here is the first post:

I’d be hugely grateful for a… oh god… like, share and subscribe.

That’s it. I’ve officially lost my soul.

Many thanks for reading and your continued support. We live in strange times, but they might, just might, be heading back towards normality again.

With love,

Matt, Founder and Editor

white and red flag

LACKING PANACHE-VILLE: The Final Presidential Debate


I’m not going to lie, I stocked up for last night’s debate.

The first Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was so utterly, excruciatingly bad that I wanted to gouge my eyes out, stick hot pokers in my ears and never speak to anyone again. Essentially, it made me want to deliberately emulate that famous Japanese proverb through self-mutilation.

So I had a crate of beers and some hard liquor ready, just in case I needed to block out the reality that one of these two men was going to be the leader of the free world in around 3 weeks’ time.

But last night’s debate was different. Better, I think. But different.

For a start, the new debating rules introduced a “mute” button, which the new moderator, Kristen Welker, could use to silence a candidate who spoke out of turn. The threat of being humiliated by having their microphone turned off weighed heavily on both parties.

More so on Trump, I’d wager.

But through this mutually-assured destruction pact, the debate took a, and I use this word carefully, ‘softer’ tone, and was actually more of a debate than a pissing contest. For policy wonks and politics aficionados like me, it was actually pretty interesting, especially considering how low the bar has been set for political discourse recently, both at home and across the pond.

In the end, however, it was probably pretty all completely irrelevant.


UNNECESSARY EVILS

To sum up the context of this debate, 30% of all Americans have already voted. According to opinion polls (yes, previously as accurate as a dog playing darts but significantly improved since), only around 8% of the American electorate are yet to make up their minds on who to vote for.

And the reality is that debates are held to sway the minds of voters. If a lifelong Democrat watched that debate, they’d vote for Biden. If a lifelong Republican watched that debate, they’d probably vote for Trump. And those Republicans that have run out of rope with Trump are already way over the horizon, much like our daylight at 6.30pm now that summer has gone.

I spent most of this summer stuck in a one-man flat, unable to see more than 5 other people at a time. What a year.

Anyway, this debate, this time hosted in Nashville, Tennesse, had to be a knockout blow for either candidate in order to sway the hearts and minds of the voters, or, at the very least, sow some serious doubts in the minds of opposition voters about their preferred candidates.

It did not do that.

Both candidates deserve credit for improved performances. Trump was largely respectful of both Biden and Welker, although this frayed towards the end. Biden seemed less like a crotchety grandpa shouting at radiators and made some good, salient points, although he had a weak twenty minutes in the middle of the debate.

Essentially, both candidates were prepped heavily by their staffers on how to come across and both just about fulfilled their briefs. It was a debate, not a screaming match, but it gave us nothing new.

Am I regretting my decision to stay up until 5am watching and then writing about it, though?

Yes. Yes I am.


TAKING DEBATE

While the tone of the debate was markedly different from the first, many of the same topics resurfaced. The first topic, unsurprisingly, was COVID-19, where Biden landed some good hits on Trump’s handling of the epidemic. Trump contradicted himself, refuted quotes that he himself had made earlier in the week, and generally sounded like he was completely clueless as to how to handle the situation.

Biden, by contrast, gave clear, unequivocal answers to what his plans for handling the pandemic were. The slightly worrying issue underlying this is that Biden’s answers were pragmatic but pessimistic. Trump gave no clear evidence of knowing what was happening (“We’re gonna have a vaccine in the next few weeks.” “Can you promise that?” “I can’t promise that,”) but used his rhetoric to give cause for optimism.

I don’t know about you, but if Jeremy Clarkson ran for Prime Minister tomorrow saying “I’ve got a cure, we all just have to suck on a tailpipe for 20 minutes, so everyone gets a free new exhaust and we’ll be done by Christmas”, I’d look twice. I am so utterly done with this virus that I’d probably sell a kidney just to not have to worry about it anymore.

So pity the poor folks in America who have it much worse (in many states, at least). Trump’s optimism is infectious in the face of all scientific, political and rational advice and it may yet ring true.

However, the rest of the topics of the debate were mostly won by Biden, if unconvincingly. Biden landed some good hits on Trump about his tax returns, offshore bank accounts, business dealings and all-round shadiness. This was particularly entertaining given that Trump had started the accusations himself, saying that Biden had taken millions of dollars from the Russians and the Chinese, despite there being no official evidence to back those claims.

Trump. God love ya boy, you do talk a load of utter bollocks.

But Trump still landed a few suckers of his own. Biden has good rhetoric on African-American rights and immigration, but Trump used facts and figures (I know, shock horror) about the two terms of the Obama/Biden administration to undermine Biden’s appeals.

“You had eight years, Joe. You did nothing. What makes these people think you’re gonna do anything now?”

It’s a generalisation and doesn’t begin to tell the whole story, but it is a good line of attack. Trump repeatedly called Biden “a politician”, emphasising his credentials as a businessman rather than a careerist in public affairs, and finally reignited the argument that was, to many Americans, part of his appeal in the first place.

That this line has come so late in the day, at such a nullified point in the campaign, is almost negligent.

But anyway. Some blows were landed, but no knockout blows. Except for one, by Trump, which was an absolute haymaker smashed straight into his own temple: he claimed that the only asylum-seekers who turn up for court hearings on their right to remain had, and I absolutely quote verbatim, “I hate to say this… Low IQs.”

Classy.


But this is the thing. It’s Trump. It’s expected. It’s not aimed at his base, and it doesn’t really matter. America has largely made up its mind already. Liberal-left city-dwellers are pretty uninspired by Biden but will vote for him anyway. Many Republicans might, too.

But you simply cannot underestimate Trump. We all did in 2016, and we know what happened next. Biden holds a commanding lead over him now, more so than Clinton did, but we just don’t know.

What we can probably assume is that the election was already decided long before this debate. We now just have to wait and see what happens.

For now, though, to bed. At last.

stickers with i voted inscription and flag of usa

Fly-ce Presidential Debate


Another week, another bout of insomnia, another debate. And good Lord almighty, what a week it’s been for President Trump and his inner circle.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m avoiding writing about British politics at the moment. Perhaps it’s because the weather’s changed and the air feels quite ominous. Perhaps it’s because the coronavirus fiasco is almost too much to bear when it’s on your doorstep.

But I think it’s because, in the US, the wind does seem to be starting to blow in a different direction. From the polling statistics, Joe Biden holds a not-insignificant lead over Captain Tangerine, and polling has become far more advanced since the charmingly-naïve days of predicting clear victories for both Clinton and Remain. It seems as though the American people are starting to see Trump for what he is. He has undoubtedly put a shot in the arm of the US economy, but even that will probably turn out to be bleach, as he’s famously keen to explore.

But he is, and remains, a white-supremacist apologist, a bigot, and a blabbermouthed sack of orange pulp topped with labradoodle fluff. One who’s managed to infect the entire White House with coronavirus too, it seems.

And don’t get me wrong, Joe Biden is about as inspiring a candidate as a plate of granola without the milk (and he looks a bit like a plate of granola without the milk, too). But last night’s debate saw Kamala Harris, a female, mixed-race, second-generation immigrant, take to the debating stand as his candidate for VP.

Given that Biden is 77, the choice of VP has never been more important. Thankfully, Harris came across as compassionate, likeable and competent in a debate that lacked all of the soul-crushing awfulness of last week’s, but lacked much in the way of anything, too.


Softly, Softly, Catchy Trumpy

It was clear from the get-go that the VP debate was going to have an extremely different tone to last week’s, which was less Presidential Debate than “fly-on-the-wall footage of two confused men in a geriatric ward throwing custard at one another.” Mike Pence is many things (such as anti-LGBT rights, anti-abortion, and anti-free healthcare, lol), but he is not Donald Trump. He made a point of showing respect to Harris, saying it was a “privilege” to be debating with her and, besides talking for far too long, showed little of the braggadocio of his President.

The Repulican press team had probably briefed him with four words: Don’t be like (f***ing) Trump.

As such, voices were measured and rules largely respected, but both did come out swinging. Harris called Trump’s handling of the coronavirus “the greatest failure of any presidential administration” in history. Pence said that the Democrats insinuation that the US was institutionally racist was “a great insult”.

Both sides avoided questions in less-than-convincing style, too. For instance, both refused to elaborate on any plans their parties had for succession, should either elderly Presidential candidate fall ill. Given the fact that the leader of the free world had been recently hospitalised, this seems like an appropriate time to discuss the matter.

But Pence swerved the question, and Harris used the opportunity to talk about her upbringing and how proud she was to be there. Not exactly illuminating.

But, in the end, it was what it was always going to be – a slightly boring, cagey debate where both sides stuck to the script and did or said little to set the world on fire. Pence claimed that the President had been open and transparent about the virus from day one, and that it was simply a matter of chance that he contracted it himself, drawing incredulous chuckles from Harris. Harris defended her time as being attorney general of California, during which time racial profiling actually increased under her watch.

Everything was as expected, really. And, dear reader, I’m not going to lie to you – at around 3am, I nodded off.

I wish I hadn’t, because I missed the birth of a new celebrity.


Blue-Bottled It

Mike Pence, at one point in the debate, attracted a visitor. A small, black fly.

These little critters usually only hang around corpses and actual excrement, so I will let you draw your own conclusions about Pence from there.

As you can imagine, the fly became an overnight superstar. Its Twitter page took off:

Investigative reporters realised that this fly had been in the democratic ointment before:

And, hot off the back of last week’s “Will You Shut Up, Man” t-shirts, the Biden campaign seized the opportunity to claim allegiance to the Muscoidean Machiavelli:

We now live in a world where two of the most important people in world politics are on-stage, debating one another, and the thing that gets people really talking is a common housefly.

Whoever wins the next election, don’t think that we don’t deserve them. We all do.


Trump Stakes Presidency On Show Of Strength

Look, I can’t really not talk about what happened last week. Trump, and his ever-loving wife Melania, both contracted COVID-19. Trump was taken to a military hospital, where he was given an experimental cocktail of drugs and steroids.

The comparisons with our own golden-haired gas-bag can’t be ignored – two populist leaders, for whom shows of strength are everything, both hospitalised as a result of their own bravado. Many of Johnson’s inner sanctum also had to isolate (including, of course, Bernard Castle and his old pal Dom), but the White House appears to be an all-out coronavirus hive.

It is widely believed that the virus spread at an event held in the Rose Garden celebrating Trump’s not-illegal-but-still-a-dick-move nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Not long after, Trump and Melania fell ill, as have a huge number of his wider entourage. While Trump was in hospital, his doctor and White House staffers repeatedly gave mixed messages about the President’s health. Some said that he was in very bad shape while others said he was basically already better, and his doctor gave conflicting timelines of Trump’s illness and diagnosis.

Essentially, with these clowns in charge, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Trump thought he probably had coronavirus and just cracked on anyway, infecting countless others around him.

What really took the biscuit, however, was his drive-by stunt. Still highly infectious and not even remotely recovered, Trump got in the back seat of an armoured limo and drove around the front of the hospital, waving at his supporters who had gathered out front to show solidarity.

This drew huge criticism from commentators across the entire political spectrum, not least because some poor souls from his security team had to be locked in an airtight vehicle with him. While this would be bad enough on another day, (I imagine he emenates a smell of burger farts and Trump-brand aftershave) Trump was still highly infectious. He essentially guaranteed these staffers would get the virus, or at the very least would have to self-isolate to prevent themselves from spreading it to others.

This wilful lack of compassion for his own employees is just the perfect demonstration of the type of man that Trump is – entitled, self-centred and unbelievably insecure. That he felt the need to endanger the lives of his own men for a press stunt is reprehensible.

But still. At least now the coronavirus has had a look at what it’s like to infect the very worst of humanity. Maybe it’ll rethink its strategy and just piss off.

Because, at this stage, I think that’s one thing we can all agree on – the coronavirus can absolutely do one.

abraham lincoln administration adult art

The US, Eh?


Occasionally, if there’s a lot on my mind, I go through short bouts of insomnia.

I say insomnia – it’s more being unable to sleep for more than three hours, lying in bed for what seems like eternity just letting random thoughts come and go at lightning speed.

I read once that if you can’t sleep, it’s better to try and engage with something until you really do feel tired and then have another go. Sometimes this will mean sticking on a podcast, sometimes reading a book, sometimes I put Night Shift on my iPhone and read memes until I’ve lost so many brain cells I can’t count to ten anymore.

Last night, as I lay in bed, rolling about and unable to sleep, I remembered that the first Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was taking place. Given that my body wanted to start tap-dancing more than go to sleep, I thought I’d stick it on. Two old men arguing about politics – just my kind of sleep-inducing content.

I have watched a cat run onto an A-road and get run over three times in a row.

I would rather have watched that again than the debate.

My God, I would rather have been the cat.


Trump v Biden : The Cleveland Clusterf*ck

The backdrop to this first in a series of three Presidential debates had Biden in a strong(ish) position. The latest “Presidency-ending” calamity to befall the Trump administration was the discovery by the New York Times that Trump had paid just $750 a year in income tax during the first years of his Presidency.

Al Capone, eat your trilby.

On the back of the US’s abysmal COVID management, the neverending allegations of Trump’s ties with Russia, and especially Trump’s anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric, this meant that Trump was the underdog going into the debate. Nearly all polls gave Biden a single-point national lead ahead of the Art of the Deal “author”.

Trump has little to no desire to talk about policy, but instead whips up nationalist rhetoric to aid his cause and give vigour to his supporters. His only goal last night was to get under Biden’s skin, make him show his age (Biden, 77, is older than John Major), and generally add that Trump sparkle to proceedings, which is to say: pour a big bag of hot turds all over it.

And by God did he.

The “debate” was excrutiating to watch. Trump, according to CBS news, tried to cut Biden off 73 times. The format, two uninterrupted minutes each followed by “open discussion” on each topic, was flatly ignored by Trump, who gaily kept weighing in to disrupt Biden with things you’d hear from the playground bully who’d been kicked in the head by a horse when they were little.

Chris Wallace, the moderator, had a torrid time. You could see the genuine panic in his eyes as he realised that he was having to shout down the President of the United States like he was a misbehaving child. Trump, in his indefatigably horrendous way, refused to let anyone’s voice but his be heard, and Wallace, despite his protestations, largely failed to shut the candyfloss-haired, cyst-in-a-suit up. Biden himself eventually snapped, saying “Will you shut up, man?”

Incidentally, because the world is now beyond the point of saving, this has now been made into a t-shirt.

It was an unedifying, incoherent and aggressive tyre-fire. And it was the first of three.

God have mercy.


Who “Won”?

Biden. Just. But that’s like saying he won a naked jelly-wrestling match because the other guy tripped over his own feet and drowned in the jelly. No-one came out of it with much dignity.

Biden started off shakily, clearly rattled by Trump’s bravado. He muddled words, got the concept of millions vs thousands wrong on multiple occasions, and was actually incohrent at times. But, towards the end, he rallied, and managed to get some salient points across, directly looking down the camera and speaking to the American people.

Trump, on the other hand, will think that he won because hE tAlKeD lOuDeSt AnD aRe NoW sOoPeR pReSiDeNt. But, in reality, some of his bravado could cause some him some problems in the run-up to the election.

Challenged directly on his tax returns, he said that he paid “millions in taxes,” avoiding the specific issue of income tax. The NYT wouldn’t have run the story unless they were damn sure they’d found something that would stick, so this could come back to bite him.

But then, most of the things that should have come back to bite him in the past seem to have come back and bitten a chunk off, only to watch in horror as it immediately regenerates like a bloated mutant from a knock-off anime.

Perhaps the biggest own-goal Trump smashed in from three yards out with a perfect back-heel volley was refusing to condemn white supremacists. The “Proud Boys”, the anti-ANTIFA group of racists and knuckleheads, are ardent Trump supporters. Never mind the fact that they’ve named themselves like an 1970s LGBT disco-troupe, these are the thugs who turn up to BLM protests armed with assault rifles, Confederate flags and bucketloads of fascist intent.

Trump was given the opportunity to condemn them, but instead told them to “stand down and stand by.”

This, within the context of the final topic of debate, postal voting, suggests that the November elections might be even more horrific than we think.


Going Postal

Given that the coronavirus is tearing through the US like a firenado through a cornfield (yes, firenados are a thing), Biden has been urging people to use their postal vote rather than turn up in person. You know, so as to avoid further unnecessary deaths, protect the elderly, yadda yadda yadda.

Trump, by contrast, doesn’t care much for postal voting, not least because he knows that it gives the Democrats the best chance to oust him from power. There has been considerable toing and froing on the subject – Trump laid accusations of postal ballot boxes going missing and being dumped in rivers. Biden countered with claims from Trump’s own civil servants that it’s actually perfectly safe to do a postal vote.

Biden used the last few moments of the debate to encourage people to vote as early as possible, whereas Trump claimed, again, that postal voting was going to cause a “mass conspiracy” and that it would be a “crooked” result. Additionally, postal voting takes far longer to count, so while either side might claim victory on November the 3rd, it might take quite a while for that victory to actually be verified.

And, with Trump’s Proud Little Bois “on standby”, there is every reason to suggest that if Trump loses, he will simply refuse to allow it to happen. Given his nature, is it really so extreme to suggest that he might call upon his hillbilly army to prevent a democratic outcome?

Having watched the debate last night, I’m sorry to say that I think there’s every chance he’ll do it. The US may well see violence on its streets after an election. Democracy itself will be at stake.

What a mess America is in.

It almost makes me want to give Boris a hug.


It’s good to be back! Between the Lines has been away for quite some time due to a number of factors, but we’re going to do our best to be semi-regular again. There’s plenty to talk about and plenty to be angry about, but try to stay positive – we’ll all survive this mess yet.

If you have any topics that you’d like to see written about or explained, then please do get in touch.

With love to you and yours,

Matt, Between the Lines