Healing the Nation after Trump
By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz
I am less worried about how firmly Trump is disciplined than about how focused our leaders are on the future of America. We are facing a severe pandemic, a major economic crisis, a rural-urban political split and a growing national ideological societal divide. A diversity-sensitive approach to Trump and the movement he represents is needed today. Trump would not have been elected in a society of widespread tolerance.
What happened in Washington on January 6 brings back painful memories from my Lebanon in the early seventies. I used to tell my students in Beirut, “we are going to a civil war” if we do not learn how to talk to our neighbor who looks or thinks differently. In a very short time, Lebanon turned from being the “Switzerland of the Middle East” to a state which models self-destruction. Out of all the social and political ills I observed in Lebanon, I found the two most lethal factors to social integration and state integrity were militia proliferation and ascendance of power of religious authorities.
When I reflect on the worsening situation of my new adopted country today, I wonder. I witness a growing role of triumphal religion in politics and unbelievable tolerance for armed groups. I am counting on America’s ability to self-correct.
In the wake of the January 6 Capitol breach, there is much talk in Washington about impeaching or removing the outgoing US President, but there is not enough recognition that nearly half of this nation has recently voted for him.
Trump will likely be impeached again by the House of Representatives, as early as next week. And impeachment, he deserves. But he will not be put on trial before he leaves office-on the 20th of this month; there is no time and no readiness for that in the current Republican-led Senate.
I am satisfied that Trump will not be indicted. Indictment may be processed by his supporters as a form of political crucifixion. To avoid unexpected consequences, Trump could finish his four-year term naturally. Let Trump dig his own hole; he is good at it.
If a procedural overkill takes place Trump may emerge as a martyr- with enhanced charisma. In a new image, he would be better able to lead his opposition groups which have very different motives: White supremacists, isolated and under-serviced rural communities, extreme conservative churches, gun lobby establishments, militias, and cult-groups of one sort or another – indeed a wide mix of unsatisfied communities.
The smarter we are in dealing with our social, economic and cultural problems, the less we have to worry about Trump after he leaves office. When Present Elect Joe Biden was asked about how Trump should be held accountable, he sidestepped the question and reminded us that his focus is on assuming power soon, to start dealing with pressing issues of survival, recovery and societal healing. https://www.stltoday.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/biden-doesnt-take-position-on-trumps-possible-impeachment/article_a5339a7c-3541-5166-9bf4-b904063b071c.html
When asked if his job has become more difficult after the Trump-instigated attack on the Capitol, he may have surprised the press by saying that the insurrection made his task easier. Why? Biden was inspired to witness (during the Capitol break-in) a rare moment of a bipartisan response in problem solving, albeit for a few hours. Both sides instantly realized that they are under the threat of a mob which targets the Republic. On this subject read Bipartisan Disgust Could Save the Republic, a thoughtful editorial by Susan Milligan in U.S News and World Report. After Capitol Riot, Bipartisan Disgust Could Save the Republic | The Report | US News
While Trump’s political future prospects have started to weaken, his populist opposition movement remains strong; it certainly deserves creative and smart attention from the entire nation. And Biden already looks pastoral and wonderfully presidential.
Trump’s leadership is destined to have a short shelf-life. He is increasingly receiving rejection. Many of his political allies have spoken strongly against his “unacceptable” role in inciting the masses and interfering in the certification of the presidency. Many on his staff have resigned. Two of his cabinet secretaries have quit in protest. Social media outlets have barred his access. The media is active in detailing his deviance and the culture of disinformation which he has cultivated. After Capitol Riot, Resignations and Calls for Trump’s Removal – WSJ
When a leader suffers a grave mix of mental imbalance and character disorder, he is bound to gradually weaken the morale of his movement and lose credibility fast. He leaves office with a bad record: a one-term president and a factor in the loss of the Republican Party’s control of the two chambers.
In an environment of multiple crises, policy makers can no longer afford to waste time and energy on fighting secondary issues, while leaving the essential legislative agenda largely ignored. In humiliating Trump before his departure from office, it would be more difficult for the Democratic Party to engage with the Republicans to come up with bold, bipartisan programs of healing and reform.
Looking more specifically, America faces overwhelming problems: a pandemic, an economic crisis, deepening contrast between rich and poor, polarizing political parties, growing power of media and churches in the political arena, an overstretched military overseas and a rising tide of populism and institutional racism. In such a predicament, the new administration must focus on addressing the fears and needs of all Americans, on all sides and all ideologies. Many of the white communities- which were made to feel deprived, angry or alienated from Washington- have fallen victims to the manipulative leadership of Donald Trump. Others actors have exploited the naivety of the president. Think of the many extreme Evangelical church leaders, who betrayed Christ to “save” the rich and the powerful. To engage hard-to-reach groups it may be better to leave Trump alone to discredit himself. Local courts are also waiting to “take care” of him
Given the highly nervous national mood and the piling country challenges, a too severe disciplinary approach to Trump and Trumpism may backfire. To unite America, a paradigm shift in leadership and policies is required. The America we are proud of is a place for all. If I have to emphasize one concept, it would be “forgiveness”.
A century ago, the renowned Lebanese American poet Gibran chastised his Lebanon for having “too much religion and too little faith”; in his grave today, he might wonder if America has too much liberty and too little equity.
So much is left for Biden and his team.