THOUGH many of us don’t know Murphy (or Sod, for those of us who are more Commonwealth-inclined), most of us are familiar with his law. “If anything can go wrong, it will.”
Perhaps no bigger demonstration of this law just ended, in the person and presidency of Donald J. Trump. No other phenomenon in modern times could probably be considered a big mistake that continued to fester and become more gangrenous, than the election of someone who was arguably not fit for office, and yet was able to exert his flawed influence on the American political landscape.
And speaking of sayings, one other truth that Trump demonstrated is perhaps the adage that “it’s going to get worse, before it gets better.”
The sore that was Donald Trump did not begin with his election, but well before that – during the presidency of Barack Obama. The first Black president of the United States, popular as he was for being a historical first in many respects, was also a very divisive figure in the eyes of many Americans, who still could not bring themselves to accept the fact that they are living in 21st century America, rather than the segregationist era of mid-20th century USA.
The truth is, even in today’s America there are still elements of society who could not bring themselves to accept the concept of all men being created equal. Or maybe they could, if only all men were of the same color of their skin, worshipped the same god that they prayed to, and believed in the same political creed that they did. Never mind that Obama was a Christian who was, at best, moderate in his views. He looked different enough to merit suspicion, and thus became the focal point of the ire of those who saw in him the erosion of their mental image of America.
In their anger, Trump saw an opportunity to increase his own political capital. Championing the conspiracy theory of birtherism, he began to openly question Obama’s citizenship, claiming that he could not have been president since he was not a natural-born American, as the constitution calls for. In truth, this was all a big lie. Obama was born in Hawaii, which is very much part of the United States. But this did not stop him from peddling his giant piece of misinformation, around which the disenchanted section of America who had doubts about Obama eventually coalesced.
Against all the odds, Trump rode his big lie all the way to the presidency in 2016, beating someone with all the right political background and pedigree in Hillary Clinton. And all through the four years of his presidency, his favorite whipping boy was Barack Obama, with his entire presidential focus intent on overturning everything that was from the Obama years.
As much of an annoying mistake that Trump was, however, America is well advised to dismiss his following at its own peril. Though he capitalized on a side of the country that is dark and must be eradicated at all costs, he also managed to string along with him a large section of the population who were not necessarily racist nor bigoted, but who felt that he was receptive to their voice and prepared to champion their sense of disenfranchisement.
Which is why the inaugural message of President Joe Biden gives so much hope and encouragement not just to Trump’s opponents, but to all of America. His key priorities are much of the same grievances that Trump’s supporters felt so strongly about. He plans to fight the pandemic and jumpstart the moribund state of the economy — which are the very same issues that those who initially opposed him are trying to advance, albeit envisioned slightly differently.
So all is not lost, even with the gaping political division that culminated in the horrific events of the 6th of January. Certainly it will be a tricky path to navigate, but with a president in Biden who has had his fair share of pain and tragedy to personally navigate, perhaps no other leader is better placed to pull America through this most trying period of the post-Trump presidency.