If there is one thing this year’s American elections have taught me, it is that journalism was perhaps not the best career choice. The only way to go, in this increasingly deranged world, is the path of law. It’s the lawyers who take the often unwilling citizenry to the courts, the lawyers who shake an issue by the scruff of its neck and the lawyers who provide clarification.
At the time of writing, I have no idea who has won the US presidential election, so it seems this column is a bit of a hostage to fortune. All I can confidently predict is that a man in his 70s will win, although one wag on Twitter suggested that Joe Biden, now 77, was likely to be dead by the time every single ballot was counted.
It shouldn’t be a secret that I am firmly in the Anyone But Trump camp. I can’t say I understand why a man who has been president for four years has been campaigning with the slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’, which was all very fine and well in 2016 but today rather suggests that he didn’t succeed during his term in office.
As for the arcane mysteries of the US voting system and the Electoral College, I have good and close American friends and every time there is an election I ask them to explain how it works, only for all understanding to evaporate almost as soon as the count is over.
This year, however, we can’t even safely say when the election is over, since some states are allowed to count votes for up to nine days after election day itself.
If there is another, more serious lesson to be drawn from the US elections, it is that words matter — and their interpretation matters more.
When Donald Trump straddles the world stage and flat-out lies, or invents ‘fake news’, then no one knows whom to trust, and violence often ensues.
When Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, willingly attended anti-Oslo Accords demonstrations at which the then premier Yitzhak Rabin was portrayed as a Nazi, or figured in a mock funeral, no one should have been surprised at the tragic outcome – Rabin’s assassination, 25 years ago this month.
This is the same Netanyahu, of course, who today freely indulges in inflammatory language but complains bitterly about “threats” to him and his family.
And, inevitably, we have the so-called lifelong campaigner against antisemitism, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who practically turned himself into a pretzel in order both to rail against the rulings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, while stating he accepted its findings.
Fortunately, the Labour Party, for once, saw sense and Corbyn was suspended, pending investigation. It is my fervent hope that he is finally expelled, although I’m not holding my breath.
Whatever the final outcome of the American elections, the process has revealed a country terribly divided, ravaged by Covid-19 and seemingly unable to get past the lies and buffoonery of the 45th president.
Eventually, one way or the other, some part of the procedure will end up in the courts. Trump spent the week before the election threatening legal action if he lost.
I rather liked the response of former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, a Democratic campaigner. Asked about Trump’s threats, she smiled. “We have lawyers too,” she said.