Tom Lehrer famously said that satire was killed stone dead when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc To in 1973. After all how could one invent a fiction more absurd. I had a similar reaction when, watching a retrospective for 2020, I saw President Trump explain the benefits of bleach and sub-cutaneous light for curing Covid. The mystery, I thought then, was how did such a narcissistic buffoon get elected in 2016 and even more remarkably how did he manage to persuade 74 million voters to support him second time round?
Now the mystery has deepened. Having lost the election by a clear margin the President claims he has been robbed. That is unsurprising.
The mystery is why anyone else should accept his claim- but they do. 70% of Republicans think that the election was not free and fair. 78% think that mail in ballots were fraudulent despite their being used in countless elections until now and 72% think that ballots were tampered with, in the absence of any supporting evidence whatsoever.
Even after the appalling scenes we have witnessed on our screens during the last week there are still millions of registered voters in the USA who believe that Trump is their lawful president. This is despite the fact that sixty legal challenges have been thrown out by the courts, many of them by the Supreme Court, packed as it is by Trump’s nominees.
These scenes not only showed the extraordinary malevolent intentions of this President, his contempt for the constitution and for the rule of law but also his utter incompetence. Bearing in mind the very high stakes in sending the mob off to the capitol, there is no sign at all, that he, or they, had any plan worked out, or any idea how they would accomplish his objective.
Still there are people who believe that not only should he have won the election but that he actually did so.
Why, one must ask? The answer is clear; the President’s own statements are the only evidence to support the claim.
We should not underestimate, however, how serious that evidence is. We are hard wired by evolution to believe the things we are told, particularly by people in authority.
Parents and leaders generally have the best interests of their children and followers at heart. People who follow what they are told have a better chance of survival. Of course politicians often tell lies.
President Trump lied on a different scale.
The Washington Post’s Fact checking service counted no fewer than 29,058 lies or misleading statements on his part putting him in a different league to all other politicians. Hardly surprising in a politician who made his debut advancing the birther lie that Obama was not a natural born American and therefore not eligible to be president of the United States
Democratic politics is based on the principle that there is room for doubt. We are not going to agree with every decision of the electorate.
In the case of President Trump, however, things were different; in picking him the electorate found someone uniquely unqualified for the task. Not only did he not believe in the rules of the democratic ritual he was utterly unfit to take part in them.
So how come, he did so with, until recently, such triumphant success?
The answer must be attributed to the groundswell of neo conservative opinion which has welled up on both sides of the pond. There are always conspiracy theories which are supported by sizeable elements of the population.
Trump supporters like Brexiteers are prone to many of them.
25% of them believe that the truth about vaccines is being hidden from the public 22% that secret plots to harm their country are more common than in other countries. 47% agree with their leader that, contrary to the opinions of 97% of scientists, climate change is a hoax.
Lest we in the UK become complacent, 31% of Brexit voters who after all were a majority in 2016, believe that there is a secret plot to instal a Muslim majority in this country.
The numbers of these delusional people are being swelled by journalists and opinion makers who accuse Biden and liberals generally of all sorts of outlandish charges which are more true of their own side.
It is because the so-called mainstream right have drifted so far out of their normal compass that these loony tunes have become respectable.
To our credit most Jewish voters did not go for Trump but to our shame, many orthodox Rabbis and a large majority of Orthodox voters did. Some of them even took part in last week’s antics and show no remorse.
The message of these people like their counterparts in Israel is one of othering; other groups of people threaten us and want to destroy us, be they Muslims, Mexicans ,black people or Palestinians.
This is a terrible message in a multicultural society and in a multi -national world.
Trump has been beaten but the poison of Trumpism remains. It is for the mainstream right to recognise it for the menace that it is-to bring the force of the criminal law to bear against the people responsible for the bloody events of last week. Punishing those involved and rooting the menace of Trumpism out wherever it remains is the most important challenge now facing us. Let’s hope we will be equal to the task.