One of western journalism’s most insightful and experienced editors has said “there is no doubt [US President Donald] Trump is in some respects mentally ill. He’s desperate, he’s lashing out” and has gone on to express deep concern about a million militia march the outgoing US president has called for this weekend to protest what he (Trump) calls the stolen election.
Edward Luce, the US national editor of the highly acclaimed British paper the Financial Times, says that after last Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol by Trump’s supporters, this proposed march could presage another day of disturbing and distressing violence. What’s worse, Luce points out, is that the organisers of this march have asked their supporters to come armed to Washington.
In a 29-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Luce says: “I’m extremely worried. The American Republic is extremely fragile.” To underline his concern and fear, the journalist explained that many of the police forces in the US have a substantial number of Trump supporters in their ranks. He also claimed that a lot of people who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were off-duty police officers.
Luce said that the storming of the Capitol “was an attempted coup”. He said the broad base of American opinion was “horrified” by Wednesday’s developments. However, “a significant minority” shares the views of the mob that the election was stolen and that radical action is needed. He said different realities seem to be at work in the country.
Speaking about Trump’s Republican Party, Luce said, “The GOP has become an ultra-national Trumpian party which tolerates white supremacists.” Although some senior Republicans like the governors of Maryland and Vermont and Congressmen like Adam Kinzinger have called for action against Trump, the majority of Republican members of Congress (both the Senate and the House) have remained silent, either opportunistically because they believe this would further their careers or out of genuine commitment to Trumpism.
Luce told The Wire that the first big challenge facing the US is this weekend’s million militia march. It is scheduled to take place just before Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Thereafter, once Biden becomes president, the deep and wide divide in American society will be his greatest challenge, the journalist said.
Asked about Biden’s ability to handle this challenge, Luce said, “It’s a Herculean challenge and the divide will take a lot more than just good intentions to overcome it.”
Luce said Trump is “a horribly metastasized symptom of an old problem”. He described the problem as a profound cynicism about politics, white male alienation, sharpening economic inequality and the hollowing out of jobs for the middle class.
Speaking about moves by Democrats to either encourage vice president Mike Pence to move the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office or to impeach the US President, Luce said such an outcome was unlikely. He suggested that many in the mob on Wednesday were looking to physically attack or kill the vice president and awareness of the threat he faces could deter Pence from taking such action against the president.
On the other hand, Luce believes that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in the House of Representatives will start impeachment proceedings this week and they have the numbers to ensure Trump is impeached. However, it’s more than likely that a trial in the Senate will only happen after a gap of time, to enable the Biden administration to first push through its top nominees as well as important legislation and policies.
Speaking about the incoming Biden administration, Luce told The Wire that there are “very low chances of big radical reforms passing Congress”. However, he said Biden “can do a lot in terms of executive action and tone-setting”. He added that Biden “can make a big difference on the vaccine rollout”.
However, Biden’s plans for a Summit of Democracies will now be almost impossible to implement. After the recent storming of the Capitol, Luce said “the world does not want to hear American lectures on democracy and the rule of law”.
Finally, Luce said that “America’s image is hugely battered”. He said the paradox is that Trump may have sought to make America great again but he’s ended up making “America incalculably weaker”.
The above is a paraphrased precis of Edward Luce’s interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire. Although not inaccurate it’s recounted from memory. Please see the full interview for a proper and detailed appreciation and understanding of the many points made by Edward Luce.