Ronald Reagan once referred to the formerly commonplace occurrence of the peaceful transition of presidential power in America as “nothing less than a miracle.” In an unbroken chain since John Adams took over from George Washington, every handoff from the sitting president to the president-elect has been marked, if not by perfect peace, then the positive recognition that the transfer was legitimately and Constitutionally sanctioned.
This Constitutionally guaranteed transition of presidential power is a hallmark of the American political landscape and an exemplar for all American elections from local to national. We Americans sometimes forget to appreciate this miracle, having been raised in its midst every four years of our lives. I was born in a presidential election year, so I was an immediate beneficiary of that miracle before I could even talk.
In a world where the death of a monarch could lead to rampant chaos and war, where nearly every transition or potential transition was a hair-raising ordeal, America stood alone as a shining example on a hill, having finally solved mankind’s ancient problem of the handover of power.
Until now. Thanks to Donald Trump, every election that Republicans lose is marked with suspicion and claims that it was rigged. Many Republican candidates flatly refuse to entertain the possibility that they will lose. This new attitude has become baked-in and automatic. It has become a new form of Republican terrorism. Now our elections are grim affairs, characterised by worry, tempered by the chilling effect of the violence a legitimate victory may bring.
This is perhaps Donald Trump’s most toxic legacy to us, and one that could remain a force in American politics long after he is dead. That he is allowed to roam free and hold rallies in the service of this new terrorism is an injustice that can scarcely be borne. Nothing less than a long prison sentence for Trump will serve, and damn the consequences. Fiat justitia ruat caelum — “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”
Another American miracle is the Constitutional guarantee of Due Process. That its progress in Trump’s case is sometimes maddingly slow is a source of enormous frustration to all rational Americans. As a result we are caught in an awful conundrum. Trump continues to commit crimes against our most sacred tradition while the snail of justice creeps slowly forward to catch him. If you are frustrated you have every right to be. No one should be permitted to spread such deadly poison unchecked.
Trump has refurbished his gold-plated Boeing 757 — which he pathetically refers to as “Trump Force One” — to begin his presidential campaign for 2024. It would be an incomparable travesty of justice if he is permitted to galavant around the country and hold rally after rally spreading the lies that are so deeply undermining America’s most sacred tradition. He erodes that Constitutionally enshrined tradition every time he opens his lying mouth.
We must fight back. We must vote. Trump’s most poisonous legacy to us could be America’s undoing. We cannot, we must not, permit this sad, little man to destroy the most powerful nation on earth. If we do then a world of disproportion awaits us, and we live in a universe that is truly absurd. I don’t believe we do. I believe in America. Let’s believe in America together. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.