By Lindsay Slogrove
Do you remember where you were when you heard the news?
It was the very early Daily News shift and the shock was brutal. Just about every one of us in the newsroom drew in shocked gasps and uttered expressions of horror.
Donald Trump had won. This was not the history we were all prepared to witness. We produced the headlines that day in 2016 in a state of – to steal some apt phrases – fire and fury, while being strongly, bigly and powerfully confused.
His deeply unpopular Democrat opponent, Hillary Clinton, had narrowly but consistently led the polls. We believed them, then.
We assumed, given Trump’s obscene Access Hollywood tapes, in which he admitted to sexual assault, and stood accused of a variety of other business and personal scandals, no one could want a bad reality TV host as their president.
Clinton won the popular vote, by about 3 million votes, but the US Electoral College handed Trump the presidency. It was not our election, so why did we care? Because things that country’s leaders do or don’t do reverberate around the world.
Peace treaties, trade pacts, environmental agreements, financial backing for developing nations, world bodies like the UN, World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation, were dumped or thrown into chaos by his regime.
We may not have a vote in their elections, but it sure as hell affects us and the rest of the world and its geopolitics.
When Covid-19 came along, it put the US under a microscope. For many Americans who believed in their exceptionalism, and large parts of the world which had bought the American Dream myth, the exposure revealed a seething mess of anger, racism, worker exploitation and a chasmic (can I make that word up? It’s a good one) wealth gap. Ultra right-wing groups, some armed to the teeth, were told by Trump to stand back and stand by.
During a deadly pandemic, gold-standard organisations like the Centres for Disease Control and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Niaid) have been tainted by political interference and lack of global trust because of meddling and spin-doctoring by Trump and his cronies.
These are the scientists who played a huge part in the international fight against HIV, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers). Now, much of the world is doing its own thing because no one knows what is fact and what is White House election spin.
The head of Niaid, Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the world’s most respected and trusted experts on epidemics, has frequently felt the wrath of Trump and his allies because he will not toe Trump’s line. Last week, Fauci revealed he and his family now have a security detail because of death threats. And still Trump has attacked him, over and over.
Even more perplexing is that Trump is still supported by about 40% of the US electorate, and, depending on voter suppression and the Electoral College, could win re-election. Should former vice-president Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris carry the day (or however long it takes to sort out the voting), they will have more than the 12 labours of Hercules to salvage the Trump firestorm.
I’ve taken leave to watch the results. More than just the US is at stake on November 3.
- Slogrove is the news editor
The Independent on Saturday