Wed | Mar 3, 2021

Peter Espeut | The enemy within remains healthy

Published:Friday | January 22, 2021 | 12:05 AM

Millions of citizens and residents of the United States (US) and billions of others around the world are delighted to see the back of Donald Trump as he exits the world stage as US president. While he was in the White House the world was less stable, less healthy, and a lot less safer.

The Biden-Harris ticket got the anti-Trump vote and won the election, largely because Uncle Donald made himself unelectable to many; he appeared unmoved as millions of Americans were infected and hundreds of thousands died from COVID-19, and did little that would have turned back the pandemic. As much as the religious right supported him because of his anti-abortion and anti-LGBT stance, his chronic pathological lies, his racist rhetoric, and his anti-environmentalism took its toll.

Nevertheless, more than 74 million Americans voted for him in 2020 – more votes than he got in 2016; and he got only 8.6 per cent less than the 81 million cast for Biden. A hard, cold analysis will suggest that despite the joyful public celebrations on Wednesday accompanying the Biden-Harris inauguration, the US is a profoundly divided country. Possibly as many Americans were grinding their teeth as were celebrating.

The unknown number of thousands of Trump supporters that stormed the US Capitol building on January 6 – many of them armed militiamen – in an unprecedented challenge to constituted authority, are evidence that all is not well with our large neighbour to the north. President Biden may well find the white masses difficult to govern over the next four years.

Barack Obama he is not. I thought his inauguration speech was only ordinary. It is unlikely that Biden will develop the oomph! to unite his divided nation.

In his farewell speech earlier on Wednesday, Donald Trump ominously declared that “we will be back in some form”. I doubt that he personally will again run for the US presidency; I think the Republican Party will wisely judge him to be unelectable; he may even (with significant Republican support) be convicted by the US Senate, and serve jail time. No: Trump will not personally be back in the White House.


But a less obnoxious Trump ‘clone’ may have a chance in 2024. The 74 million and January 6 point to that possibility, and so he may indeed “be back in some form”. The issues which urged so many tens of millions of Americans to vote for him in 2016 and 2020 will be exacerbated under Biden and Harris, increasing the already-widespread disaffection with the policies of the Democratic Party.

At 78 years old, Joseph Biden is the oldest president of the United States; he will be 82 in 2024, and after an unremarkable presidency, is unlikely to seek a second term.

Kamala Harris, however, is a hot item. She will be only 60 years old in 2024, and may shine by comparison over the next four years; yet her views on abortion, etc might very well exacerbate the divisions within the US electorate, and usher in ‘Trump 2’.

There are interesting days ahead for the US.

In the mean time, elements in the US media which have sharpened their wit and have focused on little else than the foibles of ‘The Donald’ over the last four years, may find Biden a little bland. He will have a short honeymoon.

We here in Jamaica have our own problems to solve. I will never forget May 23, 2010, when gunmen allied to the Jamaica Labour Party garrison of Tivoli Gardens, commanded by Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, attacked the Denham Town, Darling Street, Fletcher’s Land and Hannah Town police stations, a powerful public challenge to constituted authority. I thought at the time we were in the middle of a coup attempt!

The assault on Jamaican democracy that our several political garrisons constitute has not been seriously addressed by any government, even as gang warfare skyrockets our murder figures. We will never substantially reduce murders and extortion in Jamaica until the garrisons are dismantled, and the political thinking behind them is discarded.

Peter Espeut is a sociologist and development scientist. Send feedback to