I remember the feeling of joy and hope that washed over me when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. It was a huge victory; The Whitehouse and both chambers of Congress comfortably in blue hands. I have a vivd memory of sitting alone, watching the victory speech through teary eyes at some ludicrous time in the middle of the London night. I felt so much hope for America, and by extension, for the world.
I had no understanding at all about the effect this would have on American politics, and on America itself. The election of a charismatic, intelligent black man to the Presidency did not cause the subsequent bubbling up of resentment, anger and outrage which became the modern day tea party movement and which led ultimately to Donald Trump. But it was certainly a catalyst. The hornets' nest had been kicked.
Fox News and other right wing media channels capitalised on the hate and fear and and this in turn created more hate and fear.
Trump's election in 2016 allowed this base to feel vindicated. White supremacy forums echoed with chants of "Our guy did it". In 2017 David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan tweeted 'Thank God for Trump!' Trump's toxicity osmosed downwards through government to the people. The unacceptable became the normal (think Scott Pruitt's personal power trips at the EPA) and previously impermissible expressions of hatred and bigotry were elevated to normalcy along with the notion of very fine people on both sides.
As the 2020 election grew closer it was clear from polling that Trump was likely to lose.
His mishandling of the Covid crisis was a significant factor, but Joe Biden had always polled ahead of Trump in one on one polls and there was no reason for anyone on Trump's team to think that this would be different come Election Day.
Knowing that he was likely heading for a loss, Trump set about trying to stack the deck.
He installed Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General who immediately set about demolishing and crippling the USPS in order to slow the mail in the hope of subverting huge numbers of mail-in ballots.
Trump also began a systematic propaganda campaign complaining of widespread voter fraud connected to absentee ballots. He even got his corrupt Attorney General Bill Barr to aver (despite a total void of evidence) that voting by mail was a significant source of fraud.
In the wake of the election, the Orwellian mind games continued.
Republican state legislators (at Trump's bidding no doubt) had manufactured the needless delay in processing absentee ballots that enabled Trump's claims that they were stealing his election night victory.
Then Trump proceeded to the courts with his clownish team of crooked lawyers who got slaughtered in what must surely be the most humiliating series of legal defeats connected to one issue in history.
And of course we all know what happened next.
Democracy in the US survived the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol as much by luck as due to the bravery of those who protected members of Congress gathered to certify the election.
It could have been worse. A lot worse.
And now with Biden and Harris installed in the seat of power, the hornets' nest has not just been kicked. It's been smashed open with a baseball bat.
Donald Trump has activated a foe we now face on three fronts:
1) A significant number of people, mostly armed, and radicalised as much as any ISIS insurgent, who have shown a willingness to do violence and murder on fellow citizens in the name of regaining what they feel has been stolen from them.
2) A number of Republican controlled state legislatures who will be enacting voter suppression on a level never seen before. This will be done with unreasonable prescriptions and limitations on voting, all designed to make it more difficult for those likely to vote for Democrats (this usually means African Americans) to vote. There will be attempts to empower the legislators to overrule election results they don't like should those suppression efforts fail to do the job.
Many of these cases will end up in the courts where no doubt McConnell and Trump's legion of unqualified judges will repay what they owe to those who invested them with lifetime appointments.
3) Republicans in Congress had their chance to break with Trump. Collectively they chose not to. Trump is still the head of the Republican Party as it exists today. He has moulded them into a party of white supremacy, racism, and toxic nationalism. And they now have an anti-democracy agenda even more pernicious than anything they had before.
The normal cycle of things is for those who lose an election to be activated by defeat.
But we must be activated in victory or the victory will be short lived.
We must act as if US democracy is under as much threat now as it was when the horde stormed the seat of power. Because it is.