Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration is finally upon us. It can be seen in many ways as a restoration of sorts, after the turmoil of the last four years which have badly exposed the crumbling facade of this now largely failing nation-state.
The United States has in Donald Trump’s tenure proven incapable of handling a pandemic like a developed nation would be expected to, seen a full on if clumsy coup attempt on the seat of power, a growing alignment between this country and non-liberal authoritarian governments which amounts to a rejection of traditional American values, an ever-increasing wage gap, daily intrigue coming from the chief executive and so much more. All of this has demonstrated, the United States is in decline. But it is terminal?
I have long said you cannot understand American History (or that of the larger British Empire) without studying and understanding the Civil Wars and political divisions that plagued the British Isles from the 1630’s to the 1660’s. That period has long informed me as a “starting point” from the Anglosphere over the next 400+ years. However, it is now that period that informs us as to the America of the Trump era.
The Trump movement has reminded me of the English Parliamentarians of Oliver Cromwell’s time. A combination of those who detested established power, institutional precedent and had an overzealous religious streak. A movement that has used innovative mass media (in the case of the Parliamentarians it was the printing press innovations that led to a widespread pamphleteer movement) to convert the masses. A group of leaders unwilling or incapable of having respectful discussions with those who believe differently than them. A group whose presence in power tore apart nation-states.
Propaganda in the form of pamphlets and books brought the Cromwellian and Puritanical message to the masses the same way social media and right-wing entertainment channels (which claim to report “news”). Cromwell and his allies roused the passions of people who had never thought much about politics or leadership against the King and elites. But in some parts of the King’s domain, most notably Ireland and Scotland, the views were entirely different – almost like the coastal areas of the United States today.
Cromwellian ideology revolved heavily around puritanical religion and a virulent opposition to Catholicism – similar to today’s race-baiting by Trumpists. The professed religious piety of the Parliamentarians mirrors the phony “Christianity” of so many Trump followers – grifters who have used non-denominational or non-mainline Protestantism to create a right-wing political movement with little in common with actual biblical teachings.
Trump’s coalition resembles that of Cromwell’s in a modern sense and just like Cromwell, the aftermath of the beheading of King Charles I, was followed by fanatical efforts to “drain the swamp” of Royalists and those sympathetic to Catholics. England became a Republic for a short period, but it was a Republic run by religious fanatics and those without a real grasp of the population- and the Parliamentary Republic was never accepted in Ireland and Scotland (explaining why Ireland and Scotland shared a king with England but were not part of the same nation-state in the 17th Century is too complicated for this writing – in fact Scotland did not always share the same king or queen as England and had been a rival Kingdom for centuries. Ireland did share a king or queen with England for much of its post-Medieval history until 1922).
Cromwell committed what we might in modern times call “genocide” in Ireland. Like Trump, Cromwell placed no value on human rights or life – Catholics were to be eliminated if possible by any means necessary. Trump it must be inferred or at least his insurrectionist supporters would have little problem doing the same if given the opportunity to minorities or political opponents – heck we had kids in cages during the Trump years.
My concern with Trump defeated but yet the “Big Lie” perpetuated by him and his supporters continuing to live on is that a comportment Cromwell-like figure with charisma, like Cromwell and unlike Trump will be the GOP Presidential nominee in 2024. If that is the case, we may never get our country back.
Cromwell’s legacy and that of his cohorts haunted the British Isles for years to come. British Catholics weren’t emancipated for well over a hundred years following the royal restoration and the wounds from the Cromwell interregnum continued to split Scotland and Ireland for generations – and arguably made the British Royals more distant from the population and led to the British for two centuries leading the fight against any efforts at Republican government (like in the USA, France, Netherlands etc).
Whether we pull out of this turmoil is up to us. My fear as articulated above was that the United States becomes a permanent version of Cromwellian England, where faux religious fanatics and those without respect for institutions permanently turn the population against any sort of establishment be it governmental or commercial. Trumpism has certainly done that, but Joe Biden’s victory has freed us temporarily – but absent another Joe Biden-styled candidate who can win Electoral Votes in the industrial Midwest, we may be facing a grim reality four years from today.
But for now let’s celebrate our liberation from the Trumpist Cromwellian’s and hope the tide has been turned against them. However, we MUST stay vigilant. A more competent version of Trump would turn the US potentially into the same sort of bloodbath Cromwell and the Parliamentarians turned the British Isles into.