Our Closest Allies Are Watching the All-American Meltdown With Bemused Horror

Jack Holmes
·5-min read
Photo credit: Karwai Tang - Getty Images
Photo credit: Karwai Tang - Getty Images

From Esquire

Consider the level of paranoid delusion into which you'd need to descend in order to consider The Fox News Channel a liberal enemy of Donald Trump. This is the network that has spent five years spreading and buttressing every malicious and idiotic word that has come out of the guy's mouth, attacking his critics while leaving his many faceplants out of its coverage. But because Fox remained tethered to reality in one key respect—its election decision desk—and called Arizona for Joe Biden early, the president is gesturing towards turning the home of his most influential and shameless enablers into another Enemy of the People. Some of his fans seem receptive. Like Georgia's secretary of state, the network is learning that only absolute fealty to The Leader, every second of every day, will spare you his movement's wrath—and even then, it's often not enough.

In the end, Fox News could be just another casualty of the president's campaign to undermine the integrity of the election he lost. As a reminder, Trump declared the Iowa caucuses "rigged" when he lost to Ted Cruz in 2016. Ahead of the general election four years ago, he said it would only be legitimate if he won. When he lost the popular vote, he said that was due to rampant fraud—to the tune of 3 million(!) votes—and appointed a commission to investigate. It disbanded having found nothing. Ahead of the 2020 election, he once again declared his intent to scream fraud if he lost. Now that he's lost, he's screaming fraud while his lawyers get laughed out of court.

But this is really a public relations battle, waged with the help of his media apparatchiks—including Fox News, for all the good it's doing them—and the Republican Party to Birtherize Joe Biden's presidency and create a martyr myth off which Trump might prosper. (Unless, of course, his machinations succeed, which cannot be ruled out until January 20.) In fact, he already may be profiting, as it turns out his fundraising to contest the results could be just another scam. The anti-Fox stuff could eventually turn out to be a fleeting whim, too, an attempt to game a news cycle or two with the larger scam beginning to slip.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the few friends the United States still has are looking on with horror. The American republic's slide into authoritarianism at the hands of the Republican Party is gaining speed, and even our oldest and closest friends in Britain, who have their own problems, have had to swing around and take notice. Here's the staid BBC assessing the current outbreak of fantastical delusion in the world's most powerful country.

There is an unbelievable clarity to this report, in part due to great work by Ros Atkins and his producer, Nicola Kean. But it's also tied to the fact that these folks are looking on from outside the roiling cauldron of bubbling bullshit that is American politics in the modern era. The sheer volume of undigestible crap that is now flowing through the body politic here has even poisoned the president's opponents, who are forced to constantly grapple with his hundreds of smaller assaults on reality and, in the process, can lose sight of the whole picture. From the outside, it's just abundantly clear: the president is cynically undermining American democracy because he cannot accept defeat—or views it as to his benefit to refuse to do so—and his many lackeys are too afraid to break with him. Even worse, some of them may actually believe this stuff.

But again, outside the phantasmagorical bubble of American life, none of this is that complicated. It's just fuel for concern or secondhand embarrassment. Even Trump's BFFs around the world, like Boris Johnson, are speaking in the terms of simple reality.

Extra points for the extraordinarily British phrase, "erstwhile best friend."

Not that there's much left of American prestige and soft power to project around the world, but how much more are we going to sacrifice on the altar of Donald Trump's narcissistic impulse? The president used to say the world is laughing at us, and now he's made it so. Maybe it will be better for the American empire to recede a bit from world affairs while we (decline to) sort out the deep structural problems we have here at home. But what the end result increasingly looks like is a state of affairs where the United States has lost all moral authority and has only its military might to influence events. It has sadly chosen to go that route far too often before, but the prospect it will be the only option going forward is not heartening. Dictators will laugh, understandably, at our calls to respect the democratic process. Allies now know we cannot be depended on—and that we are, in fact, insane. But we do have a lot of F-35s.

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