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Ballots & Bombs

Editorial |

Political tensions have mounted in the United States of America less than a fortnight before the crucial midterm election (6 November), which will determine the complexion of the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is the bitter irony of the democratic narrative in the America of Donald Trump. President Barack Obama, who took the bow two winters ago, and Hillary Clinton, who was trounced by Trump ~ with Russian assistance as generally suspected ~ are now the potential targets of pipe bombs packed with shards of glass that were intercepted en route to several Democrats, not to forget former Vice-President Joe Biden and the actor, Robert De Niro.

Also targeted was the New York office of CNN, a consistent critic of the Trump administration in the fountainhead of democracy and its bedrock of a free press. It would be presumptuous quite yet to describe the incident as the handiwork of terrorists. Suffice it to register that there appears to have been a sinister plot in Washington DC, New York, Florida, and California, indeed cities from where the suspicious packages were seized. The first crude bomb to be discovered had been delivered to the suburban New York complex of George Soros, a liberal billionaire and major contributor to Democratic causes. Indubitable therefore is the fact that the pipe bombs had targeted the Democrats in a country whose establishment harbours an inbuilt aversion to political and/or legislative opposition.

President Trump’s response to the bombs seized in transit was remarkably facile, even a mite comical ~ “Let’s get along,” he said. “By the way, do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight? Have you ever seen this?” he is reported to have told a rally in Wisconsin.

The striking feature must be that the targets of the bombs were some of the figures most frequently criticised by Mr Trump, who still runs down Mrs Clinton at rallies two years after he defeated her and she largely left the political scene. As often as not, the President also singles out CNN in course of his ranting at “fake news” media. The targeting of Democratic heavyweights and the media runs counter to the certitudes of the democratic engagement. And the shock of the average American is bound to intensify in the already-tense season of elections.

The midterm exercise could reshape Congress and serve as a referendum on the first two years of Trump’s presidency. The bombs triggered panic evacuation from buildings amidst reports of additional explosives. All this is bound to heighten fears that overheated rhetoric could lead to deadly violence as the parties engage in bitter fights over such contentious issues as immigration, the Supreme Court and the treatment of women. Does the USA today bear witness to democracy on the terms of Donald Trump? It is fervently to be hoped that November 6 will provide some answers.