Altruism Trumps cynicism in the US election

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 20: President Donald Trump walks on the south lawn of the White House on Oc

President Donald Trump walks on the south lawn of the White House on October 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. - Credit: Getty Images

Mitch Benn says Joe Biden's altruism beats Donald Trump's cynicism.

I do realise that I’ve been talking about America a lot just recently (and that this paper is called The New European) but I feel I should cast at least a nervous nod across the pond this week as this will be the last column of mine to see daylight before election day in the US.

You’ll notice I didn’t say ‘before the election’; early voting has already begun in earnest and with a far higher turnout than in previous years... I also didn’t say before the end of the election, as that for all that voting will cease on Tuesday November 3, the result is unlikely to be definitively known for a while thereafter, even if there’s an obvious leader emerging.

It’s been apparent for months now that Donald Trump, rather than bother trying to win this election, had decided to spend most of this year pre-emptively grumping about the “unfairness” of the (as yet unknown) result, with a view to disputing it and ultimately throwing it up to the Supreme Court, fully one third of which now consists of justices who, by happy coincidence, owe him their job (and with all three of these appointments having been highly questionable in their own special ways).

It’s all but statistically impossible for Trump to win the popular vote; it’s highly unlikely that, Bush vs Gore-style count shenanigans notwithstanding, he can squeeze the electoral college vote. But will he, nonetheless, still be in office at the end of January? Anybody’s guess.


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One particular “unfairness” against which the president has been railing is the media’s failure to fixate upon the story, widely dismissed (not least by his own intelligence agencies) as a Russian disinformation campaign, that Joe Biden in some way abused his office, when serving as vice president, to enrich his son Hunter.

Seeing Trump’s indignation at the way reporters and interviewers refuse to obsess about the Biden “revelation” and choose instead to bore him with tiresome quibbles about the 225,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus, I myself had a bit of a epiphany: I think Trump believes it. Because why wouldn’t he?

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As has been made grotesquely apparent by his own conduct and pronouncements as president, Trump seems incapable of imagining that someone would seek public office for any other reason than to turn it to their own advantage. Of course he believes that Biden used the vice presidency to enrich his family because why else would someone bother being vice president?

Cynicism dismisses altruism because cynicism can’t comprehend altruism.

We’ve seen another glaring example of this on our own shores this last week, as the task of ensuring that the children of poor families don’t go hungry – over the ‘festive’ period this time – has once again fallen, for reasons which will one day no doubt have future historians scratching holes into their heads, to a 22-year-old footballer.

Our Conservative government and its apologists in the media seemed genuinely surprised to discover that Marcus Rashford is still here – that he’s determined to pursue his quest to find food for the hungry – despite having been awarded an MBE for his efforts last time around.

Leaving aside the bizarre irony of an administration approving an award to someone for thwarting its own policy before then resuming that policy, I wonder if there has been confusion and a little indignation that the young upstart hadn’t been sufficiently mollified by a decent PR spike and a decent-sized gong. Surely he didn’t actually... care?

I’ve written at length about how our current ‘government’ is nothing of the sort; that it’s a communications team in search of a government, that it has no interest in anything more than winning the news cycle for the next 24 hours, that it’s permanently stuck in campaign mode despite there being nothing left to campaign for and that its every decision is governed by PR considerations rather than any notion of consequence.

Well with all that in mind, oh boy did they ever fail to read the room on this one. Their decision to ‘poor us’ the issue by harping on about what Angela Rayner may or may not have muttered on the floor of the House served only to underline to many people that, in her discourteous language, she was venting very understandable frustration.

Voting to deny food to poor children is one thing; voting to deny food to poor children and then playing the victim because you got called names for it is so incredibly tone-deaf as to make Florence Foster Jenkins sound like a tuning fork.

This would be true even if the whingeing were not coming from people who literally dine at the public’s expense (the bars and restaurants in the Houses of Parliament are effectively state-subsidised, with estimates putting the figure at about £57,000 a week).

If nothing else, the response to Marcus Rashford’s reinvigorated campaign gives me hope that people really are more fundamentally decent than our leaders are, or believe us to be.

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