Fear and loathing at pro-Trump rally in DC

Supporters of US President Donald Trump rally in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2020. Supporters are backing Trump's claim that the November 3 election was fraudulent. (AFP)
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Updated 15 November 2020

Fear and loathing at pro-Trump rally in DC

  • ‘It’s not over until the fat lady sings,’ protester tells Arab News

WASHINGTON DC: The French-American urban designer Pierre L’Enfant, who drew the basic blueprint for the US capital, wanted Washington DC’s architecture to reflect the most profound principles of the then-nascent American democracy.

The US Capitol was separated from the Supreme Court by Constitution Avenue, and from the White House by Pennsylvania Avenue, the state where the constitution was born, thus literally setting in stone the pillars of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.”

But what was once thought of as a self-evident truth in American political life is now itself in the balance.

President Donald Trump continues to refuse to concede the election. While concession is said to be the only safeguard of American unity, it was not written in the constitution. The founding fathers left it to the moral character of the losing candidate.

Admitting defeat is an intimate decision, made throughout history by losing candidates at the moment the campaign manager enters the room and informs them of their loss.

The concession speech is the only move that can tame the anger of millions of the losing candidate’s supporters. It asks them to magnanimously join the winning side so political life can go on.

It was hard not to think of this underlying reality as thousands of Trump supporters flocked to the streets of the capital to contest the election result, a week after the presidential race was called for Democrat Joe Biden.

They chanted for Trump, falsely asserting that the vote was stolen, repeating similar claims and complaints by the president and his campaign.

Protesters arrived from all over the US. Caravans drove for long hours from Texas, Arizona and Florida. Some took the plane from Washington and California.

Young Pennsylvanians shared the four-hour ride into the city. Kentucky, Oklahoma, Maine, Michigan and Tennessee: They were all represented in the crowds.  

They held up giant signs calling ballots “fake” and Democrats “liars,” and accusing the latter of engaging in tyranny and “constitutional travesty.” Biden, according to them, is “looting America,” and for that his “days are numbered.”

The throng of Trump loyalists were delighted as the president’s motorcade wormed its way through them on his way to his golf course in nearby Virginia.

The protesters then headed to the Supreme Court, and shouted at the highest court in the land that “Trump won.”

An anti-abortion woman who was holding a picture of an 11-week-old fetus chanted with her group that “God won” and “Jesus has won in Trump.”

Over 90 organizations nationwide took part in the protests. White nationalists and other far-right groups did attend, looking like a militia about to invade the State Capitol, but they were not armed.

A pro-Biden young woman called to passersby: “Hi losers! Nice to meet you, losers!” She provoked some back and forth, with one man joking with her: “You’re as good as Biden at drawing crowds.” She was standing by herself.

Another Biden supporter held a sign saying “Trump is over,” but he offered the Republican crowd “free hugs” and “no hard feelings.”

There was a collective rehashing of all the fears that were stoked during this year’s election campaigns.

Donning a Make America Great Again hat and draped in the national flag, Denise from Texas quoted the Book of Ecclesiastes: “A wise man turns to the right. A fool to the left.”

She told Arab News: “There’s some fraud that has been noted in major media … Any fraud in our election is too much fraud. It’s a slippery slope.”

She added: “We don’t want socialism. We have people here from the (former) Soviet Union who are crying for people to listen to what socialism really means. Investigate. Google Venezuela, the Soviet Union, Kosovo.”

A broad coalition of top government and industry officials has declared that the Nov. 3 voting and the following count unfolded smoothly, with no more than the usual minor hiccups.

The issues that Trump’s campaign has been raising are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secret envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, and the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

With Biden leading Trump by wide margins in key battleground states, election experts agree that none of those issues would have any impact on the outcome. But Anna from Virginia told Arab News: “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”

Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

Updated 28 November 2020

Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

  • The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference

GLASGOW: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Saturday said she had “never been more certain” of achieving independence, with Britain’s final departure from EU trading arrangements set to precede key Scottish elections in the months ahead.

The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference that the prospect of a break between Scotland and the rest of the UK has never been closer.

“Independence is in clear sight — and with unity of purpose, humility and hard work I have never been so certain that we will deliver it,” she said.

Sturgeon and the SNP have argued for a second referendum on Scottish independence since the party’s overwhelming victory among Scottish seats in Britain’s 2019 general election.

Now she hopes that a further resounding win in May elections to the Edinburgh parliament will hand her party a mandate for a second bid to quit the UK.

Opinion polls in recent months have shown that a majority of public opinion in Scotland now supports independence.

The country chose to remain part of the four-nation United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum on the issue.

But Scots later voted by a thumping majority in 2016 to remain in the European Union, a referendum the Leave side won by a narrow margin when taking the rest of Britain into account.

Since then, “we have won a landslide victory in a UK general election and support for independence has risen, it has become the sustained and majority view in public opinion this year,” said Sturgeon.

“Who should be taking the decisions that shape our futures? We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources.

“Let us reach out to all Scotland like never before,” she added.

Sturgeon urged her party to “demonstrate ... that Scotland is ready to take our place in the global family of independent nations,” saying it was “now a nation on the brink of making history.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly rebuffed calls from for a another referendum, saying that the 2014 vote settled the question for a generation.

Earlier this month, Scottish independence campaigners seized on comments by the prime minister in which he said the creation of a devolved parliament in Edinburgh had been “a disaster.”

In response Sturgeon said the only way to protect the parliament was “with independence.”

On Thursday, she said a referendum could be held “in the earlier part” of the next parliamentary session.

“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future. Let’s now focus all our efforts on making sure we bring about that better country they and future generations deserve,” Sturgeon said on Saturday.