I love the US.
As a teenager, I travelled by road from New York to California with my parents and sister.
My doctoral thesis at the Australian National University proved, contrary to public opinion at the time, that American corporate investment in Australia had been of enormous benefit to Australia.
As an historian, I knew only too well that but for Uncle Sam’s navy, New Zealand would have been invaded by the troops of the Japanese emperor.
I lived for five years in Washington DC when Lyndon Johnson and later Richard Nixon were President.
I was there when the debate over the Vietnam War was at its height, and when Martin Luther King Jr and Bobbie Kennedy were assassinated.
Back in New Zealand, I was for ten years the CEO of a small investment bank, 25% of it owned by Wells Fargo Bank, and in that capacity I travelled extensively to and through the US every year.
I was the guest of the State Department on a “US familiarization” visit in the eighties.
I visited the US at least once a year during my 14 years as Governor of the Reserve Bank, and again when I was Leader of the National Party.
I have holidayed in the US on numerous occasions, including twice in the last 18 months.
So it makes me extremely sad to see the awful state in which the US now finds itself.
No one person is responsible for this situation. Fierce competition from other countries, including especially China, has left too many Americans with limited employment prospects. White Americans have felt increasingly threatened by rising numbers of non-Whites (or “People of Colour” in the politically-correct terminology of the era). Evangelical Christians have seen the values and truths which they have believed in tossed aside.
Into this sea of potential discontent waded Donald Trump, promising to solve every problem and Make American Great Again.
No matter that he had not the slightest chance of implementing most of his promises – like building a wall between the US and Mexico and getting the Mexicans to pay for it. Or like replacing Obamacare with a healthcare policy which would be better and cheaper.
No matter that his economic policies were in important respects totally at variance with traditional Republican values – like balancing the budget and supporting an open trading environment.
No matter that his personal morality was totally at variance with the personal morality of the evangelical Christians who became among his most devoted supporters.
No matter that he was shown to regard telling lies as a totally normal way of life.
Somehow, many millions of Americans were persuaded not only to vote for him as President in 2016 but to repeat the act four years later, after watching him in office.
And then to believe him when he claimed he had won that second election, despite Christopher Krebs (the man appointed by Trump himself to monitor the election) making it clear that the election was perhaps the most secure in American history and that Biden had clearly won; despite William Barr (the man Trump appointed as his Attorney General) declaring that the election was sound; despite Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, declaring Biden the winner; and despite the failure of almost every attempt to show in court that there had been skullduggery in counting the votes, including of course two cases before the Supreme Court.
And then the extraordinary spectacle of Trump urging tens of thousands of his supporters to march on the Capitol and “show strength”, with Rudy Giuliani as the supporting act urging “combat”, followed by the most appalling scenes of mayhem in the Capitol itself.
And perhaps most depressing of all: the sight of more than 120 Republican Members of Congress voting to reject the validly elected Electoral College votes for Arizona and Pennsylvania, even after the riot.
Now there are apparently more members of the US armed forces in Washington DC for the inauguration next week than there are in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined.
What depresses me is not that Trump is an evil bastard but rather that there are still tens of millions of Americans who think that he is God’s gift to creation, and that he is the last bastion against communism. The US is in a very dark place.