Two ‘I’s currently seem to define America

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 6, 2020

Iowa and impeachment. In the first week of February, an impeached American president was acquitted by a partisan Senate and the first-in-the-nation US presidential election vote was beset by chaos.

It would not be extreme to say that to many around the world, Iowa and impeachment currently define America. The two ‘I’s suggest impunity and incompetence, not to mention ideological incapacitation and imbecilic levels of technological ignorance.

It’s hardly an edifying picture of the world’s richest, most militarily powerful country, one that still proudly claims its president is the “leader of the free world”.

How free is Donald Trump’s America anyway? And how competent is the America of those who seek to replace Mr Trump in the White House?

Much of the chaos at this week’s Democratic caucuses in Iowa is being attributed to an online app, a technical problem, something the Democratic Party is calling a “coding issue”.

And Republican senators’ fealty to President Donald Trump – over and above any concern for ethics, propriety, norms or rule of law – is hardly a surprise, having been demonstrated over and over in the past three years.

Even so, on February 6, it’s clearer than ever before that the US is unable to lead in ambition, aspiration, ethics and execution.

Anne Shreiner, a millennial financial services executive, wrote in the Financial Times (paywall) yesterday that “Iowa is not Singapore. It’s not even New York. Iowa has an ageing population that is used to caucusing in a certain way. It’s a rural state with mediocre broadband coverage: 18 per cent of the population is underserved, making it 31st in the US, according to BroadbandNow”.

Unrelated to the end of the impeachment saga, but still significant in broadbrush terms is Nigerian linguist Kola Tubosun’s lament for the idea of America after Mr Trump suddenly slapped immigration restrictions on the giant of Africa, Nigeria: “The losers will not just be Nigerians. Another loser is the idea of the United States as a shining city on the hill — an open and tolerant society welcoming of all people willing to embrace it, cherish it, and make a success of that daring adventure”.