WITHIN a couple of months of my three score and ten, I naively thought I had seen it all in terms of political cynicism and exploitation.

From the nakedly divisive policies of greed and self-interest brought to us by Thatcher, to her most recent successor with the more insidious agenda of a highly intelligent man who portrays himself as a bumbling, blustering inarticulate buffoon while actively progressing the agenda of the elite.

But all of these pale into almost insignificance when compared with what I witnessed on live TV at the start of this week.

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The “Arsenal of Democracy” had already defied all logic by electing a man of limited intellect, but boundless ambition, to the White House. A man who is a serial denier of all that goes wrong and displays a childlike desire for praise for anything that appears to have a scent of success.

As a news geek, I switched over to CNN on Monday night in time to see the military forces arriving and being deployed at the White House. I watched as first one, then two lines of DC police in riot gear faced down an entirely peaceful demonstration.

A group which was static, motionless but vocal, behind barriers erected by the authorities and who displayed no obvious threat to breach these barriers let alone take on the serried ranks of authority.

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Suddenly, a third line appeared. Apparently comprising military police in camouflage gear with many carrying tear gas guns.

In genuine dismay, I saw the three ranks advance to confront, face-to-face, the still motionless protesters while the Attorney General of the USA, clearly sent out by Trump to reconnoitre the situation, surveyed the scene from inside the grounds of the White House.

With the news emerging that the president was to address the nation from the Rose Garden, the police lines surged forward, forcing the crowd back, causing people to stumble and flee in panic.

As Trump talked of law and order, his minions started firing tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of people whose only crime was to peacefully reject the elitism and racism which has split the USA almost since its inception.

And for what purpose? So that perhaps the most amoral occupant of the White House (a title for which there must be hot competition) could walk across the road to a church for a photo op during which he brandished a Bible!

Despite being a lifelong atheist, even I was offended by the sight of a misogynistic racist using a tome venerated by millions as a prop for his self-aggrandisement.

This is not about quelling riots. It is not about protecting the constitution. It is not about George Floyd. It is about a Trump presidency which is floundering towards a first term defeat and a man who is lashing out in all directions in an attempt to cling on to power, if only because it will delay by four more years the investigation of his own crimes and misdemeanours.

The next step will be to try to delay the November election on specious grounds of the dangers of a situation which he has done so much to create. If this is allowed to happen, I fear for democracy across the world and for the ripples to cross the Atlantic at a frightening speed.

Perhaps the coronavirus is not the greatest threat we have faced for generations, and we have much more to fear from the increasingly open abuses of power by the populist right.

For as long as we are hitched to the Westminster wagon, we are in danger of being dragged along into a maelstrom of what could fast become overt totalitarianism.

Alone we cannot face down these dangers. As an independent country with traditions of liberal democrac,y we could at least find like-minded partners with whom we could cooperate in defence of the values that matter.

Gordon D Peden