It was the virus that undid Trump. Without Covid-19 and the misery, devastation and economic shock it brought with it, he would have almost certainly have won the 2020 presidential election, perhaps by a wide margin, and America would soon have gone the way of the authoritarian states of which Trump is so clearly fond. His wannabe stormtroopers were all eagerly lined up to do his bidding, with a quiescent Republican Senate and compromised Justice Department under my old high school classmate Bill Barr, who seemed to think he’d died and gone to heaven in the role of Trump’s consigliere and henchman. Barr, like the dozens of others who attached themselves to the president, are terminally stained and diminished by their allegiance to the monster, or so one hopes. They are now, at very long last, beginning to distance themselves from him, after he incited his armed acolytes to break into the Capitol Building in Washington DC yesterday afternoon.
But Trump might still have prevailed last November had it not been for the heroic determination and nous of two African-American political giants, Stacey Abrams of Georgia and James Clyburn of South Carolina. Congressman Clyburn, aged 80, three days before the South Carolina Democratic Primary on 26 February pledged his support to Biden, and carried the flagging, nearly beaten candidate to his primary victory and the White House. Such is Clyburn’s power and the regard in which he is held – not least through his annual fish fries, which have been attracting Democratic presidential hopefuls for thirty years – that once he hit the stump for Biden, the game, at least in South Carolina, was over. The two men seemed to be on friendly terms and have been for many years, but what Clyburn knew, apart from Biden being the last best hope for the Democrats to supplant Trump, was that Biden was a friend to African-American voters and their only hope of getting a fair deal, or something like it.
Stacey Abrams, 47, a former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, lawyer and voting rights activist, founded Fair Fight Action in 2018 after narrowly losing the gubernatorial election to her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, who was accused, rightly, of employing all manner of shenanigans to cook the vote in his favour. Raised in Mississippi, of modest background (like Clyburn in South Carolina), Abrams was educated at Spelman in Atlanta, a historically Black college, and then Yale Law School.
In any event, she got her revenge on a generally corrupt, racist Republican Party who did all they could to suppress the vote but, thanks to the work of Abrams and other Black women in getting the vote out, failed to carry the state in both the presidential and Senate elections. Biden was the first Democratic contender to win Georgia since Clinton in 1992. Then, against all odds, Abrams helped to bring about the election of two Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Warnock is the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr once presided, and now the first African-American senator from the state of Georgia.
Stacey Abrams didn’t achieve that all by herself, nor did Jim Clyburn get Biden to the White House by himself, but they’re the principal reason this country remains something like a democratic republic, at least in the near term. And if you want to consider putting a couple of Black faces on Mount Rushmore, you need look no further.