Americans are afraid – “Haiti today, America tomorrow?”

12:11 06.05.2024 •

Smoke billows from a van set fire by protesters during clashes with police amid a protest demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Photo: Associated Press

Tension is growing in the United States on the eve of the presidential elections, in which Biden and Trump will clash. The ‘Tom Dispatch’ magazine publication by John Feffer, a director of ‘Foreign Policy in Focus’, demonstrates the level of tension and hatred. America is already divided along political lines:

Haiti has descended into chaos. It’s had no president or parliament — and no elections either – for eight long years. Its unelected prime minister Ariel Henry resigned recently when gang violence at the airport in Port-au-Prince made it impossible for him to return to the country after a trip to Guyana.

And now the country has been overrun by gangs that emerged as practically the only groups capable of providing services, however meager, to Haiti’s long-suffering population.

Haiti doesn’t have the three things that might prevent the sort of vacuum into which gangs so eagerly rush: robust democratic governance, a strong civil society, and a sufficiently uncorrupt constabulary. As a result, it’s returned to what political theorist Thomas Hobbes once called a “war of all against all” in which violence and the urge for power prevail, as fist takes precedence over gavel — the perfect environment for gangs to flourish.

Or take the case of Jamaica where, from the late 1970s on, similar IMF programs translated into disaster, especially in the capital, Kingston. Here, too, the state lost power as gang leaders, known as “dons,” expanded their territories. As Michelle Munroe and Damion Blake put it in Third World Quarterly: “Neoliberal policies not only paralyzed the state’s capacity to control and contain violence in the streets of Kingston, these changes also made dons and the gangs they command more lethal and powerful.”

Dons and the gangs they command: that language could soon seem all too eerily appropriate for the United States.

America’s ultimate Don is all too clear about what he expects come November, should he lose. “If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath,” he told one of his rallies. According to that scenario, the crew that owes allegiance to Donald Trump — the right-wing militias, diehard conspiracy theorists, open-carry gun enthusiasts — will rise up in gang-like fashion in the face of another “stolen election.”

The real bloodbath would take place if Trump won the election. After all, he’s already promised violence as an organizing principle for his second term. As David Remnick has written in The New Yorker, Trump “makes no effort to conceal his bigotries, his lawlessness, his will to authoritarian power; to the contrary, he advertises it, and, most disturbing of all, this deepens his appeal. What’s more, there is no question that Trump has so normalized calls to violence as an instrument of politics that it has inflamed countless people to perverse action.”

Trump has also promised a thorough purge of his enemies in the government and beyond, as well as the weaponization of the Justice Department to wage war on all MAGA opponents. As in his first term, he would destroy as many federal agencies as possible. Meanwhile, he would promote drilling über alles and roll back every Biden administration effort to create an industrial policy to guide the United States away from fossil fuels.

Haiti has no government, much less a strong-armed autocrat like Donald Trump. So, it might seem ludicrous to compare the crisis there with the prospective “bloodbath” Trump promises here. But remember: Haiti suffered under two ruthless dictators from 1957 to 1986: Papa Doc Duvalier and his son, Baby Doc. Between them, they ensured that Haiti would never easily establish democratic institutions.

Donald Trump is nearly 78 years old. He doesn’t have a long political future. Yes, were he to win in November, he would surely do what he could to destroy democracy. Still, the true nightmare scenario is likely to come later, as climate change sends yet more migrants surging toward U.S. borders, generates more fires that sweep across the land, and heats politics to the boiling point. That’s when future versions of the gangs Trump has encouraged to “stand back and stand by,” the insurrectionists he’s promised to amnesty, and the loyalists who have shared images of Joe Biden tied up in the back of a pickup truck could assault the citadels of power in an attempt to destroy once and for all the rule of law that Trump has spent his life undermining.


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