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Whither the American Democracy is Headed?

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Whither the American democracy is headed?

The last week brought some rather perplexing developments from the US. The developments related to the former president Donald Trump, who became the first president of the United States, sitting or former, to be convicted as a felon.

The former American president Donald trump was convicted on all 34 counts in the ‘hush money case’ for falsifying business records to cover a $130,000 payment to adult actor Stormy Daniels to buy her silence regarding an alleged affair.

Immediately after the verdict was announced, several American billionaires, including those who had distanced from Donald Trump in recent years, pledged support to him or have indirectly backed him in recent days. From Bill Ackman to Stephen Schwarzman, the American billionaires including the tech czar Elon Musk supported Trump despite his conviction.

Some of the figures that have pledged support to Trump now, had publicly rejected him in the past over his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol Hill, but things have now changed and they seem to have flocked to him again.

The conviction or the baggage that Trump carries, ranging from the January 6 attack on the US Capitol to three other cases against him, has not stopped many Wall Street billionaires from coming to his support. While some have said they are disillusioned with President Joe Biden, other have said they are concerned about rising anti-semitism in the country under his presidency.

Last week, billionaire Steve Schwarzman, the Co-founder and CEO of Blackstone, said he will support Trump and will donate to him. Blackstone is an investment and real estate giant with a market cap of 144.27 billion, according to Yahoo Finance. It has assets under management of more than $1 trillion.

Omeed Malik, President of 1789 Capital, has also supported Trump. He is one of the leaders of a fundraiser at New York for Trump where donations of up to $25 million were sought, as per a report.

Robert Bigelow, the owner of Bigelow Aerospace and Budget Suites of America, has also supported Trump. He has even paid Trump $1 million for his legal fees, as per Reuters.

Billionaire Bill Ackman, the CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square, has said he will not vote for Biden and has indicated he is backing Trump. He denounced Biden as a wave of anti-Israel protests swept across the United States, which many criticised as being anti-semitic.

Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, has also indicated his support for Trump in recent days. Trump has also been increasingly finding support among venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley, which has long been a bastion of Democrats, according to The New York Times.

Prominent among the Silicon Valley supporters was Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who has said he will support a candidate in the 2024 US presidential election, The Wall Street Journal has reported that he has become close with Trump in recent months and is holding multiple private telephonic conversations with him in a month.

Musk, a known supporter of Trump, believes the conviction was driven by political agendas rather than a genuine pursuit of justice. This sentiment echoes the reactions of many Trump supporters who view the charges related to hush money payments as a minor offence blown out of proportion.

Why this sudden support for Trump?

This apparent shift of loyalty also makes us wonder to the basic logic of the decision made by these billionaires. And as usual when you start removing layers then the ultimate answer found at the base or rationale for every so-what illogical move is: Money. Trump has promised to cut taxes for the wealthy and eliminate regulations. President Joe Biden wants the opposite.

While some billionaires have cited disillusionment with Biden’s policies and the rising anti-semitism in the country as reasons for ditching him to support Trump, commentators have said the major reason is Trump’s proposed tax cuts.

Some of these business leaders have harshly criticised Trump in recent years. Following the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, JPMorgan Chase boss Dimon had said that he “strongly condemn the violence in our nation’s capital” and “our elected leaders have a responsibility to call for an end to the violence” and accept the election results. Blackstone boss Schwarzman called it “an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans” and later said he would not back Trump.

Now, however, Schwarzman has said the US under Biden was heading in the ‘wrong direction’. He further said that the ‘dramatic rise of anti-semitism’ made him to support Trump.

Writing in The New Republic, Timothy Noah highlighted that the issue of anti-semitism does not entirely address the support for Trump, as he has been associated with the movement for years. Whitney Tilson, who previously ran hedge fund Kase Capital Management, told Bloomberg that business leaders were supporting Trump out of self-interest.

Meanwhile, in a rather bizarre and related development as the Trump’s hush-money trial inched towards conclusion, the former US president compared himself to saint Mother Teresa further calling the charges ‘rigged’. “Mother Teresa could not beat these charges. The charges are rigged. The whole thing is rigged,” he said. The comments came in as he was leaving the court after the trial ended.

This sentiment brings us back home where we have our own god man, claiming he thinks that he was not biologically born. In fact, it proves the old dictum that religion continues to be the last refuge of scoundrels in power because it provides some sort of legitimacy and a cover against criticism by their opponents and world powers. It further confirms the view that political elites co-opt religion for their political gain.

However, despite the conviction, Trump, currently campaigning for re-election in 2024, remains eligible to both run for and be elected President. Trump himself has dismissed the verdict, asserting that the American people in the upcoming presidential election will deliver the true judgment. Most surveys so far have shown that Trump may win the US presidential election.

The whole episode and the connected developments, makes us wonder whither the American democracy is headed?

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