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From Rapture to Woke: A White House Shuffle

The year 2020 is now slowly coming to an end . . . and it has been a crisis-filled time, as worded by the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC): the “entire year has been dominated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”


Dr Can Erimtan
21st Century Wire

Election Infection in the U.S.

Presently, the consensus is that by the end of this year, COVID-19 will have led to more than 300,000 individual casualties in the United States. And many U.S. citizens directly blame President Trump for this seemingly high death toll. For instance, the filmmaker Eugene Jarecki set up a “Trump Death Clock [that] started as a website, [and then took a] billboard form in Times Square, displaying a claim to the number of deaths attributable to U.S. President Donald Trump’s inaction during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.” Jarecki basically accuses the President of homicide due to negligence, as a result of his “failed response to the coronavirus outbreak.” This Death Clock is but an emblem of the extreme polarizartion of U.S. society ever since Trump’s election victory in 2016. The Independent‘s Colin Drury recently wrote that “[s]ome 52 per cent of people questioned disapprove of the job that Mr Trump has done.” Somewhat surprisingly, Drury relies on a poll conducted by Fox News, a poll indicating that some “42 percent . . . of voters” appear to say that Trump was “one of the worst” presidents in the country’s history. Unsurprisingly, Fox News‘ Dana Blanton adds that “[m]ost Democrats, 69 percent, say history will remember Trump as one of the worst presidents, up from 58 percent in 2016.”

Already prior to the election, Fox founder Rupert Murdoch was reported to have been distancing himself from his one-time favourite, which clearly resulted in Fox News becoming “the first to call Arizona in Joe Biden’s favour.” Subsequently, even India‘s Narendra Modi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi), two international allies of the U.S. Presdient, were among the first to “congratulate the Democrat on his White House victory.”

Still, the President has his supporters too. And one should not forget that the 2016 election outcome was actually pretty close, or “far more normal than coverage of the campaign would suggest,” as expressed by the journalist Ezra Klein. In fact, if not for the Electoral Colege, Hillary Clinton would have moved back to the White House in 2016 – Clinton receiving 65,853,625 votes (48.0%) and Trump, 62,985,106 votes (45.9%), leading to the latter’s 306 and the former’s 232 electoral votes. The real meaning of this odd numbers’ configuration is that Donald Trump was able to appeal to more individual states’ populations than his rival, which means that his message clearly had a wider geographic reach and appeal.

MAGA: The Return of the American Dream

In the aftermath of the Trump victory, the book Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America tried to make sense of the upset. The three political scientist who had penned the timely book posited that the “Obama administration was not only eight years of a Democratic president. . . but also eight years of a black president.” There are those who reason that the mere fact that a black man occupied the White House stoked racial sensitivities and animosities.

One could point to numerous incidents which show that Obama’s presence in Washington, D.C. had clearly led to a re-awakening of apparently dormant racial and racist tensions in the land. And arguably, these re-awakened atavistic feelings of race hatred constitute one of the manifold reasons why a figure like Trump was able to emerge on the political scene and capture the Electoral College. Recently, the American writer, professor, and social commentator Roxane Gay tweeted that “Trump is not a normal political opponent. He is a white nationalist [who] openly encourage[s] racial enmity.” Gay’s tweet reflects a widely held verdict on the political Left and mainstream media regarding the the persona of the 45th U.S. President. And one could reason that this perceived undertow of racism appeals to wide swathes of the American population, wide swathes across a wide geographical spectrum of the United States. According to popular vote numbers, Clinton had clearly been victorious, but Trump’s lower figures represented a wider geographic reach, thereby arguably reflecting more accurately the will of the people in the whole of the nation, rather than expressing the volition of the inhabitants of a number of certain more populous (and Clinton-leaning) states.

The real-estate-developer-turned-political-leader’s journey to the White House started in the summer of 2015. On 16 June 2015, the journalist Michael Falcone posited that “Donald Trump’s road to the White House started on an escalator” in the Trump Tower, going down to make this announcement to the world:

Sadly the American dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back, bigger, and better, and stronger than ever before.

And that was how The Donald (as he was called by his first wife Ivana) or the Drumpf (in reference to his grandfather Friedrich Drumpf who came to the United States in 1885) started his long and arduous trek to Pennsylvania Avenue, a journey many thought impossible or merely counter-intuitive. At first sight, it might seem that Trump’s presidency all but confirms that the issues of race and racism are really at the heart of political and public life in the U.S., as seems to be the message of such popular movements like Black Lives Matter and its now all-encompassing ideology of Critical Race Theory. But Trump has clearly also tapped into the wider population’s belief systems and mythological vocabulary, as exemplified in the phrase of the American Dream. This ubiquitous phrase stems from the pen of the popular historian James Truslow Adams (1878-1949) and his 1931 book, The American Epic. The candidate Trump promised to revive that defunct ideal, which primarily found expression in the advertising phrase ‘Make America Great Again’ or MAGA, emblazoned upon innumerable hats on top of numerous Americans’ heads – arguably leading to profitable sales figures of ‘official MAGA hats.

The only place you can buy the official hat is at the Trump Store.’ The mere fact that Trump’s running mate-turned-vice president was clearly chosen to appeal to the religious right seems to underline the importance of Trump’s mobilization of largely intangible values and narratives. The sociologist Dr Philip Gorski, for instance, quite self-assuredly posits that “Trump’s most loyal supporters were and are white evangelicals.”

Religion in the Trump Era: Speeding up the Rapture

The past four years have seen a sudden resurgence of religion in the United States on a political level. In his ‘folksy Midwestern drawl,’ Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence makes no bones about his personal bond with the good lord up above and his son, Jesus. As in September 2017, while visiting the town of Anderson, in his home state Indiana, the VP finished his pep talk in this way: “It’s a good time to pray for America . . . If His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He’ll hear from heaven, and He’ll heal this land!” Born into a Catholic family, Pence discovered his personal Jesus when he was in college, attending a “contemporary Christian music festival.” Sitting on a stage speaking to Pastor David Hughes in 2017, Pence told the crowd his personal conversion story:

My heart really, finally broke with a deep realization that what had happened on the cross in some infinitesimal way had happened for me. And I gave my life and made a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as my saviour.

From that day forward, the one-time Catholic boy became a fervent Evangelical Christian, eager to please his Lord and keen to convert his fellow man. It thus seems safe to say that Pence’s example persuaded “fully eight-in-ten self-identified white, born-again/evangelical Christians” to cast their vote for Trump in 2016, as indicated by the Pew Research Center. But not just the Vice President is eager to profess his faith, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems equally keen. In October 2019, Pompeo addressed the American Association of Christian Counselors in Nashville, Tennessee, with a speech insightfully entitled “Being a Christian Leader.” Trump’s close ties to Bibi, in combination with these two Christian leaders under his wing, have already made the White House move the U.S. Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem, in a theologically significant manner that Trump’s Evangelical base likely regards as the first step towards fulfilling God’s plan, as I explained in 2018. On a more personal level, the now U.S. Secretary of State adheres to even more outrageous points of faith. In June 2015, when Pompeo was but a Kansas congressman, he headlined a so-called ‘God and Country Rally’ at Wichita’s Summit Church and there and then, Pompeo made this profession of faith:

[E]vil is all around us. We will continue to fight these battles. It is a never-ending struggle. Until that moment . . . until the Rapture, be part of it, be in the fight. Ask for forgiveness seek His wisdom, and heed your pastor’s call to actions, and great things will be bestowed upon our nation and our world.

In fact, for Christian believers like Pence and Pompeo, “returning Jerusalem to the Jewish people is a key to the second coming of Christ,” which is also a prerequisite for the “Rapture,” alluded to by Pompeo in the above quotation. The pastor, Dr Richard Mayhue elucidates that the “English noun/verb ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin noun raptura/verb rapio that is used 14 times in the” New Testament. And though the noun and verb have different meanings and connotations, it is the “perfect word to describe God suddenly taking up the church from earth to heaven as the first part of Christ’s second coming,” adds Mayhue. Believers like Pompeo, sometimes known as millenarianists, adhere to eschatological teachings that hold the end of the world to be imminent and the return of Jesus within reach. That return will be followed by the establishment of a Divine Kingdom on earth, but before “He establishes His kingdom on earth, Jesus will come for His Church, an event commonly referred to as the ‘Rapture.’ At that time the dead in Christ will be raised and living Christians will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever,” as explained on a website emanating from the Moody Bible Institute, a Chicago-based fundamentalist Christian institution of higher education established in 1886. These admittedly rather outlandish beliefs rely on the Bible, or rather on a literalist interpretation of scripture, as a reflection of the inerrancy of the Bible. As expressed by the one-time Rapture enthusiast Harold Camping (1921-2013), the “Bible is God’s word. In the original languages of the Bible, mainly Hebrew and Greek, every word, and every letter of every word, is from the mouth of God.” This peculiarly American view of Christian scripture goes back to an article published in the Princeton Review on 11 April 1881. The piece is called “Inspiration” and was written by Archibald A. Hodge (1823-86) and Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921). Hodge and Warfield claim that the “scriptures not only contain, but ARE THE WORD OF GOD, and hence that all their elements and all their affirmations are absolutely errorless, and binding the faith and obedience of men.” They thus put forward that “God [had been] coöperating with its human authors in the genesis of Holy Scripture.” And that really means that the Trump White House has been conducting important parts of its foreign policy in accordance with very specific interpretations of particular Biblical precepts and judgements. Or, otherwise put, the real-estate-developer-turned-political-leader that is Trump has supervised Christian leaders to enact policy decisions they deem to be a direct reflection of the word of God. When Trump controversially visited St. John’s Church across the park from the White House on 2 June 2020, using “the federal force” to break up protests outside the White House, the resultant photo-op had him not coincidentally pose with a Bible in his hand. The picture was clearly aimed at his Evangelical base, showing them that his guidance came from the inerrant Holy Scripture, defying Black Lives Matter protesters.

A New Hope: A Woke President in 2021

A shocked world has now lived through four years of a Trump White House and is presently breathing a collective sigh of relief: “World leaders have acknowledged — and even celebrated — the victory of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the 2020 United States presidential election,” reported the unabashedly anti-Trump public-yet-corporate-sponsored American broadcaster NPR on 7 November 2020. This year’s election outcome had Biden gather no less than 81,283,098 votes (51.3% or 306 electoral votes) and Trump, 74,222,957 (46.8% or 232 electoral votes). As a result of this year’s special circumstances, many, supposedly Democratic leaning, voters opted for postal ballots, rather than casting their votes in person. Hence the delayed outcome, victorious Democrats say. But, Trump and his supporters are not having any of that . . . instead, they are crying foul loudly and have urged recount upon recount. The news broadcaster CNN, exquisite purveyor of Fake News, in Trump’s words, “reports that Trump not only insists he actually won the 2020 election but has maintained at times that he will not vacate the premises on January 20, when his term ends.” In contract, the U.S. media and a good part of the American population hold that Joe Biden won this year’s electoral contest and that he will thus take up residency in the White House. And that means that his VP will join him, a black woman of mixed Indian-Jamaican-American descent, Kamala Harris. But that is still for next year, following the inauguration and the peaceful handover.

The fact that the Biden team picked a non-white woman for the job was a deliberate decision, a decision reflecting the prevailing mood in the country. The United States, (and parts of the rest of the world as well,) are currently totally in the grip of identity politics, in the grip of an ideology most people currently call ‘Social Justice’ and its derivative popular outgrowth known as Woke culture. President-elect Biden is getting ready to replace Bible-beholden Trump and become a Woke president adhering to current ideological fashions and catch phrases. Going back to 1977 and the publication of The Combahee River Collective Statement, the concept of identity politics is ubiquitous these days, which means that now “everything is about race,” as claimed by Ted G. Waechter in 2016. Acting accordingly, the President-elect is now preparing his new administration painfully cognizant of ethnic and/or sexual minorities to fill the spots: “We’ll have more people of color than any Cabinet ever. We’ll have more women than any Cabinet ever. We’ll have a Cabinet of barrier-breakers. A Cabinet of firsts” (16 December 2020). Under Biden, America’s war machine will be operated by a black man, Lloyd Austin, while U.S. trade representation will be handled by the “first woman of color and first Asian American to hold the role,” Katherine Tai. The position of Secretary of the Interior will be filled by Deb Haaland, a New Mexico native and member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. And, “Joe Biden will [also] nominate Pete Buttigieg to be his transportation secretary,” turning his erstwhile presidential rival into the “first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary.” In this way, it is apparently expected that the appearance of the rulers of United States will more or less coincide with the actual make up of the bulk of the population.

Whereas the previous four years were to a large extent dominated by the Christian Bible and various resultant outlandish beliefs, the next four years seem set to be adhering to a secular religion of sorts, namely to the ideological construct usually referred to as Critical Social Justice – which is a concept that “recognizes inequality as deeply embedded in the fabric of society (i.e., as structural), and actively seeks to change this,” as postulated by Özlem Şensoy and Robin DiAngelo in their seminal 2012 book, Is Everyone Really Equal?. Whereas Trump showed himself ostentatiously holding up the Bible, Biden is now clearly paying lip service to Black Lives Matter protesters and their many sympathizers in society at large – in this way. showing himself to be Woke-in-Chief in spite of his advanced years. As such, Şensoy and DiAngelo’s seminal text and the whole Critical Social Justice ideology have proven that ostentatiously secular constructs can also lead the way towards espousing blatantly outlandish beliefs. Taking the whole race discourse to its logical conclusion two black women, the real estate agent Ashley Scott and the investor and entrepreneur Renee Walters have founded the Freedom Georgia Initiative, as a means to fulfill a mission of ‘Healing From Racial Trauma.’

The project consists of 19 Black families who have collectively purchased 96.71 acres of rural land in Toomsboro, Georgia. The aim is to develop a ‘self-contained Black community,’ as a town of a few hundred people. In other words, in order to overcome racism, this Initiative has effectively set up a segregated community where whites are not welcome as a way of creating a “thriving safe haven for black families.” Whereas, the world of academia these days is in thrall of the unholy trinity of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and an academic like Dr Ibram X. Kendi propagates the idea that the “opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist’,” which sounds as logical and counter-intuitive as instituting segregation to combat racism and discrimination. Biden clearly won’t be holding a Bible in his hand, but will instead have lots of other hallowed anti-racists books to chose from in order to be able to put the right words in his mouth while addressing his voters and their expectations.

2021: Ending the Pandemic Pandemonium

At the same time, many people also express the hope that the Bidens in the White House will restore a sense of normality to the U.S. and its political life. Iran’s President Rouhani, for his part, seemed to give voice to such an opinion when he said that[w]e are not overjoyed about Mr. Biden’s arrival, but we are happy about Trump leaving,” as reported by EHA News. But Biden’s first task will be to tackle COVID-19. The Presdent-elect himself has come out saying that “[d]ealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face.” Yet remaining realistic, also declaring that the “end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.” In his published plans to combat the health crisis, Biden recognizes the need to bring an end to the economic fallout produced by the large-scale experiments in social control that have been put in place. The Biden Plan calls for a “decisive economic response that starts with emergency paid leave for all those affected by the outbreak and gives all necessary help to workers, families, and small businesses that are hit hard by this crisis.” Many blame Trump for the Covid fatalities in the U.S. and Biden wants to show himself as the leader who beat the virus and restored the nation to health.

But more than anything else, a Biden presidency aims to be a return to business-as-usual. And above all, that means continuity and not change, whatever the colour may be. President Obama continued George W. Bush’s war policies, with the former overseeing more drone strikes in his first year in the White House than the latter carried out during his entire 8-year presidency. And, Trump, in turn, did his best to outdo his predecessor as well. And now, it will be up to Joe Biden to continue this grand tradition after he has shuffled into the White House, all the while appearing to be Woke-in-Chief.

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21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent historian and geo-political analyst who used to live in Istanbul. At present, he is in self-imposed exile from Turkey. He has a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans. the greater Middle East, and the world beyond.. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the revisionist monograph “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In Istanbul, Erimtan started publishing in the English language Turkish press, culminating in him becoming the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. Subsequently, he commenced writing for RT Op-Edge, NEO, and finally, the 21st Century Wire. You can find him on Twitter at @TheErimtanAngle. Read Can’s archive here.

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