Konstantinos Mitsotakis often said that a few determined people can make a country. It was a reference to Greece. What would the late Greek prime minister have to say about developments in the US if he was alive today? Most likely that a determined man can throw a country into turmoil.
It’s horrifying that strong states with a long tradition and solid institutions have entered a period of upheaval, irrationality and institutional backsliding. It happened in Britain and it is now happening in the US. Sure, developments in both countries were generated by more profound causes. However, they would not have come about without the stubbornness and the catastrophic rage of their leaders.
I assume that, like other leaders of his generation, Mitsotakis would find it hard to accept the ease with which US President Donald Trump challenges the international system which was set up after the Second World War and which secured the lengthiest period of peace and prosperity for the West. Mitsotakis belonged to a generation that experienced war and understood very well the risks which arise when more profound forces of history are combined with the destructive and/or paranoid rage of leaders.
Trump has divided American society so deeply that many pundits fear that the lack of a clear result in November’s presidential election could spark civil strife. He treats institutions with arrogance and vengeance, as if they were a straitjacket confining his movement.
The sight of Trump appearing with officials of his administration and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in particular, in front of a church holding aloft a bible is shocking by American standards. His attacks against the media makes local “Doberman” trolls seem like kittens by comparison. There are no limits. Moving downhill.
In recent days, the pendulum appears to be swinging against what Trump stands for. Moderate Republicans have started to openly criticize him. The American middle class is terrified of the chaos and, despite its commitment to the principles of law and order, feels that Trump is dangerous and unpredictable.
Right now, it would be premature to draw conclusions. However, we can be optimistic that the other America has not given up.
It remains to be seen if – should Trump lose the November election – Mitsotakis’ saying will prove correct in this case. That is, if his Democratic rival Joe Biden and his administration will manage to contain the damage, restore equilibrium at home, and reunite American society. Winning the election will not be easy for Biden. Nor will accomplishing any of that.