This is not just a moment for Donald Trump and the Republican Party. This is also a moment for America – the first time a current or former president has been charged with a crime.
True, one former president did get arrested for speeding in his horse-drawn carriage in 1872, but he avoided being charged – and Ulysses S. Grant had recently led the Union forces to victory in the Civil War, so may have got a pass.
In some ways, a former head of state being charged with a crime and possibly even going to prison is not news. It’s happened all over the world down the ages: hundreds of presidents, prime ministers and military leaders turfed out of palaces and straight into prisons.
But America regards itself as exceptional; and Washington, the city on a hill that provides a moral and democratic beacon for the world.
So joining this particular club is not just a problem for Donald Trump. It’s a further blow to America’s confidence and self-belief.
And those other blows have been serious.
We have already seen a violent attack on the very seat of democracy on January 6th, 2021, with parliamentarians running for their lives and the mob rampaging through the Capitol for hours unthwarted.
The country is divided: north versus south; the coasts versus the centre; urban versus suburban – all riven with culture wars that are tearing the nation apart.
Add to all that China’s new assertiveness and Russian aggression in Ukraine, and it’s plain there are rising geopolitical challenges on multiple fronts that threaten its status around the world.
Historians refer to the 20th Century as The American Century – will they do the same for this one?
Source : BBC