After the development of the first atomic weapons through the Manhattan Project, Albert Einstein and scientists from the University of Chicago in 1945 conceived of a “Doomsday Clock” where midnight represents the apocalypse. Since that time our country and the world have faced the ever present danger of nuclear annihilation.
The United States has created its own looming Doomsday Clock, its hands inexorably moving toward a political apocalypse. It advances in response to racial and economic upheaval, enormous wage disparity, climate change and a political party whose current role is to spread falsehoods and promote outrageous and moronic conspiracies, the most deadly causing hundreds of thousands of needless pandemic deaths. Threats to poll workers, school administrators and public health officials have become commonplace. Then there is a nationalist white Christian movement spawning vigilantism, the growth of extreme right-wing militias, and infiltration of right-wing extremism in our police forces. A conservative Supreme Court may negate a woman’s right to choose abortion but allow gun rights advocates to carry and use any weapon of their choosing. Kyle Rittenhouse was just acquitted of all charges after killing protesters in Kenosha, Wis. Voter suppression laws and gerrymandering are changing the national political landscape in favor of a minority autocratic party.
None of this occurred overnight but with the rise to the presidency of Donald Trump it has flourished. He has elevated bullying, lying and intimidation to an art form bending the will of his entire party to his self-serving desires. And his desire is clearly unmitigated power tinged with revenge toward anyone daring to cross him. His Jan. 6 coup attempt was merely a rehearsal.
These events speed the clock hands closer to midnight and they will advance again if Republicans take control of the House and Senate in 2022. Then, on Jan. 20, 2025 with Trumpism “victorious,” America’s Doomsday Clock will strike midnight after which democracy’s time will have expired.