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Trump’s American carnage serves a grim purpose

And whether Mr Sexton likes it or not, it is that quest for “domination” and “overwhelming force” that puts a police officer’s knee on a man’s neck for more than eight minutes, with fatal consequences.

For as long as there has been a United States of America, there has been a belief that the armed white man on the frontier is the ultimate guarantor of liberty. This belief and the fears of “bad guys” that underpin it are still visceral for many American voters, and it is on them that Mr Trump, with his loose talk of “terrorism”, is relying to secure a second term.

But he is also relying on those who opt for looting and destruction instead of dialogue and construction at this moment. The last US president who raved about domestic “enemies” as much as Mr Trump does was Richard Nixon, but where Nixon sought to drive his enemies from the public sphere, Mr Trump needs them centre-stage for his continuing Punch and Judy show.

Donald Trump poses with a bible outside St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington.

Donald Trump poses with a bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington.Credit:Bloomberg

As Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama pointed out, however, it is not only a question of the presidency but of those who turn out to protest turning up to vote when state and local officials – who actually wield authority over policing – run for election. “If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both,” Mr Obama said.

The alternative is one that American and foreign journalists have seen unfold over the past few days: a terrain in which violence against “enemies” – including journalists, thanks to years of incitement by Mr Trump – is indiscriminate and unchecked, and a politics where photo opportunities and grandstanding replace the hard work of consultation and legislation.

It is difficult to see how Americans struggling with economic, health and social crises can emerge from this darkness, though surely removing Mr Trump from office in November would be a beginning. During his career he has presided over a string of bankruptcies, but he has never run a concern that so many people have invested so much in as the presidency. Let us hope it is now clear to enough voters that a second term for this man is more than their nation can afford.

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