As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, more significantly the 258th anniversary of the United States Declaration of Independence; as they mark this evocative milestone of their history in the febrile run-up to the 2024 presidential election, there is no better time than this to reflect on where the Union has come from and where it is headed.

The Declaration furnishes the template for carrying out the former task; the pronouncements of the Republican nominee and putative runner Donald Trump, in what the best authorities are calling the most consequential American election in more than a century, as well as his record as the 46th president of the United States provide a tapestry for the latter.

From the outset, practice fell far short of theory, what with the enslavement of hundreds of thousands in the populace and its codification. Gradually, some of its most horrid aspects were rendered untenable or unprofitable by revolt, social pressure, and technology, among other factors. Its structured manifestations remained and were enforced by the system of laws and order.

Even at the most brutal, the resonant clauses of the Declaration, its magniloquent phrasing, signified aspiration, and inspired hope. The Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., envisioned in his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech, that one day, even “down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interpretation” and “nullification” — that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers . . .”

That is already happening, even in Alabama.

Today, 51 years later and 258 years after the Declaration of Independence, a key goal of which was to free the American colonies from the yoke of the English sovereign, there comes along a demagogue who would roll back the gains of the ensuing years and institute a renewed system of tyranny over them – with the consent and approval of a clamorous section of the population.

There comes along a smooth-talking fellow who is all calculation and no introspection, a cult figure whose sole desire is to replace the rule of the Constitution with the tyranny of the Donald and to turn the Land of the Free into the Home of the Captive.

In the ringing words of that storied Founding document: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. . .”

Here are the particulars of the crimes and misdemeanors with which the colonies charged the British sovereign:

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people,

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us.

Therefore, having regard to the foregoing and other stated grievances, the people of the Colonies solemnly declared themselves “absolved of all allegiance to the British Crown. . .”

“A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant,” they declared “is unfit to be the ruler of a free people,”

Now, these are precisely aspects of the Trump agenda, the policies, plans and he says he is seeking office to implement. Yet they are hailing him in many parts of the United States as a champion of the people and a liberator.

If the adoring crowds and the approving polls and the bourgeoning financial support are any indication, every passing day heralds the possibility that Donald Trump might well be elected 48th president of the United States. Joe Biden’s catastrophic performance in last week’s televised debate with Trump only enhanced that grim possibility.

But Trump, not President Biden, is the reason America is heartily disliked and disrespected in those parts of the world where reason has not been supplanted by panic, and where human solidarity has not been overtaken by fear and loathing.

Trump’s campaign is rooted in intimidation and grievance. He intimidates the courts. He intimidates judges. He intimidates law enforcement. He intimidates immigrants and citizens. He intimidates jurists and jurors. He intimidates election officials. He intimidates voters. He intimidates lawmakers. He intimates the armed forces. He intimidates civil servants. He has no respect for the classification system that undergirds National Security. He intimidates the armed forces.

He intimidates other countries and their leaders. He intimidates regulatory agencies and their officials. He disdains science and intimidates scientists. He disdains due process and the rule of law. He disdains the poor and the underclass. He disdains those who look different, think differently and worship differently.

He disdains women and has nothing but contempt for their struggle to control their bodies.

He built a financial empire on fraud, tax evasion, and breach of promise and law. He never saw a covenant that he did not seek to break or disavow. He is a sworn enemy of stability and coherence.

His quest for another term as president, he has made clear, is fueled by a desire to exact revenge and retribution on those who frustrated his carefully-laid plans to steal the election. He and his confederates failed in more than 60 court challenges to substantiate their claim that the 2020 election was rigged for Biden.

With the declaration that he cannot lose the coming race unless it was rigged for his opponent, Trump has laid the groundwork for a repeat of the January 6 2024 insurrection in which a mob he cultivated, nurtured and inspired, invaded the U.S. Capitol with murder on their minds, trashed it, and left in its wake blood and mangled flesh and broken bones and tears and thick layers of excrement. Trump call them “patriots.”

There was a time in America, and not long ago, when a person so uniquely unqualified would not have had a ghost of a chance of being elected president. In the first instance, he would not even have entertained the thought, however fleetingly. And if he was vain or temerarious enough to do so, he would have been checkmated at the threshold by the system of checks and balances. Such a person could not hope to be elected to the local school board. Today, they are cheering him on and serenading him with song and dance.

Four years ago, he was sufficiently mindful of public opinion and morality that he had his media enablers “capture and kill” the so-called Access Hollywood tape, on which he was heard boasting that his wealth and celebrity licensed him to grab and drag women along by an unmentionable portion of their anatomy and that, in any case, they never objected.

After last Thursday’s televised debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, one admirer declared that Trump was welcome to grab her by any portion of her anatomy anytime, any day, anywhere.

That is a sign of the times.

But the lady had better cool her ardour. Trump’s people probably took notes. And one of these days, their boss will call to collect or invite her to come deliver.

This piece was submitted before yesterday’s United States Supreme Court ruling that the President is entitled to substantial immunity from prosecution.