" Ours is a century that will see America’s unipolar domination … gradually be challenged and ultimately balanced by China’s development from an Asian power into a world power. Dealing with China’s ascendancy — and avoiding military conflict — is going to take a US with strong leadership and a unified vision. "
“An old, mad, blind, despised and dying king” — Percy Bysshe Shelley’s opening line in his poem “England in 1819,” the last year of the reign of King George III.

Our democratically elected king is certainly old — at 71, even older than Ronald Reagan was in his first year. Mad? No, but his mental capacities have been seriously questioned; indeed, he’s been referred to as “unhinged” more than once in the mainstream media. Despised? With his approval rating stuck in the low 30s, the majority of Americans indeed despise him. But, he’s not blind.

England found a solution to its leadership problem: it couldn’t throw out its legitimate ruler, so Parliament made his son the regent, leaving mad old George as titular head, with no power.

Odds are about even these days, according to London bookmakers, that we’ll get a similar result — albeit with a different approach — for Trump. For their troubles, the British got George IV, an aging alcoholic spendthrift. For ours, we’ll get a right-wing, evangelical Christian.

But the good news: with Trump’s support primarily coming from middle America whites, President Pence will surely have a broader, less divisive base.

At least at first. But as his politics and religious views increasingly reveal themselves, the country could become even more divided than it is under Trump.

When England was ruled by mad King George 200 years ago, it was the beginning of the 19th century, the British century. England ruled the waves, and for virtually the next 100 years was the pre-eminent world power. The Ottoman Empire had barely heard of the Industrial Revolution, nor was czarist Russia any better prepared for the modern world. France was still in shock from its revolution a few decades earlier, and Germany was non-existent, a collection of small principalities. China was a sleeping giant and the United States an isolated, divided hinterland.

The 19th century was to be England’s, mad king or no king.

The 21st century — the American century, our century — unfortunately finds China on the ascendancy. Not yet; indeed, not for decades. But ours is a century that will see America’s unipolar domination, since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 25 years ago, gradually be challenged and ultimately balanced by China’s development from an Asian power into a world power.

Dealing with China’s ascendancy — and avoiding military conflict — is going to take a US with strong leadership and a unified vision.

Trump’s failing presidency, cementing the country’s divisive politics, is the wrong vision at a key moment.

Trump’s whole Putin/Russian relationship — which from the start of his presidency had seemed bizarre, off-kilter — grows daily more awkward, more threatening.

We know now that Trump covered up the real purpose of that meeting last summer that his son and son-in-law had with Russian operatives. It wasn’t about adopting Russian babies. It was Trump colluding with Russia in the midst of the US presidential election to get dirt on his opponent Hillary Clinton. “The art of the deal”?

It’s clear, beyond doubt, that Russia hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee with the purpose of helping Trump win the presidency. But if you listen to Trump: maybe, maybe not.

And just this week, there’s the revelation that a Trump attorney and key executive in the Trump organization was working with the Kremlin to develop business in Russia during the presidential campaign. At the same time, Trump’s company was pursuing a planned Trump Tower in Moscow.

Trump loves to publicly complain about some of our allies’ various policy positions, but despite the provocative behavior of Russia in the Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Trump has kept his lips sealed about Putin — except when he’s praising him, or defending him. Asked in a Fox interview last year about the murders of journalists and Putin opponents in Russia, Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”

And when last month the Russians ordered our embassy in Moscow to cut its staff in half, Trump was appreciative of Putin: “I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down on our payroll.” What hold exactly does Putin have over Trump?

Drip, drip, drip: with the Mueller investigation proceeding, we’ll eventually learn why Trump has such a subservient relationship with Putin.

Meanwhile, Trump needs, at the very least, to expand his base, to try to appeal to moderate Republicans and middle-of-the-road independents.

Instead, he pardons the obscure Arizona border sheriff Arpaio — “Sheriff Joe,’’ as Trump fondly calls him — who had been convicted of serious and illegal mistreatment of Latinos, some of whom were American citizens or legal immigrants. Both of Arizona’s Republican senators spoke out publicly against Trump’s pardon, as did the Republican leader of the House. No matter, the Arpaio pardon served its purpose: it played well with his white supremacist base.

Even the Wall Street Journal, usually a firm supporter of Trump, denounced the move: “Mr. Trump’s power to pardon is undeniable, but pardoning Mr. Arpaio sends a message that law enforcers can ignore court orders and get away with it. All you need is a political ally in the White House or Governor’s mansion. Down that road lies anarchy.’’

“An old, mad, blind, despised…” 

Blind? Only morally.