The Promise of Change: Many are still stunned around the world at the outcome of American presidential elections. Against all odds, the impossible became improbable and the improbable became a surreal reality, with many hoping they would wake up from a bad dream – that of a President Donald J. Trump.
Men will always embrace messengers of a better deal, irrespective of how unrealistic the promises made are, especially so, if they are experiencing what they deemed a raw deal. It is essentially the promise of change. Barrack Obama rode on the stallion of change to office. He appealed to liberal values, to life abundant, to inclusive economic recovery and a new approach to American relations with the rest of the world. Against all odds, a black man became a tenant of the presidential White House.
Eight years later, Donald Trump has also ridden the stallion of change brazenly, impertinently and in a manner that scattered dust in every direction. Interestingly, a substantial number of Americans, most of whom were already dirtied with the adverse consequences of globalisation, cheered him on, practically willing him to also sully the elites, who they felt were responsible for their economic woes.
The American political class (conservatives and liberals inclusive) have come to take the American electorate for granted, feeling that no matter what happened, the political trophies would always rotate among them. But, the rise of the tea party should have taught them a lesson. While the banks and the corporations were getting huge government bailouts for self inflicted foolery, the ordinary American, especially the blue collar white working class were losing their jobs. There was a lot of seething discontents, waiting for the right amplifier.
The situation reminds one of what happened in Europe after the First World War. The Germans were humiliated at Versailles and after that there was a suppressed unbridled feeling of nationalism, pervading the land and waiting for the ‘appropriate’ messenger to instigate it at the appropriate moment. Then, came along Adolf Hitler and the rest is now history, but history at a great cost to humanity.
Donald Trump only imported his predatory and exploitative business instincts into politics. He was emotionally intelligent enough to realise that the depth of his star power and wealth would enable him to get away with what would ruin many politicians over and over. He did not rely on any power brokers or rich donors to kickstart his Machiavellian crusade. He tapped into the discontents in the American society – majorly immigration and job flights. He also gave voice to the bigotry and base instincts of many Americans (the so-called ‘basket of deplorables’) who, as it turned out, were substantial in numbers.
Who else but Trump could have gotten away with self confessed grabbing of ‘punany’, publicly mocking a disabled journalist, profane insult of political opponents, blatant lies and confounding ignorance, refusal, against the norm, to disclose tax returns, apparent lack of preparedness for political debates, unrestrained anger and temperament?
It was almost akin to what happened in Nigeria during Buhari’s election. Suddenly, a teflonic cover flowed over Buhari and nothing bad could stick on him. Trump became the teflon presidential candidate. The more he became outrageous, the more his support base expanded, including many who could not proclaim support for him openly, because they feared being associated with his indecency.
Trump exploited human frailties and prejudices. He connected with disgruntled Americans, who, rightly or wrongly wanted their country back. He gave voice to their prejudices, without adverse consequences to his person and ambition. He gave them the promise of change. Trump’s election has exposed the adverse side of American democracy. Any ‘idiot’ or ‘bigot’ (who had no experience of governance) can become president. Political systems, similar to that of the United Kingdom would not spew such outcast, for Trump is an outcast, an independent one.
Hillary Clinton should take solace in the fact that, like Al Gore, she won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college votes. In that, there is hope for America. Americans can face the rest of the world and proudly proclaim that the election of Trump does not reflect the views of majority of Americans.
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