The pied piper of the U.S. 2016 presidential election
US President-elect Donald Trump. SAUL LOEB / AFP
The votes have been tallied and presidential level political machinations and shenanigans have been put aside, at least for now. To the utter shock and consternation of the whole world Donald Trump, a political neophyte and apprentice has emerged victorious. The court jester has become king of the realm.
As a global citizen, I welcome the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States of America and the de facto leader of the free world. What I find somewhat reprehensible and indeed morally dubious is his chosen path to power. The Trump train rode into power by embracing and massaging dark and negative emotions of a panicked, cudgeled and fearful segment of the American electorate. Basically, this was done through pandering to human insecurities and included the vilification, demonisation and exclusion of whole swathes of people groups – aka minorities, along the way. They were cynically used by Donald Trump as the pyre on an altar dedicated to blind, unbridled political ambition. The unvarnished truth is that President-elect Trump has contributed to the very significant deterioration of race relations in America and may indeed have helped to erode painful and costly gains made in that area worldwide. Only time will tell! Ironically, such was the near ubiquitous strong distaste for the Democratic Party in general and Secretary Hillary Clinton in particular, that President elect Trump could have ridden his train into Pennsylvania Avenue without causing national scale damage to the underpinning of American society. He has given the world a master class in ‘‘divide and rule’’ campaign politics, which if paid heed to as an acceptable model, would undoubtedly result in the total disintegration of a few democracies.
Donald Trump’s stated objective of “making America great again’’ is intrinsically a highly commendable goal and should be celebrated. The once stable bulwark of America, the middle class, is caught up in an economic nightmare which has left members of that strata shell-shocked and bloodied. Donald Trump promised to right all economic wrongs and bring back financial prosperity to ‘‘middle’’ America. This pledge was the primary mover responsible for his electoral triumph.
However, as the dictum goes “the devil is in the details.’’ It behoves us to consider a pertinent and probable rider, which is the effect of the destructive and malevolent forces unleashed by Donald Trump’s dangerous, rabble-rousing and often irresponsible campaign rhetoric.
This prompted a handful of analysts to hearken back to the days of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich when assessing the political landscape. I take issue with the fact that the president-elect played a major role in sowing, watering and fertilizing tares which might yet wax strong and sturdy under the presidency of a “Trump sun,” the rays of which may be felt throughout the world. How easy is it going to be to ignore, neutralise or destroy the tares of distrust, hatred, discrimination and veiled calls for violence which were sown in his quest for ultimate power and privilege?
I have never been an adherent of the philosophy that ‘‘the end justifies the means,’’ particularly when by-products of certain actions could be foreboding and have the capacity to cause unwarranted suffering. So, in soaking in the unique musical strains and notes struck by the Trump phenom, in his presidential campaign, one would have to ask if his followers were tone deaf or were so enraptured in their dance that like whirling dervishes they were transported to an alternate reality. The burning issue now is whether it is too late to undo the damage even if he attempts to change his tune and strike one which is less jarring, less strident and is pleasing to the ear. I sincerely hope and pray that having arrived at the stratospheric terminus, the trajectory of the Trump train can be turned around.
Finally, to bring the lesson home to us in Africa, I dare say no African country can absorb similar behaviour from a leading political candidate and come away unscathed. To be candid, it would lead to the brink of certain national immolation. The stark truth is that Africa is screaming and yearning for leaders who would put their people first and devote their energies to making their countries great. We would however benefit better from a Martin Luther King-like figure, who can appeal to the nobility in his supporters and adversaries alike and who has an inclusive vision and totally disavows violence in rhetoric or actions.
Fowler is a legal practitioner.
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