THE BIG PICTURE
DEMOCRACY ON ITS KNEES
Donald Trump’s presidency could be a harbinger of a muddy world order
The inauguration of the President of the United States of America who invariably assumes the mantle of the most powerful person on Earth is supposed to be a red-letter day. Whether it was so on 20 January when Donald Trump was handed the commander-in-chief’s baton by Barack Obama is a million-dollar question for which the answer may well be somewhat equally divided.
But the fact that he won the presidency despite coming second in the popular vote (by a margin of nearly three million votes of the 129 million or so Americans who turned up at polling booths on 8 November) serves as a stark reminder not only that democracy in a land where it is treasured didn’t quite work, but also that a majority of Americans disapprove of the newly installed president.
In the immediate aftermath of the most damning US presidential election in living memory, when supporters of both candidates went on the rampage in their uniquely different ways, The Washington Post remarked: “What was lost in the election last week? Democracy. Decency. Humanity. Morality. All the way round.”
It explained that “the same constitution that gives protesters the right to peaceful assembly also created the electoral college that gave Trump the White House.”
Making even more of a mockery of democracy is the fact that a bewildering 45 percent of Americans chose not to vote (arguably for the right reasons) or couldn’t be bothered doing so (for whatever reason) – which must surely place ‘democracy,’ as we’ve come to know it, in an inexplicable space.
So Uncle Sam and the so-called ‘free world’ have a new leader who turned the tables on the establishment and stormed his way through a campaign trail that was laced with blatant racism, extreme bigotry and sexist innuendos – in stark contrast to the gentleman he replaces, who upheld the honour of the presidency and served two terms with unparalleled dignity.
As a columnist in London’s Financial Times wrote, “much like one of his property deals, Mr. Trump will cajole, bully, flatter and bribe whoever he is dealing with. The more Mr. Trump tweets from the gut, the more Americans will appreciate the calm weighing of pros and cons that was the hallmark of ‘No Drama Obama’.”
In the US, civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis (who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in non-violent protest against racism and hatred in America in the 1960s) chose not to attend the inauguration on the grounds that Trump is “not a legitimate president.” So did some 60 other Democrats.
Lewis cited leaked findings of US intelligence agencies that the Russians intervened in the election to boost Trump’s chances of winning the presidency in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” he charged.
Whether President Donald Trump will ‘make America great (or hate) again’ is left to be seen. His plans to rock the global boat include pulling out of a historic climate change agreement, revoking numerous trade deals, embracing protectionism, annulling the multilateral nuclear arms elimination arrangement with Iran and building a 2,000-mile-long wall across the US-Mexico border – and have the Mexicans foot the estimated US$ 10-20 billion bill!
Sadly, the world is seemingly at his mercy. But hopefully, sanity will prevail in the corridors of the Capitol so that the man who prides himself on shooting from the hip, so to speak, will be brought back down to earth with a thud that’s as loud as he is.