Now, the elections are over, and all speculations have been put to sleep. Let us do what humans are wont to: Look back at how we dodged a bullet by not getting hit twice by the same absurdity called Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the worst joke democracy ever told, and by some demonstration of that famous resilient American spirit, the men and women of the United States of America, of every race and creed listened, and let us hope we heard it well.
America had made some progress in its role as the world’s shinning beacon of hope and democracy, and except for some infrequent cloudy days, it was still looked upon to intervene in world issues as a voice of reason. One of such bright days of American democracy, a lot of people will agree, was the inauguration of the first African American, in the person of Barack Obama as President of the USA. This occasion was not only going to be a sign that America had just successfully shown the world how effective democracy is as a socio-political model of societal organization, but also that its electorate had matured enough in proving that racism cannot deny them the possibilities inherent in common sense. Obama represented possibilities for America, but all these was soon to seem like the heady days of youth, all thanks to the political space-drop that were the last four years with Donald Trump piloting the affairs of the United States.
Like a bad movie playing out but with a little uncertainty, Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire real-estate tycoon, and television star dispelled all uncertainties by originating a very disturbing bit of news for an average American, “demonic” Russia might have influenced their elections and contributed in installing Trump. After investigations that led to the sacking of James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director, there were some internal political shuffling that resulted in an ambiguous verdict that ‘exonerated’ Donald Trump, and American democracy lived yet another day. But a long and precarious journey filled with presidential scares was to follow. On this phase of the journey, our self-acclaimed protagonist decides to open up migrant detention facilities where undocumented and overstayed guests were locked-up, separated from their kids who were shut in metal cages while the parents awaited their immigration status verdict leaving the media awash with scenes from a Hollywood holocaust video. This grew into attempts to build a wall round most of its southern border and have Mexico pay for it; issuing visa bans to mostly countries with sizeable Muslim populations; engaging China in trade wars; befriending North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un; and ordering missile strikes on Syria in search of ISSIL. And as if in a shock induced trance, the rest of the world watched the staggering giant lumber on in fear of enemies both real and mostly imagined.
Things seemed to take an even worse turn when four officers of the Minneapolis, the Minnesota Police Department wrestled down and choked the life out of an African American in broad day light. His name, George Floyd, would resonate around the world calling attention to that ever patient, in-house American enemy that has kept it divided, and always finds ways to embarrass and almost tear it up from within. Racism which has been in America from the very day it was christened, was yet again stirring up disruptive protests and looting that threatened to collapse law and order in the union. The President rose to the occasion in his usual brash, entitled white male manner to declare the protesters enemy of the state, and deploying the national guard. But as things deteriorated, and even in the White House members of staff were either being summarily fired or resigning with amusing frequency, the die-hard Trump supporters still pointed to economic indications to chant “this is the best American economy in a long while” with the unemployment rate 3.5%. But, 2020 was to come bearing its own Donald Trump lessons.
Early in the year 2020, coinciding with American election year, the world was greeted with news of a Sci-Fi sounding acronym COVID-19, a virus allegedly spreading from China to the rest of the world. With the scale, and restriction (to animals) of a prior virus also “made in China,” most people assumed it was just another regular new-year scare, until cases of mortality (amongst humans!) started to spring up rapidly around the globe and everything was shut down. A couple of months—of indoor restrictions and some thousands of American deaths–down the line, there were growing rumours that Donald Trump was made aware of the virus, earlier enough for most of the now over 230,000 American deaths, which he (Trump) responded to with attacks on the World Health Organization (WHO) whom he alleged was colluding with China to spread fake news. This was followed with numerous other conspiracy posts on twitter, Trump’s conduit for spreading rumour, unfounded conspiracy theories, and poorly veiled public attacks on anyone who dared speak critically of himself or his administration’s behaviour. He totally discredited the world acclaimed immunologist and foremost authority on communicable diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who seemed to be the only one around him telling the truth about the danger of COVID-19. In the end, his behaviour in “combating” the virus; flaunting preventive measures, prescribing bizarre “medications” and claiming immunity after having been treated for the virus.
Then the elections came and Trump the showman donning on his “Make America Great Again” cap embarks on another round of salesmanship. But this time, with over 12.6 million out-of-job people at an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent, a case against public healthcare subsidy (“Obamacare”) in court, and a fellow septuagenarian, Joe Biden were going to give him a run for his money. In the subsequent election debates, Trump who was to field questions on the last four years of his turbulent presidency turned the event into a Trump-only affair, interrupting and turning the event into an incoherent affair. The world waited in tense anticipation while voting commence, waiting to see if Donald Trump could pull another 2016 and have the electoral college come to his rescue like it did with Hilary Clinton.
In the meantime, democratic candidate Joe Biden, an experienced public official with six elections to the Senate and eight years as Obama’s Vice President was armed with a mixed-raced, female vice presidential candidate in Kamala Harris and together they stood to expose the Trump farce for what it was, a dangerous game with a shallow, self-indulgent poser in charge of powerful tools for good and destruction. They stood alongside the American people to say: no to abuse of power and office; no to the demeaning of the American image; no to forces of division and hate; and most importantly, no to another four years brink walking with Donald Trump. And now that the verdict is finally out, that Trump’s mostly conservative republican crowd could not save him from the truth of his actions, America can continue building; fix its image, and the damages done to its internal social as well as international relations.
Also, at this time when the United States has successfully terminated its contract with bad rubbish, the circumstances that brought Donald Trump to power should be a lesson; if we let down our guard, right in front of our very noses, we shall end up with one error that can send us and everything we worked for and believe, into oblivion. That is how close we came. Some might argue that Trump was exactly what the world needed in these periods, but they never could have been farther from the truth. Donald Trump represented the end of effective round table diplomacy and a misguided notion that America’s status as the ‘‘sole superpower’’ meant that it was not answerable to the rest of the world. In fact, Trump took pleasure in associating these other parts of the world with debasing titles like “shit-hole” among instances of verbal diarrhoea. One person who also seemed to appreciate the fact of Trump’s unsuitability was his predecessor Barack Obama, who came out to warn voters about what the brash acts of egomania and a reputation for telling lies could mean to the name of the American people.
Another four years with characteristic madness in the White House could only be imagined. Definitely, not his winning would be bad for America going forward, but the 99 per cent of Trump gloating about it throughout his second term and rubbing it not only on Democrats’ face but also Americans would have been very bad to stand. Even more, a second term would have been an endorsement of his uncouth rhetoric, a seal of approval for his racism, global discrimination, international terrorism, and other tomfoolery unbecoming of a POTUS. Indeed, there is something to merry about in 2020, the exit of madness, and restoration of a bit of sanity!
Toyin Falola is the University Distinguished Teaching Professor and Humanities Chair at The University of Texas at Austin, USA.