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Monday, October 2, 2023

The great fall of Trumpty Dumpty The 46th President-elect ‘Team Biden-Harris’ will have to beat the virus, rebuild the American economy, heal the national divisions, and work must be taken seriously again.

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Suruwa B. Wawa Jaiteh

Former US vice president, Joseph Biden, has won the 2020 presidential elections, with the incumbent, President Donald Trump, unlikely to concede, insisting he was the victim of fraud.

The historic result was a dramatic conclusion to a long, vitriolic campaign period that began four years ago when the businessman and former reality show star assumed office and conducted himself in ways never imagined for the president of the United States and the leader of the free world.  The Covid-19 pandemic only raised the stakes for the American people.  As the rest of the world awoke on the morning after election night, the president-elect and his running mate, Kamala Harris, addressed the nation, emphasising that they would work with everybody, not only those who supported them in the elections.  Their message was one of reconciliation and healing – principled leadership, empathy, and an adherence to the truth.  Meanwhile, the losing camp held a press conference, not at a posh hotel as implied but at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping, outside an office near an adult bookstore and a cremation centre. They announced their filing of lawsuits to challenge what they claimed to be fraudulent elections.

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Why has the United States of America elections captivated many of us, here in Africa, except in Kenya and Nigeria where pro-Trump protests took place?

Foremost, there are thousands of Africans and African-Americans in the US.  While many of them have settled there, they have family and relatives in Africa.  Their status, their security, and their health and career prospects do not only concern them and their immediate circles.

Second, America is still perceived to be a global leader. Despite different countries’ problems in their respective home fronts, the international community still looks at the US for its actions in various world concerns. It remains after all, to have the biggest economy. It has a major role in geopolitics. Its bilateral relations with other countries plays a decisive role in that country’s policy, and often affect markets heavily.    

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Perhaps, too, we are interested in American politics because of the interesting characters that populate it.  Trumpet Trump’s remarks, in front of the camera and from his Twitter account, are not only untruthful, false and downright lies but are unfitting for a United States president and world leader. At the very least, the civilised world is ashamed and disturbed that mighty America can afford to elect a character like Trumpet Trump as president of the United States of America and a supposed leader of the civilised world.  While seriously disappointed, we are, at the same time relieved, in that what we witness in our own backyards cannot be the worst.  

The 2020 US presidential election has proven to be one of the most contentious and closely run in recent memory, but there is among the enormous volume of commentary and discussion about the contest one overwhelming conclusion that has been overlooked under extraordinarily difficult and historically unprecedented circumstances.  That single overwhelming conclusion is, notwithstanding the Covid -19 pandemic, America has still managed to carry out a nationwide election that has delivered credible results within a matter of days. 

It has been a remarkable election and should serve as an example to African countries, where similar exercises undertaken recently on a much smaller scale, have been fraught with insurmountable difficulties, and the results for some contests have been soaked with fraud and shame.

Donald Trump and his white supremacist supporters have made bitter accusations of election fraud and have even taken legal action to try to stop vote counting or force recounts in some places, but so far none of the claims have proven credible.  Some leading members of Trump’s White Supremacist Republican Party, among them senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, have publicly rejected the president’s position for lack of evidence and confirmed their support for the democratic process and a full accounting of all votes.  Disappointment with the outcome is probably human nature, although many found it both odd and disturbing that Trump began to cry foul even before a final result could be guessed, let alone known for sure.

The Republican Party today stands stripped of its hallowed ideology that was the standard bearer during the civil war under the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, a martyr hero who laid his life for abolishing slavery and upholding democracy as highlighted in the immortal Gettysburg speech.

The worst president in the history of the US, Trumpty Dumpty has hijacked the Republican Party and made it a party of and for stooges, illiberal and irrational extremists, conservatives and racists.  

Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, some foresaw the danger to the party and the country if Trump was elected as the president of the United States.  The then House Speaker Paul Ryan, a loyal Republican and a vice presidential candidate in 2012, worked out a framework to protect the party from any harm that an opportunist and wild card entrant like Trump could cause.  At a party seniors’ meeting, Ryan presented a set of proposals, describing it as “This is Trump inoculation plan.”

In the type of politics Donald Trump dabbles in, principles have no place.  As president he became unruly, dismissing democratic traditions and not doing what right-minded people thought was right for any civilised country president.  As a result the Republican Party that he represented lost its identity and soul. 

Trump’s theatrics, given that they do not appear to be justified at all, should not distract from the quality and democratic achievements the 2020 election represents.         

Consider the obstacles the US has had to overcome in not only carrying out the election, but in tallying nearly 150 million votes.  To begin with, there is no national organisation for elections in the US.  As a federal system, the conduct of elections is a power of the state.  That is, in fact, elections are conducted according to 51 different sets of rules, with each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

The most unique factor in the 2020 election is that it was conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and – although the election campaign almost contributed to it – at a time when the pandemic is at its worst In the US, which has already been hit harder by the pandemic than any other country in the world.  The pandemic led to a massive number of mail-in and early votes as voters sought to avoid exposing themselves to infection, more than 100 million votes were cast in this way.  This increased the complexity of the election, as these ballots require additional steps to verify and count them in most states compared to in-person voting.

More importantly, however, we are interested in what goes on in the United States of America because the qualities becoming of a leader are not unique to one country.  In fact, the attributes of an ideal leader are universal.  They have a healthy respect for science, professionalism and the truth.  They are not petty.  They do not make everything about themselves.  They do not play the victim when things do not go their way.  They are guided by objectivity and clarity of mind and speech.  They try to work not just with those that applaud, and find value in criticism instead of cracking down on them.

Genuine leaders acknowledge that nobody is as big as the institution of government and the concept of democracy.  They know that there is a system – imperfect as it is, but still working anyway – of choosing leaders that must never be undermined just to satisfy a personal quest.

Americans, under Team Biden-Harris, have a lot of work ahead of them.  They have to end an era of incompetence, hubris, narcissism and prevarication.  They will have to beat the virus, rebuild their economy, heal their divisions (put an end to “white supremacist” movements), and work to be taken seriously against the reemergence of Trumpet Trump like bigots.  Africa and the rest of the world will look at them as they try to be an example – if not how to do good things, then how not to do bad things.

The support for Trump and his intransigence raise fears of further chaos or even civil war, similar to what is often seen in weak democracies where rulers care little or no hoots about democratic governance.  The manner in which Trump behaves puts him in league with dictators in “shithole countries” to use his own words. 

As America is being plunged into uncertainty, shame and its democracy’s darkest days, perhaps the hope for American and Americans is in the unlikely possibility that the stubborn behavior of an “ill-educated, bad mannered” president is only a face saving exercise or a narrative to claim he won the election but was deprived of his second term by the establishment or what he and his supporters derisively refer to as the deep state.

It is high time that the Republican Party found its soul to once again practice principled politics and save itself from the ignominy of being lumped together with extreme right wing political parties which have destroyed the democratic fabric of the countries where they operate. 

The author, a native of Bakau is a former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and senior official of the West Africa Rice Development Association.

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