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Repugnant vs Demagogue

  • Published at 12:03 am November 4th, 2016
Repugnant vs Demagogue

Not long to go now. The days are counting down.

Soon, it will be hours. Barely enough time left to finish a box-set before we all know the result of the US Presidential Election.

And then it will all be over. Except it won’t.

The real life on-screen drama will continue regardless.

Even if times were normal -- and they manifestly are not -- the US political system is designed to drag on with a long transition built in before Inauguration Day.

It’s complicated enough already without a major party candidate threatening to only “respect the result” if he wins.

“Remember remember, after the eighth of November,” even after Electoral College and Congressional totals are confirmed, there will be no easy escape. There will be no simple ending. No blissful relief.

Only three outcomes can be taken for granted.

First, for sure, around half, give or take, of those who turn out to vote, and plenty of those who don’t, will find the winner to be extremely distasteful, repugnant, and unacceptable.

Secondly, should said winner be a man, that is to say Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, Google searches for the meaning of the word “demagogue” will hit an all time high.

And last but not least, with each and every day that passes, Barack Hussein Obama will seem an even better president to more and more people than he does today.

Yes, he’s disappointed many by not earning his Peace Prize or closing Gitmo, but he did better than some hoped by getting health care reform, climate change, marriage equality, and Cuba on the US agenda in the face of immense intransigence, where others before have failed.

But truth be told, being the first non-white president of the United States was always going to be enough, on its own, for Obama to be a big deal in the history books.

As for that matter, becoming the first female president of the United States ought to be achieving something similar for Hillary Clinton.

The narrative is compelling; America finally starts to overcome the culture wars that have bedeviled it ever since the Civil Rights era struggles abolished legal apartheid below the Mason Dixon line and women began to amass real power in the workplace.

Electing a woman to follow a president of colour would exemplify the aspirations of opportunity and ideals of equality which people all round the globe look to in America.

Despite all the ample evidence to the contrary. We just can’t help it. The lure of the American dream and reach of US power, influence, and money are too great for it to be any other way. Most of the world, like me, does not get a vote, lives thousands of miles away, but even so, cannot quite resist taking an interest.

Somehow, the opening paragraph of Soul on Ice still rings true despite being written in 1968 (by a Black Panther author who became a conservative Republican and evangelical Christian).

“It is not an overstatement to say that the destiny of the entire human race depends on what is going on in America today. This is a staggering reality to the rest of the world; they must feel like passengers in a supersonic jet liner who are forced to watch helplessly while a passel of drunks, hypes, freaks, and madmen fight for the controls and the pilot’s seat.”   

Trump, by the way is teetotal, however less-than-sober his rhetoric.

Should he lose on Tuesday, Donald Trump’s candidacy can easily be framed not as a wake-up call for proponents of corporate-led globalisation, but as the despairing gasp of an outnumbered white male chauvinist-led America.

His cynical use of racist language, wandering hands, and shameless sexism would all take the blame.

Eventually, Trump’s misogynist musings and Billy Bush’s schoolboy sniggers on that notorious Access Hollywood tape might even begin to be seen more as a sad Derek and Clive tribute act than a threat to civilisation, and the world could move on to wondering what a new, improved President Clinton can do for women (and on how the Republicans will use all means they deem legal to undermine her authority).

But instead of this election not even seeming close, a tenuous but real FBI investigation into the cyber world of Anthony Weiner has put the wind back under Trump’s sails and drastically deflated Clinton’s confidence.

It’s not just that Clinton built opinion poll leads before and after the debates, Trump also consistently delivered gaffes. The latter’s path to victory ought to have firmly shut weeks ago.

Hillary supporters must be wishing she’d asked Bernie Sanders to be VP now.

Sanders’ proven ability to attract new voters would far outweigh Trump’s loud but barely credible attempts to make out he is not part of the establishment elites he claims to despise.

Only Clinton could not have done that, because she let some of her more fervent fans endlessly slander Sanders in the primaries for, amongst other falsehoods, “not understanding minorities.”

It takes some serious chutzpah and hubris to suggest that someone who has been an actual elected socialist in the United States Congress does not know what it is like to be a minority. But never mind all that; everyone is friends now. Bernie, Barack, and Bill are all backing Hillary.

As is Michelle, and a few key senior Republicans. Not to mention, famed Republican stalwart, satirical globetrotter, and relentless critic of both Clintons, PJ O’Rourke, who publicly endorsed her as “better the devil you know” in the Daily Beast, while thoroughly excoriating The Donald for bigotry, bankruptcy, and bad taste.

Truly, there should be nowhere left for him to hide. But Trump is still standing. And everyone, especially high up in his own party, is more than a little scared he might still win.

Be not afeard, is all I can say.

Sorry folks, but election day won’t provide the ending you crave. Come Wednesday, the best we can hope for is more aphorisms

When Ronald Reagan, with his cod-fundamentalist talk of expecting to see End Times, was twice elected president, nuclear armageddon-themed inauguration parties were all the rage. The world has been to that place before and survived.

For all his belligerence and bluster, Trump’s needy ego merely wants to be loved or, failing that, get some attention and bragging rights. Lots of bragging rights. Facts and truth, not so much. Trump is less interested in fighting evil emperors than in becoming one. Don’t worry, constitutional checks and balances will stop him if he tries.

Yes, the same constitution which did so little to give the vote to African-Americans and women, and enforce treaties with the natives. That one, I appreciate this, is not very comforting but we have to believe it gets things right eventually. One day, it may even follow Bernie Sanders and wiser nations in seriously limiting campaign spending.

In the meantime, it remains possible the US election could replace Obama with Trump. And even though he would be a worse choice than Clinton, plenty of American voters are going to end up seriously annoyed whichever way the ballots fall. Not for nothing did Churchill proclaim democracy as “the worst political system, except for all the others.”

Whether Trump turns out to be winner or whiner, the reasons he is still in the running are not going anywhere, nor is there much reason to hope a new President Clinton could solve them.

Sorry folks, but Election Day won’t provide the ending you crave. Come Wednesday, the best we can hope for is more aphorisms. The end of this election will not be the beginning of the end. But if we’re very lucky, it might just about be the end of the beginning.

Niaz Alam is a member of the Editorial Board of Dhaka Tribune. A qualified lawyer, he has worked on corporate responsibility and ethical business issues since 1992. He sat on the Board of the London Pensions Fund Authority between 2001-2010 and is a former vice-chair of War on Want.

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