• Friday, Nov 27, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:54 pm

OP-ED: People’s representatives

  • Published at 11:14 pm October 28th, 2020
Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump waves at the end of a campaign rally at Pensacola International Airport, in Pensacola, Florida on October 23, 2020 AFP

Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus may be the deciding factor 

n democracy, there was a time when people nominated representatives to speak on their behalf in matters of state and communities. Younger and wiser ones took such decisions after consideration of the credentials of the chosen one. 

Through the ages, as people’s numbers increased and more voices were added, changes were made to the process, leading to complex situations in governance and decision-making. With the usual outcome, when many heads came together, representatives too, were bound by oath to uphold, respect, and honour constitutions on which the fundamentals of the state were positioned. 

Man-made as they were, constitutions too, required changes to reflect the realities of the day and times, societal evolution, and people’s expectations. Some of these were driven by the need to formulate new laws or amend existing ones. Arguably, the majority of such provided the state with more complicated power, that led to both creating a distance between the electorate and individual power-groups and unholy syndicates.

The media, initially in print form and then electronically, was born out of the need to provide news to countrymen and highlight the pressing problem faced by the electorate that gave them a periodic verdict on governance. Inevitably, power corrupted. Trading of votes through direct financial benefits and local muscle power plagued developing nations.  

Media moguls also began looking for business incentives to pay all those employed. Ted Turner was one such person who launched Cable News Network (CNN) to do proper journalism and share information. Age and business considerations forced him to sell out to the Time Warner group and since then, the network became more Democrat than Republican. He wryly remarked that there was more of politics than news.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) set up by the UK government had two basic objectives. One to report news as it happened, and two, to spread knowledge of British culture and history. Today, its programming is also aimed at satiating viewers and listeners from different ethnic backgrounds.

In the next few days, the United States’s first-ever staggered voting through early polls, mail, and email will culminate in the choice of president for the next four years. 64 million had done their citizen’s jobs at the time this piece was penned. Another 74 odd million are expected to complete the process by November 3. The complex election process isn’t just decided by votes, but that of the Electoral College incorporated to ensure state representation and population. 

Anyone following BBC or CNN cannot but be convinced that Donald Trump should be voted out. The deciding factors are mishandling of the coronavirus leading to over 230,000 people dying, the feet-dragging over lockdowns, social distancing, and even wearing masks, and the dire straits of an economy that has required almost $3 trillion pumped into the economy. People lost jobs and the queues at food banks stretched for miles. Reopening the economy and lifting the lockdown without precautions did exactly what scientists had warned. The virus re-emerged with a vengeance. 

Strangely though, even as experts and commentators lambasted Trump’s administration for all this and the insensible brutality leading to the Black Lives Matter movement, few focused on Trump’s successes. Pulling US troops out of useless wars, pushing NATO to pay its fair share of budgets, the steady job growth prior to the pandemic, the trade war with China, and forcing companies to set up plants in the US have appealed to the normal citizens among his fanatic following.

Trump has lied without compunction, broken the known norms of statecraft, berated the scientists, and even leaned towards stoking the simmering racism that exists in America. As a businessman and not a politician, his sudden meetings with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un broke new ground, created history, but produced little by way of outcome. Nor is he in any hurry to revisit trade ties with post-Brexit Europe. 

He has begun building the wall, clamped down on immigration, and kept his commitment of pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran and the climate change agreement. Pumping US oil into the international markets has to a degree kept prices down. Personal attacks on friends and foes featured high in his campaign, so much so that rival Joe Biden was forced to pick holes rather than forge ahead with his agenda -- in terms of economy, foreign policy, and education. 

Two of the oldest individuals to vie for the presidency have left voters divided. In these, the closing days, the Trump campaign has admitted they can’t control the pandemic, in direct opposition to what the president has been saying all along. This is a man who can’t deny contracting the virus. The mystery is that whatever treatment he did receive allowed him to break quarantine rules and by all White House staff who contracted the illness. Not even Joe Biden is asking the question: “Why can’t the same treatment be given to the countrymen?” 

CNN and BBC have lost credibility to the extent of not exposing Biden’s campaign flaws. No wonder people are confused. Yet, they’re turning out in their numbers as the Democrats badly wanted. Election polls have gained notoriety of being hopelessly wrong. One gets the feeling this time round, record numbers will have their say.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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