Thanks to regular columnist Vijaya Chandrasoma’s incisive contributions on political developments in the USA, readers of this newspaper have been able to get a good understanding of what is happening in one of the world’s greatest democracies, in the run-up to its presidential election next year.
Donald Trump is the current front-line candidate for the Republican ticket at the forthcoming election in November 2024, leading his four rivals by more than 40 points in the latest polls. Trump did not even bother to participate in the fourth debate held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last Wednesday, the final debate before the first of the Republican primaries scheduled in Iowa for January, 2024.
His performance during his first presidential term, his personal vulgarity, his refusal to accept a clear defeat and the havoc he unleashed after the last presidential election results were declared are good enough reasons, most would think, for Trump to be convicted for sedition and obstruction of justice and imprisoned for a considerable period of time. Not so in America, though, for two main reasons.
One, the delays in the US justice system, which takes months, if not years, to conclude the legal processes to be negotiated even to initiate a trial. Even, or rather, especially, trials of an accused criminal like former President Trump, whose main legal objective is to delay those he faces on four indictments and 91 felonies until after the 2024 election. Which he expects to win, and as President, he will then pardon himself for federal crimes and claim executive immunity for state offenses.
Two, white supremacy and privilege are so deeply entrenched in the so-called “greatest democracy in the world”, that there is one law for the white and privileged, another for the indigent and colored. It would be impossible to imagine the fate which would have befallen African-American President Barack Obama, had he behaved just once the way Trump behaved every day in his four years at the White House. Obama was reviled by Fox News, the Republican Party propaganda arm, for wearing a tan suit at a press conference, the only “scandal” during his two-term presidency!
Many political commentators believed that the election to the presidency of Obama in 2008 and his re-election four years later signaled the beginning of the end of racial prejudice in America. At last, the enactments of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, were showing promise of the erosion of the evils of segregation and employment discrimination from the Jim Crow era. Perhaps the day of the dream of the Rev. Martin Luther King, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” had finally dawned.
In fact, one of the most popular and astute political satirists of the time, Jon Stewart, made the memorable statement the night Obama was elected to the Presidency in November 2008: “At last we have become what we said we were”!
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Obama’s election to the highest position in the land unleashed deep-seated feelings of white supremacy, which had been seething at such depths under the surface that they were almost invisible. Chandrasoma says that during the two decades he lived in the USA at the turn of the century, seven years in the then deep-red state of Arizona, the only racial hatred he felt was after 9/11, when he was mistaken for an Arab. In fact, where education was concerned, he says minorities were at an advantage, during the Clinton years, especially if they were poor. He recalls his daughter thanking him for being the greatest father in the world, if only because his poverty enabled her to secure student loans to attend the best universities in the world with ease!
Trump, who had no previous experience in governing or public service, won the 2016 election, defeating Hillary Clinton, one of the most qualified and experienced presidential candidates in history. There were many subterfuges and Russian trickery involved in his victory, not the least of which was his exploitation of the racism of white Americans, incensed at the election of a black president. Especially one who graced the presidency with two terms of competency and compassion, without a trace of scandal, personal or political.
When Trump lost the presidency in 2020 in what was, according to election and judicial authorities, one of the fairest elections in US history, he called Foul and refused to concede defeat. Much has been written about his subsequent criminal behavior, his Big Lie about a stolen election, his incitement of a violent insurrection in an attempt to prevent the constitutional and peaceful transfer of power, and his persistent claim that he has been the victim of the greatest witch-hunt in history. This is a claim that has been embraced, in the face of the most conclusive evidence, by the Republican base, in their desperation to maintain their fantasy of a Christian white supremacist state.
Trump has already made it abundantly clear that, if he wins a second term, he will terminate the constitution, and place the entire executive branch under his complete control, which will enable him to employ only those loyal to him in the federal government. In a recent interview, when asked if he would abuse the power of the presidency if re-elected, Trump confirmed that he would, only on the first day, when he would close the southern border, fire all federal employees, judges and prosecutors who had been disloyal to him, and “drill, baby, drill” with no thoughts of pollution and climate change.
The most powerful nation, the leader of the free world, may well be reduced to just another Banana Republic, though, frighteningly, one with the greatest nuclear arsenal in the world; and with a madman in control.