Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: November 2020
Wednesday, 25 November 2020 09:19

Post-mortem on US elections and Covid-19

I WROTE a four-part series of articles on the United States elections, beginning at a time when the US polls were predicting a Biden win. The trend held but the actual voter turnout was unexpected and unprecedented with 153 million Americans turning out to vote, the biggest this century; 52 percent of whom voted for President-elect Joe Biden, awarding him 306 electoral college votes — a landslide. Six swing states that made the Donald president in 2016 flipped from Red to Blue (Democrats), making Donald Trump a loser. This makes Trump only one of six one-termer presidents in US history —– not to mention that this impeached president lost the popular vote twice (2016 and 2020).

But what is remarkable is the 48 percent Trump supporters, a substantial segment of which US media identified as the “true believers.” They irresponsibly risk exposing themselves to the coronavirus in droves to attend Trump’s political rallies. Exit votes later confirmed their profiles to be mostly “white older men (50 to 65-plus years), noncollege degree holders populating small rural towns and evangelical Christians.” These are the Trumpers.

Laying the ground for a massive fraud
Predictably, Trump negated the results, as he declared, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” attempting to cast doubt on the process itself. First, he laid the predicate for his accusations by discrediting mail-in ballots, traditionally the voting preference of minorities and blacks, predominantly Democrats, months before the actual voting — an implausible indictment as he is the sitting president and has control of the levers of power. This subversion continues by launching frivolous lawsuits brazenly instigating reversal of the results, even bullying state election boards.

A mandatory hand-recount in the state of Georgia, a Republican stronghold, confirmed the same results — Trump lost. The Georgia secretary of state, a Republican whose office oversees the voting process unequivocally stated that there was no election fraud. Trump now questions the recounted results, insanely demanding another recount.

No evidence of fraud
Trump’s allegations of massive fraud are now fraying at the edges with charges either thrown out by the courts, haphazardly filed then dropped or their own lawyers simply withdrawing from the cases. His pathetic schemes to undermine state legislatures to delay or reverse certification is his desperate throws of Hail Marys and may constitute a felony. Trump’s own appointee, Christopher Krebs, of the Department of Homeland Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) which spearheaded efforts to protect the 2020 elections declared that “…this 2020 election was one of the safest and most secure in recent history — despite a raging pandemic, a surge in mail-in voting, the looming specter of foreign interference, and an unprecedented firestorm of disinformation, the election largely went off without a hitch.” Next day, he was fired!

The results also suggest that the voters’ intent was primarily to kick Trump out from the presidency rather than a wholesale repudiation of the Republican party. And here is the rub. Republicans even gained seats in the House with the Senate still to be contested. And the complicit Republican leadership, particularly Mitch McConnel, Lindsay Graham and the spineless Ted Cruz, among others, held their own. What remains to be seen is whether the ideological pendulum will swing back to the center-left with Biden at the helm after four years of Trump propelling the radical swing to the right with copious amounts of bigotry and racist undertones. It may be a safe conjecture that America grudgingly exposed itself as still the land of the entitled white folks albeit struggling to fulfill its forefathers’ dictum of a more perfect union. Seventy-three million Americans endorsed this appalling perception.

Trumpism’s triumph
Pundits, historians, academics and political technocrats will take years to dissect and divine the effects of these 2020 elections. The real casualties are America’s revered values preached to the world for a hundred years: freedom, tolerance and equality of opportunity; and its vaunted concept of democracy, all tied neatly to its global prestige and status. Trump unmasked the lie taught about America, a romantic notion of “a city on a hill, a shining beacon to other countries.” Countries like the Philippines and the rest of the world may now look down pathetically at a once great country, self-righteous and quick to condemn the very same acts by which America is now guilty of. What is unconscionable is the hypocrisy of it all. America has reduced itself into a category she has always looked down upon and scorned — a despot-headed Third World country. The South American, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries may be too civilized to gloat. America has established a unique niche for itself — a deteriorating First World industrial giant with a Third World political psyche.

The pandemic
The other catastrophe that continues to define Trump is how this pandemic was confronted and handled with the acquiescence of his base and his complicit GOP cohorts. It was a monumental failure of leadership, one that is heroically demanded by its citizens in times like these – a contagion and economic dislocations. The world too invariably look up to an altruistic American leadership. Instead, its leader choked. His months of vacillation and underestimating the lethal effects of the virus was impelled more by parochial political calculations than concern for public health and safety. He was up for re-election and he was protecting his phony reputation as the president best able to reign over the economy. He took a gamble on people’s lives on a vaccine as a deus ex machina playing between opening up the economy, doing away with lockdowns versus the observance of minimal safety protocols by enforcing universal use of protective masks and social distancing. This was a false choice. He bet all-in and lost, along with 262,000 American lives.

Trump had many chances to stop the contagion’s spread once it broke out from China. It was his arrogance that prevented him from confronting the looming danger. And it was his narcissism and lack of empathy that blinded him to people dying and suffering.

Timelines of death
In early January when Covid-19 cases were but a handful, with hubris, he declared: “We have it under total control. It’s just one person coming in from China…it’s going to be just fine…this is a hoax…one day just like a miracle, it will disappear.” Health Secretary Azar and Peter Navarro, erstwhile members of his coronavirus task force, warned Trump about the “possibility of pandemic that could cause 500 million deaths.” He scoffed at them. Later, in an interview with author Bob Woodward in early February, Trump confessed he knew that coronavirus was airborne and that “It’s more deadly than your strenuous flus…I wanted to play it down.”

By mid-March there were just 2,700 cases and 57 deaths; by March 31 with an accelerated 1.07 million Covid testing, 164,620 cases, 3,170 deaths. “This will go away by Easter,” he said.

By April 30, 1.04 million cases and 60,966 deaths; May 31, 1.77 million and 103,781; June 30, 2.5 million and 126,140; September 22, there were 200,000 deaths; by election day, 100,00 new cases daily; by November 23, there were 12.5 million cases, 262,000 deaths.

This man has blood on his hands. His legacy. The beginning of a new American century. God save America!

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 18 November 2020 09:46

Trump lost — but won!

Last of 4 parts

US President-elect Biden is largely unknown. It’s different with Trump. The man is an open book from the time he dominated the GOP slate during the 2015-2016 primary debates and subsequent campaign sorties, where he bullied his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Many thought his election in 2016 was a freak and Putin’s interference gave him the presidency. But the election last week revealed another peculiar perspective.

He will not have his second term. He lost the popular and the electoral votes. But in some bizarre way, Trump won this election. His doctrine, Trumpism, has found traction in the mainstream of America’s political conversation. He won because he has set Americans against each other, undermined the legitimacy of its institutions and arrogated upon himself the Republican Party’s agenda.

Trumpism as defined is “…a compendium of warped beliefs underpinning a cult of personality, producing policies centered on the whims, caprices and behavior of this narcissistic US president. Overall, a perversion of the once vaunted conservative leanings of the Republican Party.” (“America’s precarious fling with Trump,” The Manila Times, Nov. 4, 2020.)

Trumpism and the American dream
What I assumed as a school of thought and a concept of governance acceptable only to America’s fringes were in fact the conscious choice of 72 million Americans who voted for Trump. Not all may have understood the nuances, but this is a larger segment of the American public, beyond Hillary’s “basket of deplorables.” On the positive side, it’s all about aligning America back to its traditions primarily as a conservative society that spawned the proverbial American dream, that Americans have equal opportunity in the Jeffersonian concept of “pursuit of happiness.” But there is a dark side to it. An editorial contributor to the Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky, put it succinctly: “Trump, in all his incompetence, brutishness and cruelty, embodies one powerful, ugly, and persistent version of the American dream.”

It is the influx of non-white immigrants pursuing that dream that diluted the narrative for white Americans. Trump struck a chord championing America First that formed the essence of Trumpism, propelling him to resuscitate Reagan’s 1980 slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” The Donald was flagrantly propagating his bigotry, his open racism and what can only be construed as his contempt for the rule of law, fortified by his now famous declaration that “…Article II of the US Constitution gives the President the right to do whatever he wants.” His emasculation of the electoral system has produced chaos. He has sown the seeds of discord that will only grow in the years to come. This will further polarize America long after his exit and his persona becomes irrelevant. Trumpism could flourish and be the cancer that will continue to eat into American politics for decades to come. Trump, the loser has become Trump the winner through this aberrant legacy he leaves behind. This is America’s curse for the coming years.

Biden’s inhibited America
And what a legacy! He was obsessed to undo what Obama accomplished and set out to dismantle them. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which 80 percent of Americans support, has been his bete noire from the get-go and he wants this repealed — without a substitute in place. This will effectively deprive 20 million Americans of health care insurance coverage at a time when Covid-19 is wreaking havoc with more than 11 million cases and 250,000 deaths.

In four years, Trump presided over the waning of the American hegemony and may even have accelerated its economic decline. Prior to the onslaught of the pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared that China had overtaken the US as the world’s largest economy. Using purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than the traditional market exchange rates (MER), China’s economy is worth “…US$24.2 trillion compared to America’s US$20.8 trillion.” (EurAsian Times Desk, Oct. 18, 2020.)

Trump initiated a trade war with China with devastating effects for the two economies. The Brookings Institute estimated “US exports to China dropping $30 billion while imports fell by over $70 billion.” This did not solve the original purpose for which the trade wars were meant to resolve — contracting the trade deficits which in 2016 stood at around $346 billion.

Bloomberg Economics Reports estimated the trade war would cost the US economy $316 billion by the end of 2020. Moody’s Analytics studies shows the trade wars causing the US 300,000 jobs — even before the onset of the pandemic — hitting the American agricultural sector heavily and bankrupting farmers. China on the other hand, with its totalitarian government, has managed to mute the effects on its people.

NATO-Middle East-TPP-Iran deal
He corroded the Western alliance that underpinned the balance of world power that assured a modicum of what could pass for world peace from 1945 toward the end of the Cold War in 1989. He has alienated old allies at NATO and played to old adversaries.

In the Middle East, he recalibrated relationships drastically and unilaterally reversed decades of painstaking negotiations between Israel and the Arab and Palestinian states. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital transferring the US Embassy there. This threatened to upset President Obama’s efforts at diplomacy and cooperation among protagonists that earned for him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize — a recognition that Trump insanely coveted for himself.

Earlier in his regime, he withdrew from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP). This agreement was to advance US geopolitical interests in the Asia-Pacific region, expand US trade and investments, spur economic growth, lower consumer prices, and create new jobs. Effectively this reduces the member countries’ dependence on China.

The Iran nuclear deal, signed in July 2015 between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, meant to reduce Iran’s capability to create its own nuclear devices towards a safer world, was not certified by Trump.

Climate change mitigation
Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed by 196 countries in 2016, to combat climate change and global warming. This was the first comprehensive climate agreement among a community of nations that deals with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance.

All these pales in comparison with what Trump has done in the wake of his electoral debacle. His ultimate and continuing act is undermining America’s election process and what could be construed as the perversion of the American brand, its cherished principles collectively called “Democracy.” This concept which for years was the bedrock of American governance and peaceful transfer of power separates it from fascism and totalitarianism. But it allowed a deviant to worm its way into the system and putrefy it from the inside. America may take decades to survive this trauma.

The fact that 72 million Americans supported this dysfunctional man and all that he stands for tells us about this nation’s state of mind and the extent of America’s deep divisions. But more importantly, it tells us about how low America has fallen. Could President Biden persuade all Americans to look into themselves and find a common ground — one that will bring back democracy’s adversarial dialogues in lieu of hostile protocols?

Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 17 November 2020 15:11

Duterte defends PH arbitral victory

President Rodrigo Duterte once again invoked the country’s arbitral victory against China in the South China Sea dispute, saying no country, no matter how powerful, should ignore the ruling.

In his speech during the plenary session of the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit on Thursday, Duterte said the arbitral award is an authoritative interpretation of the application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos.

“It is now part of international law. And its significance cannot be diminished nor ignored by any country, however big and powerful,” he said.

In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, The Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines, which had filed a case contesting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Last September, Duterte, in his speech before the 75th United Nations General Assembly, said the country would reject attempts to undermine the ruling.

China refuses to acknowledge the ruling.

Duterte said the dispute in the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international laws.

“As I have said before, the South China Sea issue is Asean’s strategic challenge. How we deal with this matter lays bare our strengths and weaknesses as a community. We must act with haste,” he said.

Duterte called on the Asean to expedite the conclusion of a Code of Conduct (CoC) for the South China Sea.

The CoC is a set of rules for Asean claimant states to avoid conflicts in the disputed waters.

“The Philippines is one with Asean in transforming the South China Sea into a sea of peace and prosperity for all,” the President said.

“We are committed to the immediate conclusion of a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. And if I may add, it has been a long time and it is a long wait,” Duterte said.

In August 2017, the Asean and China adopted the framework that would be the basis for the negotiations for the code. In 2018, an initial draft was agreed upon by Asean and China.

During the 22nd Asean-China summit in 2019, the regional bloc adopted the three-year timeline proposed by China for completing the CoC.

It was not the first time Duterte has called the Asean to speed up the conclusion of CoC.

During the 2019 Asean summit, he expressed disappointment over the delay in negotiations for the code. Duterte said the longer the delay, the higher the probability of maritime incidents happening.

The Philippines is the country coordinator for Asean-China Dialogue Relations until 2021.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the President also expressed Asean’s appreciation to China for its pledge to contribute to the Covid-19 Response Fund.

Roque said Duterte also affirmed that Asean encourages close cooperation and collaboration with China in the development and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

The President’s spokesman added that Duterte also said the Asean welcomes China’s pledge that Asean countries will be among the first to benefit once a vaccine becomes available.

Published in News
Tuesday, 17 November 2020 14:03

PH disqualified from MCC grant in 2021

SENATE Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday lamented that the Philippines will not be able to access millions of dollars in grants from the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) because the country was given a failing mark on corruption.

The Washington-based MCC gave the Philippines a failing mark on corruption control, rule of law, freedom of information, health expenditures, immunization rates and access to credit, “thus the country becomes ineligible for a new aid compact in 2021,” Drilon said.

“Another missed opportunity. We missed a great opportunity to get funding aimed at reducing poverty and strengthening good governance,” he said in a statement.

In a statement on November 9, the MCC said: “The scorecards are a key component in MCC’s annual competitive selection process that determines which countries are eligible to develop a five-year grant agreement, known as a compact, with the agency. To be considered for an MCC compact, countries are expected to first pass MCC’s scorecard, passing at least 10 of the 20 indicators, including the Political Rights or Civil Liberties indicator, and the Control of Corruption indicator.”

“It saddens us that the government’s inability to curb corruption has affected our access to critical grants such as the MCC,” Drilon said.

“This underscores the need to combat corruption. Otherwise, we risk losing several funding, grants and incentive programs that can help alleviate poverty in the country,” he stressed.

The MCC extended $434 million worth of aid to the Philippines during the Aquino 3rd administration. The money was used to modernize the Bureau of Internal Revenue to strengthen tax collection, provided community-driven development projects to far-flung and high-poverty communities, and rehabilitated a critical secondary national road on Samar Island.

Drilon said another MCC could have helped the country recover faster if it accessed more funding in 2021.

“The country has lost not only grants but a chance to change lives and create impact,” the senator said.

Drilon said the MCC aid also implemented 4,000 small-scale development projects in poor rural areas and renovated 222 kilometers of a national road “that serves as a lifeline for numerous towns and municipalities in one of the poorest and most typhoon-prone areas of the country.”

Published in News
Wednesday, 11 November 2020 10:18

You’re fired! What now, America?

Third of 4 parts

IT’s all over but for his whining! My last two columns on the US elections hewed close to the polls predicting Joe Biden’s win. They came out fairly accurately, negating wholesale fraud. Even if there was, then Biden was a better cheat than Donald Trump. I went out on a limb on the following prognostications: that popular votes for Biden will be overwhelming while the electoral votes will be tight; that Trump will stick to his playbook declaring an early victory while the same-day vote counts were in his favor, agitating for a stoppage before mail-in votes are counted. Trump’s appearance on national television to claim victory at dawn when vote counting barely began was a study in absurdity and incoherence bordering on insanity — classic Trump. He wanted to stop the counting in some states where he was leading and continue in those where he was winning. He asserted that massive fraud, all unsubstantiated, was being perpetrated by the Democrats to steal the election. Trump’s ridiculous and pathetic post-midnight hysterics was unprecedented and unconscionable — even if solely for the consumption of his despairing base.

The election process was no rocket science. Trump advised his base to vote in person on election day while Biden cautioned the Democrats to mail in their ballots earlier, mindful of CDC protocols on social distancing, avoiding packed voting booths amid a pandemic. Thus, in most states, early counting results invariably favored GOP voters.

Where I was wrong was my speculation that this contrived mail-in voting fraud would precipitate immediate chaos spilling out to the streets. Thankfully, this did not happen. Biden’s soothing call to be patient and let the election process run its course was reassuring. While leading in the electoral college, he did not declare victory, unlike Trump. And more importantly, his first public appearance as President-elect in his home state on the night of his victory was simply inspiring. Biden’s exhortation that he will be president not for “the blue states or the red states” but for the United States of America was what people on both sides wanted to hear. The healing must begin.

In retrospect
American pundits are almost unanimous in their take that these elections were the most contentious and polarizing in the past 50 years since the height of the unpopular Vietnam war where President Lyndon Johnson, repudiated by his Democratic party, decided not to seek a second term in 1968.

The great paradox is that LBJ’s presidency ushered in the modern liberalism of his “Great Society.” Under his administration, the civil rights acts which he shepherded through Congress when he was majority leader was one of the centerpieces of his domestic policies. He initiated his “war on poverty” while growing the economy, in effect elevating millions of Americans from poverty. His Voting Rights Act protected African Americans and other minorities from being disenfranchised and reformed America’s immigration system through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. He expanded Medicare and Medicaid — in some ways a precursor to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, or Obamacare — ensuring wider access by Americans to affordable health care.

The maverick
Trump tried to upend many of the gains of the last five Republican and three Democratic administrations painstakingly built over 50 years — from Nixon to Obama. But Trump, an outsider, burst into the American political scene like the proverbial “bull in a china shop,” repudiating even the Republican party’s conservatism substituting his egomaniacal doctrine — Trumpism (see “America’s precarious fling with Trump,” The Manila Times, Nov. 4, 2020). His erratic attempt at dismantling the politically familiar adversarial protocols in a two- party presidential system within a federal government structure surprisingly resonated with many of the voters in 2016 who were tired of the decades of “politics as usual” practiced by the denizens of D.C. partnering with Wall Street predators. The economic and political realities after the Obama regime demanded change. But the Democrat’s standard bearer, Hillary Clinton, wife of a successful Democratic president, but of another era, was viewed as the continuation of flawed governance dynamics — more of the same. More drastic change was needed.

Then Trump happened. A prisoner of a persona derivative of his reality-TV image of a no-nonsense business executive, he played this make-believe role to the hilt. Unable to extricate himself from this media-hyped creature, he became very attractive to the media-fed and TV-fare gorging Americans whom Hillary Clinton disparaged as a “basket of deplorables.” Projecting himself as a billionaire tycoon, boastful of gaming the system — although bankrupted several times — mocking his peers for paying taxes, he exuded extreme vanity, declaring himself a “very stable genius.” He played to this crowd, incongruously identifying himself among them —– a mix of racists, white supremacists, bigots, and plain ordinary white folks — providing this lot some sort of legitimacy and false hope. Possessed with charisma, his base and the spineless GOP stalwarts were mesmerized by a larger-than-life personality not seen before in US presidential politics, bullying his way around and intimidating his opponents within and outside of his political party. His declaration to “drain the swamp” at the political power and financial centers was a euphonious populist call to arms, tailor-fit to this segment of disenfranchised Americans.

He was given to tired old hyperbole with an impoverished vocabulary, boasting “I know words, a lot of words!” His lies and atrocious claims were gargantuan, beating Goebbels in his heyday. Policy statements reflecting gut instinct unvetted by the executive branch professionals spurted out through tweets daily. Bureaucrats had to divine his intentions as the man’s illiteracy was pervasive and was showing signs of cognitive decline. More than 30 of his professional cabinet, advisers and consultants — many career people experienced in governance, some in the world of business and the armed services — had to leave, fired, discredited and oftentimes publicly humiliated. Such was the messy profile of governance for several years. And this man with his complicit party mates and sycophants determined the direction of the American ship of state and, by inference, half of the Western world. In the past four years, he managed to weave an intricate fabric of a semblance of a structure of leadership underpinned by a castrated Republican party.

The emperor has no clothes
Then the pandemic arrived, exposing the weaknesses of this charlatan of a president, and this fabric began to unravel. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead. Many more will die. On constant denial, he obviously didn’t care. What was paramount was securing another four-year term. The US economy collapsed. Jobs disappeared. America was in dire straits.

This election had the greatest number of voters ever in US history who would kick him out. A popular vote of 74 million against 70 million. After last night, America’s experiment ended. Trump has not conceded and is now creating another alternative world. I’m afraid his strategy has morphed into “scorched earth.” If he goes down, he will bring the country with him — flawed democracy and all. There is no method to this man’s madness!

(To be continued)

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 04 November 2020 09:12

America’s precarious fling with Trump

Second of 4 parts

THIS article was submitted for publication four days before the US elections. Vote counting is ongoing, with partisans on both sides spinning whatever half-data is being captured by their respective media outlets: Fox News for Trump and CNN and MSNBC for Biden. In any case, the counting of the votes may take days or even weeks before the eventual winner is declared. And as Trump has planned all along, this will go to the courts.

America has degenerated to the status of a Third World country. Except for a massive voter suppression to negate Biden’s lead, the same playbook used in his successful 2016 campaign was simply recycled for 2020 substituting Biden for Hillary. Trump’s chant “Lock her up!” on Hillary’s indiscretions on the use of a private email server is now “Lock him up!” for a set of tapes of Hunter Biden’s personal email alleging anomalous payments to Joe Biden. Unless voter turnout for either candidate is overwhelming, particularly in the electoral college, this contrived voting fraud will precipitate chaos spilling out to the streets.

Trump’s dysfunctional election campaign
Trailing by double digits in the national polls and substantial margins in the swing states for the critical 270 electoral votes, the Trump campaign could not craft coherent messages that would resonate with the wider American voters. Thus, he reverts instead to his 2016 self-description as a “very stable genius” — presiding over an unprecedented US economic growth, one he actually inherited from President Obama. Except at this time, America’s economy is in shambles in the wake of the pandemic. And this is where the Donald’s leadership miserably failed, selling an ambiguous narrative in the twilight zone; repeating a dangerous mantra that the pandemic is “turning a corner” and may soon be over, glossing over the 250,000 deaths and the recent spike of infections in more than 40 states. Because of Trump’s bungling, erratic leadership and his continuous state of denial, American deaths may add another 200,000 before a transition government comes in on Jan. 20, 2021 — if ever there is one.

In a rambling sermon on the “700 Club,” the Rev. Pat Robertson, éminence grise of white evangelicals, predicted a win for Trump. Accordingly, after being sworn in, America will be torn apart by civil disobedience. Taking advantage of the chaos, China, Russia and North Korea will threaten war. And Iran will invade Israel. To cap it all, there will be two unsuccessful assassination attempts on Trump. Incongruently, a 1-kilomete radius asteroid will hit the earth. Then peace. And Jesus will descend in fulfillment of Isaiah 2:2-4 and Thessalonians 5:2-3. (Pat Robertson prophecy on 2020 US presidential elections and the aftermath – YouTube.)

Despite this foolish man’s incoherence, I am confident America will elect Joe Biden as its 46th president. This may be construed as a bias toward Biden. This is not entirely correct. I rely on various polls and surveys predicting a Biden win. I am not emotionally invested in either candidates, although I followed Trump’s colorful journey towards perdition, evaluating America’s exodus from its adherence to their founding fathers’ republican democratic ideals to what could simply be described as Trumpism — a compendium of warped beliefs underpinning a cult of personality, producing policies centered on the whims, caprices and behavior of this narcissistic US president. Overall, a perversion of the once vaunted conservative leanings of the Republican Party.

Four years of Trump
Trumpism entered American contemporary political lexicon carrying with it its vilest components that may permeate and divide the Republican party for years to come, its core belief indelibly etched in the 20 to 30 percent of what Hillary once described as a “basket of deplorables.”

Central to Trumpism is the inordinate unethical role of family at the center of power. The White House is treated as a family corporation where the president is the CEO and his children occupying positions straddling government and private business. Primus inter pares are daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared. These two were given responsibility and authority beyond their competence, continuing to dabble in their family enterprise while assuming high government posts. It is to the great chagrin of observers of US politics that a blatant display of nepotism with all its implications for rent-seeking are tolerated and even sanctioned by the Republican party of Trump.

Akin to a corporate structure, the appointed personnel populating the center of power, cabinet posts, presidential advisers, consultants, etc., are presidential alter egos invariably subject to his impulses, inclusive of his flaws and are simply absorbed by these sycophants.

Those that are defiant may find themselves outside the sphere of influence. So far this has resulted in close to 30 of the president’s men and women and simple “gofers” fired, some on a whim and others indicted or languishing in prison.

But the greater damage this dysfunctional cabal’s four-year fling with governance is that on America’s cherished political institutions. The separation of powers between the branches of government — one of the bedrocks of its democracy, providing for checks and balances — has been upended by Trump’s total dominance of the upper house. He has no compunction to bend the Senate to his will. What is tragic is oftentimes its acquiescence, as in the hypocritically hasty Senate confirmation of Amy Barrett to the US Supreme Court. Critical election disputes before the bar could be tilted in Trump’s favor.

Racism and bigotry
Racism and bigotry are Trump’s legacy after four years. From the very first day when he decided to run for president, he has signaled his intentions by playing to the fears of a small but loud segment of the American populace, one that could be described as WASP — “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants” — a quaint description of the once dominant upper-class with a disproportionate economic and political influence in American society. Popularized in the 1960s, particularly during the civil rights movements, this profile may no longer be exactly applicable with the drastic change in the country’s demographics. But in the wake of his Black American predecessor, he singularly revived immigration issues and by inference the racial divide with his promise to “build a wall — and Mexico will pay for it.”

This highly racist opening gambit was followed by his election promise to ban the entry of Muslims.

Trump’s racism and bigotry (R&B) often surfaces in his bold irresponsible pronouncements consistently throughout his administration as with his praise for a white nationalist violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 with his infamous phrase about “very fine people” on both sides. And in January 2018, the African Union demanded an apology when he described people from Haiti and El Salvador as being from “shithole” nations, asking why America can’t have more immigrants from (white) Norway.

The year 2016 was meant to usher in a paradigm shift rejecting “politics as usual and draining the swamp” by installing a non-politician maverick businessman. Instead a political Frankenstein was created resurrecting long dormant prejudices from the fringes, now espoused as a political ideology. Whoever wins this current and future US elections will have to contend with this aberration as a permanent fixture. America is condemned to pay for this failed experiment.

(To be continued next week)


Published in LML Polettiques