You’re fired! What now, America?

You’re fired! What now, America? Featured

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)

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