Lessons from Trump’s America
‘Be careful what you wish for, for you may get it’ goes an old adage. America wished for change, and it came this Tuesday. This time the change is not due to 9/11 but 11/9! Come 2017, America will be a different place due to change in its political leadership.
The national atmosphere is vastly different already. Political establishments, pundits, moralists, ethicists and political scientists in America and indeed around the world are reeling from shock as they attempt to come to terms with the once highly improbable reality of President Donald John Trump in the White House and as leader of the free world. No one, not even Trump himself, expected the outcome of the elections to be such a shocker. Even Prophet T.B. Joshua misprophesied a different outcome altogether.
American politics is on its head. President-elect Trump is a true political outsider who in 69 days will command the free world after he came to power with great disdain for the American political system, who promised to reverse policies of the eight-year Obama Administration, start a USexit from international institutions that use American resources, dismantle Obama’s achievements on universal healthcare, imprison Hillary Clinton for having been careless with emails, deport all undocumented immigrants, ban all Muslims from America, build a wall between America and Mexico and send the Mexicans the bill, overhaul the justice system and make it compliant with his wishes, give the super-rich a break, disconnect Afrika due to the corruption and laziness of the Afrikan people and take America back!
First, it is difficult to fathom how in the era of enlightenment the Mother of Modern Democracy can choose a man temperamentally unfit, uniquely unqualified, woefully inexperienced in government or world affairs, patently racist, admittedly sexist and misogynist, unapologetically local, culturally eccentric and offensive, socially unrefined and provocative, and politically uncouth to champion the values enshrined in international treaties and protocols that enjoin all leaders to make the world more inclusive and safer for all.
We in Afrika must develop a keen eye to learn from major events such as this so that we are better prepared to adjust to the changes and cope better with our own circumstances that are, whether we like it or not, affected by these winds of change in the globalizing world.
We in Namibia are affected by events beyond our borders. It behooves us to decide for ourselves what lessons from these events can assist us in our own nation-building efforts. The first of these events was Brexit, an expression by British citizens that they wish to be ‘included out’ of the European Union so that they are shielded from the foreigners who are flooding their workplaces, schools and restaurants so much that they can no longer recognize the historical neighborhoods they once knew. The second was the local government elections in South Africa in August this year. Now the US Presidential election of 2016.
The lessons are:
The beginning of the end is also the end of the beginning: In human affairs, there is a time for everything. Where one story ends another begins. Barack Hussein Obama’s was escorted to the White House by great celebrations. The moment was seen throughout the international community as a new beginning for real inclusive and big-hearted politics in Washington. Times have changed.
Change is the only constant condition: Without going into the merits or demerits of change in America’s eight Obama years, it is clear that America wanted change with the last election. America is not worse off than eight years ago, but the people wanted change.
When change comes, it is not without pain: People get sick of the same faces of their leaders and want change, even if the new faces are less pleasant than the old ones, as is the case in America now.
Institutions and rules are more important than individuals: Many individuals in good standing in the American body politic responded to election by affirming that America is steady as it stands not on the strength of individuals as such, but institutions and democratic prescriptions.
Democracy is messy: Winston Churchill once remarked that democracy is the worst form of government, except for the others. Democracy is full of contradictions and discomforts but it is the closest to what guarantees participation by the common man and common woman.
Politics is the art of the possible: Several commentators opined that Trump saw in the American people the possibility that others, especially those inside the system, could not see. And he went for the possibility. The rest is conjecture.
All politics is local: The inhabitants of the many states that expressed their dissatisfaction with the political order, never met together to choose the action they took. As individuals, communities and stakeholders they responded to their local conditions and in accord to what is good for them.
In critical moments, the message is more important than the messenger: Afrika suffers from the old world view that the messenger is more important than the message. Trump’s message superseded him as a faulty messenger. It instructs us to give people credit on the basis of what they can do, not who they say they once were.
The era of nationalism is upon us: Like Brexit, ordinary people want to be heard and counted, and leaders should not decide only on the basis of what makes them look good in the world or by their bank accounts.
You can fool certain people sometimes, but not all the people all the time: The Clinton campaign went with the biggest sports and music stars to woo voters, yet lost. Trump said that he needed no piano or guitar. He only had his voice. Yet he triumphed. A simple message of change for the voiceless people made all the difference.
Too much of a good thing is bad: Obama is very popular, yet people who took selfies with him voted against what he recommended. Leaders must realize that there comes a time for them to give way, and not wait until they are spat out.
Sometimes it is about change against change: The election of Obama in 2008 was an unprecedented acclamation that America was ready for change in a manner that no other country could do it the same way. To vote now for Trump in the manner it happened is clearly change against change. That is still democracy.
Other times change is without change: It stands to reason that America and by extension the world would see more consequential change if Barack Obama, the first black President, was succeeded by Hillary Clinton as the first woman President of the USA. After all, she is a former First Lady, former Senator and former Secretary of State. Yet Americans chose a 70-year-old white male. That is democracy too.
In the final analysis, the people who are the least capable of seeing or appreciating change are those in power and the political elite connected to power. Change is Upon Us!