By Gamini Weerakoon
It is a matter of grave doubt whether any national leader or scoundrel would have had a varied and colourful record of achievements and debasements as Donald Trump in contemporary history. Trump confounded critics when he contested the American presidency four years ago, ridiculing and slandering what had been considered the sacred pillars of the American establishment — the media, the Washington establishment, Intelligence Agencies (CIA, FBI and NIA), his outrageous behaviour towards women and refused to declare his income tax returns.
An American critic says Trump has survived: One Impeachment, one divorce, six bankruptcies, 26 accusations of sexual misconduct and an estimated 4,000 lawsuits. As the President of the United States, he continued in the same style regardless, taking on the national intelligence agencies, rejecting some of their basic findings, sacking the director of the FBI and granting presidential pardons to cronies incarcerated on decisions of American courts.
His leadership to prevent the COVID-19 virus spreading throughout the country has been an outrage. He ignored the advice of the country’s leading scientific and medical personnel. He is held responsible for the virus infecting more than 9.5 million and killing more than 230,000 Americans this year. Yet, he discourages if not encourages Americans to ignore basic precautions recommended even by his own official advisers.
The antics of Donald Trump are too well known to be repeated in detail. Yet, his greatest achievement undoubtedly is his performance this week at the 2020 presidential election where about 40 to 50 percent of American voters have endorsed his gamut of outrageous actions by voting for him.
These comments are being written on the evening of November 5 and he still remains undefeated, leading in a few vital states, while he is still fighting back resorting to legal action challenging results declared in some states.
Donald Trump has not been written off history — as anticipated by his critics — with the results of the presidential election. On the contrary, near 50 percent of the electorate has endorsed him.
America remains a divided nation between a Trump bloc and Joe Biden’s Democratic Party supporters.
Is Trump a rare historical development in politics—American or global? Politics everywhere produces leaders of infinite variety: oddities, mercurial characters, eccentrics, jokers, sexual athletes and narcissists and the like. But they do not last long in the political scene.
Trump’s advantage is his longevity having won Republican party nomination, lasted his entire first term and still retaining the backing of the Republican party.
There are other contemporary political leaders with eccentricities, prejudices, fanatical faiths some of whom he physically embraced and praised. In the so-called democracies where leaders are elected by the free votes of the people, we have those like Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Abdel Fatah al Sisi and Mahathir Mohamed – leaders who violate accepted norms of democracy flagrantly but are re-elected by the people at national elections.
It brings into question whether the masses elect such leaders on their so-called mandates, much glorified principles of governance which they proclaim from roof tops or the ability of these leaders through sheer demagoguery to mislead the people that they are the true saviours of the nation. A demagogue we have often repeatedly defined in these columns as: A person who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to those who he knows to be idiots.
Why great nations are taken not simply for a ride but into great disasters is because we the people seem not realise that we are taken to be idiots by our great saviours. Adolf Hitler spelt out in detail in his book Mein Kampf, how the masses can be made to believe fantastic lies and thereafter led the great German nation into absolute disaster.
What kind of a demagogue is Donald Trump who has taken the most scientifically advanced civilisation ever, now reaching the stars, into a pandemic that has devastated the American nation: 9.58 million struck down by the virus and 235,000 American citizens dead!
Scientists and doctors are wrong, he declares, and discourages citizens from taking basic precautions to protect themselves! Climate change, this demagogue says is hogwash and ignores global pollution. What a leader and what a demagogue! And he polls between 45 to 50 percent of the votes cast at the presidential election.
What’s the secret of Donald Trump to keep such large numbers of American voters in his thrall? One theory is race—White Supremacy. Although he does not overtly promote racism, there are enough hints left by him to White Americans to support him.
We cannot go into detail on his promotion of white racism but it is well known that American whites are his staunch supporters.
With the fear of the growing number of American non-white migrants outnumbering whites, there is the fear of coloured races taking over the United States soon and running it. Perhaps the election of Barack Obama was a warning bell and it has been noted that since Obama ending his presidency, there appears to be a strong white backlash against minorities.
White supremacy in America is the kind of nationalism that has led to the emergence of nationalist saviours in other parts of the world. The ruling majority community of ‘race’ is being threatened by growing numbers in the minorities who are acquiring wealth, position and power through devious means and conspiracies to destroy the majority community that considers the country to be solely theirs.
We have seen it happening in India, Malaysia, Turkey, many African countries and in Sri Lanka where saviours emerge periodically to save the nation.
Samuel Huntington in his book, The Clash of Civilisations, said: In this new world (the post-Cold War world) local politics is the politics of ethnicity. Global politics is the politics of civilisations. The rivalry of superpowers is replaced by the Clash of Civilizations. Societies united by ideology or historical circumstances but divided by civilisations come apart as did the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, or are subjected to internal strain as in the case of Ukraine, Nigeria, Sudan, India, Sri Lanka and many others. The revitalisation of religion throughout much of the world is reinforcing these cultural differences.
This is not to say that all white Americans have jumped the racist bandwagon. Certainly, most academics, college graduates, professionals and even working-class whites spurn racism as seen in their presence in recent protest demonstrations and the rejection of such racist moves by the Democratic Party that is poised to come out as winners of this election .
What will happen to America, the world and even little Lanka cannot be predicted for days or even weeks.
But a lesson to be learnt is that one idiosyncratic demagogue may lead the most advanced civilisation in history into a disaster in which fellow citizens are dropping dead by the minute while half the population does not give a damn.