Friday,20 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1315, (13 -19 October 2016)
Friday,20 July, 2018
Issue 1315, (13 -19 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Not the true United States

The views of Republican Party presidential elections candidate Donald Trump constitute a horrific panorama of the dark side of America, writes Yassin El-Ayouty


Al-Ahram Weekly

The more outrageous Republican Party US presidential elections candidate Donald Trump becomes, the bigger and louder are his rallies.

Like a train hurtling over a weak bridge towards a wreck, with the passengers elated by the inevitable catastrophe, they consist of largely white men, mostly with no more education than they gained in high school. They are dismissive of the rules and values of a constitutional system of 240 years old, on which they have turned their backs as just "politics as usual."

Donald has tapped into this lode of rage against globalisation, immigration, foreign alliances, free trade, foreign sovereign immunities and international organisations. The internal governance system of the US, he claims, is rigged. So are the media, the political parties, the judiciary and the Obama presidency. And even the microphones through which he extols the dark face of the United States are rigged. As for the military, Trump says that he, if president, would select his own generals. This raises the prospect of a private Trump militia.

He is a thug who proclaims the greatness of Russian President Vladimir Putin as compared to "the worst president in the history of the US – Barack Obama". He is a con who is suspected of having paid no taxes for nearly two decades (because "I am smart"). He is a war horse who threatens to wage war on Iran, usurp the right of the Arabs to their own oil, spread nuclear weapons worldwide, bomb the families of suspected Islamic State (IS) terrorists, and condone Russia's territorial grab in the Ukraine and its cyber-intervention in the US elections.

What he says one day, he denies the next. His anti-minorities and Islamophobic utterances are depicted by his surrogates such as governor Christie of New Jersey and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani as "misunderstood." Why? "Because he is not a politician." So why is he in the game in US national politics? "Because he is an agent of change who can make America great again." How crazier could this get?

There follows a horrific panorama of the dark side of America, as seen in Trumpism on and off the stage of the presidential debates:

•         Amid national uncertainty and fear arose Trump. So did Hitler in the Germany of the early 1930s. You don't have to take my word for it. Read the book by the latest biographer of Hitler, historian Volker Ulrich in his amazingly detailed Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939. Ulrich focuses on Hitler as a politician who rose to power through demagoguery, showmanship and nativist appeals to the masses. In all of this, Trump is a replica.

•         Donald is all about Donald. Not about America. The earth spins on an axis called Trump. One can see that love of self in Trump's performance, a losing one, in his first debate with Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. To hell with politics and the issues, he insinuated. He was described by journalist Frank Bruni of the New York Times on 28 September in these words: "He just pumped air into his hair and more air into his head and sauntered into action as if the sheer, inimitable wonder of his presence would be enough." Thus he interrupted Hillary 51 times in the space of 90 minutes.

•         A Republican woman of 51 confessed her dislike for Hillary Clinton. But she noted that Trump's answers during the first debate lacked detail or substance. "I don't think he has the experience... His behaviour is unpresidential, unkind, un-everything," she said.

•         Others who remain sympathetic to Trump attacked his questioning on whether US President Barack Obama was born in America. This is the Birther Movement. One woman texted her husband that Trump had lost her when he dodged responsibility for stoking up the Birther Movement.

•         When it comes to being commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, Trump, believing that he can outsmart the whole world, espouses the concept of "strategic ambiguity,” meaning that he never wants to show America's hand to its adversaries. But during his debate with Hillary, that tough-looking guy appeared utterly confused. When asked about "the first strike option," he deflected the moderator's question. "I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it's over," he said. Yet Trump is not reluctant to build nuclear weapons and have others acquire them.

•         Trump keeps on repeating that he was against the 2003 war on Iraq. This is a blatant lie. Trump is on record as supporting that losing war which cost trillions of dollars and much blood-letting. Donald supported the war in September 2002 when Congress was still debating whether to authorise military action.

•         When Obama failed to get Iraqi approval to keep sizable American forces in the country after 2011, Trump continued to castigate both Obama and Hillary for that failure. From there, he has stupidly jumped to insanely charging both of them as being “the founders of the Islamic State” group.

•         His racism is like the neon signs in New York’s Times Square. This is the case from his projected ban on Muslims coming to the US, to his description of Mexicans as “rapists” and “drug-dealers”, to his denigrating not only African-Americans, but also the historic symbol of African-American achievement, namely electing Obama not once but twice as president.

•         While the polls show that Trump is winning virtually no support from African-Americans, he has full-throatedly propagandised a proven lie. "You see what's happening with my poll numbers with African-Americans. They're going, like, high," he says.

•         More of the dark side of America is Trump's big lie about the economic and social status of the African-Americans who make up 15 per cent of America's demographic. "Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in – ever, ever, ever," he says. But no quantifiable measurement supports that characterisation of black America. The record shows that Trump and his father had in the 1970s and 1980s forbidden the renting of apartments to people of colour in Trump buildings in New York City.

•         In the pivotal state of Pennsylvania, one woman from West Chester voiced an opinion that is prevalent among women in America whose support for Trump is pivotal for his winning the presidency. She said that "I truly want to like him. I keep looking for something in him. But I can't have my children grow up and look at him as someone to respect." She faulted him for refusing to release his tax statements, for his shallowness, and for his unwillingness to learn from experts. He claims that he knows it all.

•         The Trump Foundation has been ordered by the New York State attorney to "cease and desist" from raising money in the state; the Trump University has been found to be a big fraud; and the money claimed to have been raised by Trump for American Veterans seems to have been a pie in the sky.

•         Is it any wonder that the Wall Street Journal has recently reported that not one chief executive among the Fortune 100 group of companies has donated money to Trump's campaign? Many companies won't do business with him either. This robs Donald of his claim that his alleged success in business, in spite of three bankruptcies, qualifies him to lead America into a new gilded age.

•         The New York Times on 27 September commented on Trump's performance in the first presidential debate, watched by nearly 100 million Americans. "It's absurd that the fate of the race, and the future of the nation, might career this way or that based on a 90-minute television ritual so dominated by fear and falsehood," it said. This evaluation came after the paper's editorial lamented that "there was a fundamental emptiness to the ritual [the debate], because of the awful truth that one participant [Trump] had nothing truthful to offer."

•         His anti-feminism has become the talk of America on the eve of the second Clinton vs. Trump debate. A tape has been discovered demonstrating his infidelity to Melania Trump, his present wife (and third spouse). The tape, heard over and over again on public media as of 6 October, has Trump describe his sexual advances towards a married woman. He says “you can do anything to women if you are famous." This caused one Republican senator to describe the presidential candidate as "a malignant clown."

The tragedy of a possible Trump presidency lies in his denying the healing power of compromise. In any system of governance, the settlement of disputes by mutual concession is a powerful elixir. It is the very opposite of the adversarial system of producing winners and losers. Half the loaf is better than none. Trumpism, on the other hand, is so polarising that it looks like the very face of paralysis.

When you add the compromise-deficiency element in Trumpism to the damage already inflicted on trust in the system of governance in the US, you will find an America which is hardly recognisable as a robust democracy. The US Constitution itself has been the product of compromises, making it a resilient document of 240 years old.

In this age of rage, the most outrageous prospect is to imagine the megalomaniac Donald J Trump standing on 20 January, 2017, taking the oath of office as the 45th president of the US. "I Donald J Trump do solemnly swear... that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." May we never hear the air waves carry these words stipulated by the US Constitution.

An oath is a formal calling upon God to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says. But how can Trump, if elected, take that oath? Throughout his entire life, he has not kept any promise, or stayed the course of what he has promised to do.

His own cult of personality makes him think that when he builds a tower, he is building a bridge. This is the reason why I can't see in Trumpism the face of the United States which proclaims that "In God We Trust." Fortunately for America, and the world, Trump is not God.

The writer is a professor of law at New York University.

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