Abrasive, accusative, aggressive and abusive, Donald Trump at initial stage of primaries for a Republican Party nominee for president of the United States, seemed a joke. He was notorious for having insisted that President Barack Obama was not born in the USA. As the number of contestants increased in the primaries, Trump was expected to drop out. Surprisingly, he kept on waxing stronger. Unopposed, he was nominated as presidential candidate of the party. He had sent his 14 rivals crashing out one after the other.
The primaries witnessed unforgettable profane language, mainly dished out by Trump against his opponents. For example, he characterized former Governor Jeb Bush as having “low energy” and was “Dumb as a rock!”. Senator Ted Cruz did not know whether to laugh or cry when Trump posted an unattractive picture of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, juxtaposed against that of Melania, his supermodel wife. To Carly Florina, the only woman in the group, Trump said: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that as the face of our next president?” Senator Marco Rubio had taken to calling Trump “Big Don” whilst he was “Little Marco” to Trump, a thinly veiled reference to their exchange earlier on sizes of their masculine organs.
Trump’s supporters hailed him as authentic, straight and not corrupted by the establishment.
But around the world, media reports and many world leaders could not comprehend how Trump could be America’s best candidate for any office, least of all aspiring to become president of USA.
In December 2015, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron disagreed with Trump’s comments on London police, and called them “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.” Then Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that they “were ill-informed”. Sadiq Khan, who later became Mayor of London, said Trump “can’t just be dismissed as a buffoon – his comments are outrageous, divisive and dangerous”. Britain, the closest ally of USA is hardly known to express such official views on American presidential candidates. But Trump was unusual and his personality draws ire, as it attracts unwavering following.
“A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Pope Francis said of Trump. “His discourse is so dumb, so basic,” said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Mexican President Enrique Pena said, “That’s the way Mussolini arrived and the way Hitler arrived.” “Trump is an irrational type,” said Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei. The numerous world leaders who admonished Trump included French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Isaac Herzog, Israeli opposition leader, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls, and Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.
Somehow, those who cried,”No” were drowned out by the “Yes” noise. Trump’s increasing high opinion poll in the USA was surprising, to put it mildy. Fawning crowd filled his campaign gathering.
How could a country that has so much to offer be imprisoned by such limited viewpoint? America has produced more breakthrough research findings, more discoveries, more knowledge in almost any field of human endeavour, than the rest of the world combined. It is the country with the largest foundations, charitable organizations that give to causes and people in lands that some of the donors have no idea whether they actually exist. It is the land of refuge for most people where needs and hopes are met in more ways than they ever imagined. Yet Trump was against outsiders, tolerance and collaboration.
America is a democracy. It was founded and built on the notion of freedom, unfettered and unlimited, except by agreement in areas that are institutionalized. It is a country where to be yourself is real. And what is different is right… unless it is wrong.
The tension between theory and practice of democracy finds all kinds of expressions in peoples and places all over America. Trump is the “kick-arse” American. Loud, brazen, daring and with a must-win compulsion. Even when he loses he makes it look like he wins. Tony Schwartz, co-author of Donald Trump’s autobiography, said in The New Yorker magazine that if he were writing The Art of the Deal today, he would have titled the book The Sociopath. “Lying is second nature to him…More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true,” said Schwartz.
It is not what the world says or thinks that will stop Trump. The strongest opponent of Donald Trump is the phenomenon that Donald Trump represents, and that he champions. Among his unhinged believers it is necessary to be daring, angry, even obscene and, why not, fascist.
There are many reasons why Trump’s election as president of USA is a major problem for America’s leadership position in the world. Here are five reasons his victory cannot make America great again.
Firstly, beyond the notion that a character of his type can emerge from a most admirable country, it would confirm that through a democratic expression of votes, such a leader could indeed be accepted. Trump, repulsive as he may be, would become the face of “real” America.
Secondly, it would legitimize the use of crude, abusive language in American campaign politics at a level never witnessed in the modern era, and perhaps ever before. Trump as presidential candidate during TV broadcast denigrated a female journalist, Megyn Kelly; mocked a handicap journalist at a campaign rally; dismissed the service of a most respected veteran of the Vietnam war, Senator John McCain; and disrespected parents who lost their son fighting a war for his country.
Thirdly, it would confirm that being a bully is normal, accepted, even admired by most Americans.
Fourthly, it will undermine the two-party system which is the basis of America’s politics. Trump has fragmented the Republican Party. His victory would help him consolidate the division and effectively he would re-mould the party as his new empire. Such a situation would render very difficult coalescence around the middle range where balance is attained; where neither far left nor far right can dominate, and where both right and left converge in elections that have been won in turns over time almost rhythmically by Democrats and Republicans..
Fifthly, Trump as president would put to rest the belief that a woman could reach the highest political office in the USA. Despite criticisms of her, Hillary Clinton has had the best preparation and experience that can be required for the presidency. Absent Clinton, the political horizon is not replete with strong possible female contenders. Not only would Trump’s triumph, if it happened, kill the enthusiasm generated by Clinton as a possible next president, it will send a message that the country is not prepared for such a change. The 1920 presidential election was the first in which women were permitted to vote in every state, more than a century after men had dominated political life of the country. It may then take about two centuries before a woman would emerge as president.
Within the Republican Party, many have dissociated themselves from Trump and would like to see the end of the phenomenon that he extols. His attackers call him “insane”, “reckless”, “unfit”, “temperamental”, “racist”. He is seen as lacking patience, curiousity, knowledge, character, and balance. The surge against him from within is the force that can destroy the Trump phenomenon.
The view that Trump and his views represent America is not false, nor is it correct. This is the crux of the matter. In fact, it is the paradox of the country’s democracy. America is like the pendulum of grandfather clock. It swings between two tendencies, right and left. But it does not hit the walls of the clock.
Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership and former head of United Nations Population Fund for Africa