Monday, November 7, 2016
The world will go through a gear-shift this week. America is not just another country. As the world's biggest economy and military power, it cannot catch a cold without making others sneeze. Besides, it follows a presidential system that concentrates colossal power in one individual, power that is not always used wisely. A perverse war started by a lying President in 2003 unleashed murderous forces such as the ISIS that threaten the whole world today. Any US presidential election is therefore a matter of concern to all humanity.
More so this time. The election campaign this time has been the foulest, the dirtiest and the most hate-driven in living memory. The damage done is such that the choice before the electorate is not really a choice. It is like selecting between a bull in a chinashop and a freeloader in a supermarket. When a country is forced to decide between two evils, the country loses. When the country is America, the world loses.
Ominous things have already happened, casting shadows across America. The most significant of these is the polarisation of people into those who tolerate others and those who don't (a polarisation the ramifications of which are already visible to us in India). The tolerant want what they consider American values to continue undisturbed. The intolerant see in Trump a change maker who will bring America back to what it was, and what it ought to be -- the homeland of White Protestants.
The intensity of anti-Trump passions was clear in the words of veteran thespian Robert De Niro. He appeared on TV, facial muscles taut, described Trump as "a national disaster", called him "a punk, dog, pig and mutt" and said, "I am so angry that this fool has got to this point". The anger had little effect. Last-minute opinion polls showed Trump having an edge over his opponent.
If the opponent had been less controversial, perhaps the situation might have been less scary. What a seachange for the Democrats from ten years ago when Barak Obama electrified the scene with his inspirational aura. The Democratic Party did not cover itself with glory by picking a flag-bearer whose capabilities are as disputed as her integrity. A great many people are likely to vote for Trump just to show their dislike of Hillary. The number may not be less than those who vote for Hillary just to record their contempt for Trump.
One of the frustrations of this election is that whoever wins, there will be trouble. Half the divided population will not mentally accept the authority of the winner. It could be worse if Trump were to be the loser. Remember that he was blunt when asked whether he would accept a verdict against him. What did he mean when he said he would decide that after the results were known? That position bristled with both defiance of the American Constitution and a threat of action outside the scope of law.
If Trump were to be the winner, a whole range of other problems could descend upon America and the world. He could turn America's alliances with other countries upside down, launch protectionist policies, promote racism and be unabashedly autocratic. Power understands power and he may build friendships with Russia and China, but beyond that he could be dangerous.
That may precisely be what a large chunk of Americans are looking for. The yearning for a change from status-quoism where the wrong types get privileges has seen rightwing forces rising in many societies. In America, too, ultra-nationalism has become a dominant sentiment. Resenting the incessant flow of immigrants, the White Protestant masses would like to erase the inscription on the Statue of Liberty which says, "Give me your tired, your poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse... send these, the homeless, to me". Not when Ronald Trump is holding the lamp. That is why there is so much mass support for Trump. There should be no surprise if, God forbid, he wins.
The comic relief in this otherwise grim drama was provided by a band of trumpeteers who called themselves the Republican Hindu Coalition in the US. Traditionally most Indians in the US support the Democrats. The Hindu Coalition marked a departure with a boisterous reception for Trump. Their hero rose to the occasion and declared: "I am a big fan of Hindu," immortal words that went viral. We can now rest assured that a Trump White House, whatever havoc it causes elsewhere, will be good for Hindu.