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The 2016 American political circus


I haven’t heard the word ‘crib’ used for a long time. It has resurfaced in connection with Melania Trump, the wife of Donald Trump, copying or lifting from Michelle Obama’s address to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The more common word used these days is ‘plagiarize,’ which simply means ‘to crib’. Even when the facts stare them directly in their faces, some leading Republicans will deny them.{{more}} Last Tuesday, this was almost the only thing discussed on the major TV networks. Social media and the comics had their say. I have seen two interesting comic pieces – one showing Michelle sitting at a desk writing and Melania on a desk behind peeping at what she was writing. Another had Michelle lying on a couch, writing and Melania peering from behind. As if that was not enough, some creative minds are giving the Republicans a way out, asking them to make the point that Michelle, in 2008, actually cribbed from Melania’s address that was crafted in 2016. How much more funny can this get? But it is a scene fit for comedy!

What is really pathetic is to see the Republicans try to go on the offensive. Trump’s campaign manager first of all blamed Hilary Clinton, apparently for setting this up. But then he said “obviously Michelle Obama feels very similar sentiments toward her family.” It reminds me of the essay on dogs given as homework to a class. When the teacher called two of the students, who apparently were brothers and asked how come they wrote the same thing. One of them answered, “It was the same dog, sir”.

The media and commentators were suggesting that Trump fire the speech-writer immediately, to try to draw some attention away from Melania’s dilemma. The Trump people decided not to. Now we are hearing from a source at the New York Times that the speech prepared for her was largely rejected. She maintained a few parts, but worked on it with a friend, I believe. This, if true, puts a different dent on the matter. Things did not go well for the now confirmed Republican nominee on Day One of the Convention, for apart from his wife’s misstep, we saw the beginning of the circus, with some delegations challenging the process for selecting the nominee and asking for a count to facilitate a change of rules – the last failed step of the ‘Stop the Trump camp’! I write today, the third day of the Convention, waiting to hear what other goodies are in store for us.

What is happening is not only farcical, but embarrassing. Imagine, this is the US that is supposed to be head of the so-called ‘Free World” and “Fountain of Democracy”! There is a lot being said about Donald Trump, who, I am convinced, has some loose screws. But the problem is not Trump. It is the millions of Americans who have been harbouring him and putting up with his idiosyncrasies, attributing them to the style of an un-conventional politician.

This is a dangerous cat that has no relationship with the truth. His theme is ‘to make America strong again’ and ‘to take back America’. To take back America from where is revealed by his disparaging references to Hispanics, blacks, women and Muslims. Trump has, nonetheless, done a valuable service to us. He has exposed the bowels of America and unravelled the real America. Americans who rally to him do so not only because he reflects their thinking, but because he gives them an opportunity to say things that they have been longing to say.

He comes up with the most absurd ideas. The building of a wall between Mexico and the US is as farcical as one can get. He promises to do a number of things, but not how he is going to do them. Remember he said he has a secret plan to destroy ISIS, but has to keep it secret so that they are not forewarned. There is so much that is empty about him that my hope is that it will all come out in the wash before November. Having said all of that, I have to acknowledge the strong resistance to Trump’s bizarre positions and his absurdities by some Republicans and decent American people. Getting into bed with Trump exposes you and is a profound statement about your values and decency. What do evangelicals find in Trump to rally to him is an interesting question!

I have been so turned off that I have been resisting looking at the circus on TV, but sometimes I surrender because of my interest in seeing how this tragi-comedy pans out. Trump brings out the worst in us and can very well make some people terrorists. Should Trump become president, one person ventured to say that it will be the end of civilization. He might well be right!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.