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Trump’s America


I am astounded by what is happening to the body politic of America.  I don’t know why I should be, for I know that America is living a lie, professing to be the fountain of democracy, but denying blacks the privileges to which they are entitled and giving support to some of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. It is thus full of contradictions. Wasn’t this the same country that elected Obama, the first black president, for two terms? But it is also the country of the ‘birther movement’, where a large number of Americans felt that Obama was born outside the US and therefore not eligible to be president. I have recently read two books in which the authors tried, successfully in my view, to get to the essence of what America really is and allow us to better understand the election of Donald Trump. Those books are must ‘reads’ for persons interested in getting beyond the seeming contradictions in American society. They are Ta Nehisi Coates’ We were Eight Years in Power and Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop – A Sermon to White America.

I was always fascinated by the system of cheques and balances which I felt ensured the preservation of its democracy. But the treatment meted out to American blacks and the indigenous people convinced me that it was a democracy only in name. I still, however, applauded its system of checks and balances, that is, until the arrival of Donald Trump. The reaction of the Republican Congress reinforces my view that constitutions by themselves mean little. It is the people who must protect and make the constitution work.

Trump is out of touch with reality as a substantial number of psychiatrists have concluded. There are many things to substantiate this: his exaggeration of the size of his inauguration crowd; the claim that millions of illegals voted and that he got more votes than Hillary Clinton. To call these exaggerations is to use a euphemism, for Trump is a celebrated stranger to the truth. He genuinely cannot distinguish truth from lies. He will make a statement and then two hours later deny that he ever said it.

He is doing enormous harm to the image America has been projecting abroad. His recent position on Jerusalem has put him at odds with almost every other country, except Israel.  The US role as honest brokers in the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been shattered in a matter of minutes.  Control of Jerusalem is a matter left for negotiations, but Trump has gone ahead and staked out a position. This only adds to America’s declining influence in the world. His European allies have had to strongly oppose positions he has taken, particularly with Climate Change and his withdrawal from the Iran deal. America’s only redeeming feature is its enormous military and economic power.  

We focus our attention on Trump, but we must move beyond him, acknowledging that there is method in his madness. He plays to his base, which by itself cannot ensure his re-election, but at the same time frightens his Republican colleagues, who depend on the support of that base for their re-election. Trump has set out to erase everything Barrack Obama has done. Despite Obama’s election for two terms, his blackness was an affront to the “whiteness” that essentially defines America, hence his theme and pledge “to make America great again.”  I believe it is Eric Dyson who argues that the foundation of Trump’s presidency is the negation of Obama’s legacy.  Will the institutions survive his mad onslaught? What, in fact, will Post-Trump America be like? This is an interesting question, but we will have to wait and see.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.