Policy Briefs

Trump — election of a politically incorrect candidate

By Oseloka H. Obaze ~~


Like many, I was hoping he would not win, but I had troubling insights that affirmed the possibility of Donald Trump emerging victorious. On the day of the election, I told my third son during a “family chat” to vote for Trump. The rest of the family took umbrage, until I said I was joking. But I had foreseen the hand writing on the wall. A Trump presidency was plausible! You gain such broad and varying insights from reading and listening closely and that is what political analysts do. And if you are inclined to buck the trend and resist being straight-jacketed by conventional thinking, you find out more about improbable situations. How did America and the world arrive at this Regarscent moment and Brexit déjà vu in electing their president?

First, history repeated itself, ala the Gore vs. Bush electoral results. In 2000, Gov. George W. Bush lost the popular vote to former Vice-President Al Gore, but won the electoral vote for U.S. president. It’s ironic that the Democrats will again win the popular vote and lose the presidency via electoral vote in 2016. What hitherto was probability is now a reality. American wonder! The more you look the less you see. Second, there was also the political prediction made in 1920 by H.L. Mencken in the Baltimore Evening Sun of 20 July 1920, now trending on social media, wherein Mencken presciently said: “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represented more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On a great glorious day, the plain folks of the land, will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by downright fool and narcissistic moron.” Was Trump’s election a presidency foretold?

Third, by reading between the lines, I came across some convincing pointers that we were headed for a Trump presidency. Besides the fact that Americans remain rebellious against hereditary or dynastic politics, which was why they scuttled the Kennedys, but unguardedly allowed the Bushes to repeat, only to be handed disasters, unwinnable wars, 9/11 and bags of regrets, there were other considerations. Let’s not forget that Trump dissed the Republican establishment, once tweeting his gladness about “the lack of support from the G.O.P., because it unshackles him.” Yet, two viewpoints, both candid, unfurled for me the American mindset that resulted in Trump’s election.

First was, Omarosa Manigault, an African-American woman and democrat who was a ranking Trump official, perhaps the highest black in his set up. She said she became a Republican because of the “fractures in the Democratic Party, and particularly how they treated President Obama. I was really turned off.” Second, was the blunt view expressed by Karen Hartman of Douglas, Michigan. Her words: “Too many politicians have had their heads in the sand for too long, concerned only about holding office. Trump, who vows to smash all before him, seems the only remedy to a status quo that is not working..We didn’t get to where we are solely thanks to the Republicans. Democrats share the blame.”

On a personal note, I schooled and lived in the United States for over thirty years starting in the mid-70s in the rural corn-belt state of Nebraska. In all those years, by choice, I never became a U.S. permanent resident or an American citizen. I deeply respect American enterprise, ingenuity and patriotism, but I also understand fully their gullibility, limited world view and parochial mindset, which led to Trump’s election. I’ve severally encountered ennobling Americans and ugly Americans too. There is a rich diversity in both categories. The difference between the Americans and their British cousins is that for the American, everything is either Black or White even beyond race, and every blustery point is blunt-as blunt as Trump. For the British, nothing is ever black or white; there are shades of white and shades of black. Nuance is king. Paradoxically, it’s easier to read the quirky British, than to read the masked American. It was the masked Americans that elected Trump.

Trumps election is not a bad dream. It’s reality. Attractive as it was, a Hillary Clinton presidency would have been a hard act to actualize even as it looked achievable. Moreover, beyond gender and glass ceiling sentiments, how does one contrive that Hillary Clinton, a smart woman, well-groomed and independent-minded spouse of a nearly impeached former president will be elected to succeed Barack Obama; a smart black man of African descent, with a Muslim middle name, who served two full terms to the chagrin of some of his compatriots, many who are still not convinced he is an American? Hard indeed! Whatever happened to the real America; those descendants of Mayflower passengers? Trump was their trump card. Go figure!

Obnoxiousness and politically incorrectness have their values. Yet few politicians embrace such options openly. Donald Trump dared to and he won. Trump ran against the grain of conventional wisdom by saying very offensive things, while pushing the “Let’s Make America Great Again” mantra, which synched with the hidden mindset of mainstream white America.

Trump indeed cast himself as the only one capable of altering “the status quo that wasn’t working” thus rekindling the nostalgia of good old America. He triggered a white lash! Americans only projected all their grouses and anti-establishment feelings into a hidden support for Trump. Do Americans feel duped? Ongoing protestations say so; but time will tell.

I’ve been variously asked what the implications are of Donald Trump’s victory for Nigeria, politically and economically. It’s obvious that Trump’s election has vast implications for the U.S., the World and for Africa, Nigeria included. His “America First” proclamation and other utterances, points to greater insularity. As such, he is likely to deal with Nigeria in the Africa context. If his foreign engagement is purely strategic, it would mean seeking out and outsourcing regional challenges to willing regional partners like Nigeria. The broad scope of his immigration redaction, will favour those Nigerians that need to be regularized; the rest will be simply deported, no questions asked. On Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges, we should expect little or no assistance; nothing exceptional. Yet, I make bold to predict that as president, Trump will visit Nigeria within his first four years, something President Obama did not do in eight years.

Which Trump will lead America? Being politically incorrect might have helped elect Trump president; but it certainly won’t help him run the U.S. and the World. The U.S. Presidency is not the Apprentice. A huge difference exists between being a candidate or president-elect and being President of the United States. America is no longer a lone superpower; so Trump will confront a bullish Russia, an expansive China and an intractable Middle East. Having won, Trump bears the burden of his divided party, traumatized country and untrusting world; he will discover that the American presidency is no walk in the park. Trump will, however, need to first heal America and decide what to do with the 29 million people on Obamacare, which he plans to scrap. If he keeps his promise of ridding America of illegal aliens, parts of U.S. domestic sector will suffer immeasurably. The impact will be huge, with labour and production costs tripling. Mr. Trump, welcome to our real world! Unfortunately, he can’t be fired.

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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