American Democracy: Are the Mighty Fallen?

American Democracy: Are the Mighty Fallen?

This is one of those times when you feel something does not concern you, but closer look discredits that feeling, as you realise you are very much concerned. If America were to be a project, it would be right to say that everyone on earth, American or non-American, is a stakeholder in Project America. As stakeholders, even if we may not have the high impact of American citizens, our interest makes it allowable to speak on issues affecting what is inarguably the greatest nation on earth.

On Friday, 20 January 2017, at about noon in Washington DC, Donald J Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the land of the free and home of the brave. His inauguration was supposedly the final act in a dramatic campaign season that had turned political science and opinion polls upside down. “Supposedly” was used here because events on that day showed that the campaign had not ended. While Trump and four former US presidents were seated at the inauguration venue, thousands of protesters were actively expressing their displeasure at the new occupant of the oval office. Some of these protesters used #NotMyPresident to indicate that despite constitutional stipulations, they did not recognise Trump as the American president. To them, Trump’s presidency is illegitimate.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, CNN had published a report where it estimated that about $100M would be spent on security arrangements for just the inauguration day. Some of this security funds were due to planned protests against Trump, and counter protests by his supporters. In the absence of any credible terrorism threat, it is safe to assume that America could have saved some of that $100M if some Americans had learned to move on from the elections. Sadly, despite the massive deployment of security operatives, there were reports of violent protests and arson, including several cars set on fire by anti-Trump protesters.

Talking about those “liberal” protesters, I think they missed the meeting where liberalism was defined. They may have also skipped classes where the concept of democracy was analysed. This is not meant to insult anyone, but in my view, those protesters have disgraced American Democracy. For many decades, America has been seen as an icon of democracy. When Nigerians misbehave after elections, pundits usually use America as an example to shame sore losers in Nigeria. With the current happenings in the land of the free, I doubt it would still be morally right to shame Nigerians who refuse to accept electoral defeat.

Democratic elections are about numbers. Whoever gets the highest number of votes based on predefined criteria is declared the winner, and life goes on. On 8 November 2016, Trump won the US elections based on electoral college guidelines known before the elections. Is it right to seek to change the goalposts after the election? Those saying Trump is illegitimate because Clinton won the popular vote have conveniently chose to ignore that by virtue of their electoral system, victory in the popular vote is meaningless if the victor does not satisfy the required 270 electoral college votes. Sometime in 2016, I described Trump as a demagogue feeding on the fears of the American public. Surely, some Americans may have even worse views of him, but that does not change the fact that he won an election. Even Hillary Clinton has accepted his victory and was even present at the inauguration, yet some do not want to accept that fact.

Another reason bandied by the anti-Trump camp is that the elections were influenced by Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s campaign officials’ emails. If this is considered as vote rigging, then I wonder what Nigerians or Zimbabweans would call rigging. In my opinion, vote rigging implies that the will of the people was subverted, so the people wanted A, but the powers-that-be announced B as the winner. In the American case, accusations of ballot rigging have been discredited by both Hillary’s campaign and the Obama administration. Let us accept that Russia executed the hacks to influence the results. What’s the big deal? Did Russia control the thumbs of Americans on election day?

All this talk about Russia’s meddling exposes American hypocrisy. It is not a new thing for countries to seek to influence other countries’ elections in order to see a preferred candidate emerge as the winner. In every national election, there are interested foreign parties, and those foreigners would prefer the winner to be a candidate who they feel would be nice to their national interests. Those with the means go beyond mere wishing to actively try to influence elections. America is an expert in this, and should not be crying wolf when another country does what it does regularly. Can the protesters look the world in the face and state that America has never meddled in another country’s electoral process? Was it not in 2013 that Edward Snowden’s infamous leaks alleged that America had hacked the phone of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel? Did the world end? All the countries involved moved on. I recall reading an article then in which the writer joked that Brussels would like to know what the White House has for breakfast, and vice versa. Hacking happens. Americans should please move on.

As part of the women marches holding in protest of Trump’s inauguration. Madonna was quoted to say that she felt like blowing up the White House. Even though I think she was joking, that statement betrays the feeling of a number of protesters. These protests are effectively as waste of time. If all the protesters had turned out on election day, maybe Hillary would have been the one inaugurated. Unfortunately for these “liberals”, the “deplorable” Trump is now president so all hell must break loose. The women marches claim to be in protest at Trump’s behaviour towards women and other minorities. If these protests were being held on a day when the US Congress was to debate abolishing women’s rights, they would be perfectly okay. But to protest just because you think Trump would trump on your rights is at best an expression of immaturity, and at worst, the definition of anti-liberalism.

I have always argued that one major difference between America and less-fortunate countries in Africa is that America has strong institutions while Africa tends to have strongmen. Hence, I believed that even if America were to elect an idiot, because of the existing institutions with their checks and balances, the country would stay afloat. However, the protests against Trump makes me wonder if Americans themselves do not have faith in their two hundred-year old democratic institutions. Painting Trump as a monster would not make him go away. A better route is to accept the election results, accept Trump’s presidency, and join hands with him to govern the country while staying alert in case the feared rights’ trampling comes up. If that were to happen, there are institutions and processes to safeguard the American public. People in Iran, Cameroun and Russia are looking up to America as a democratic ideal. May the mighty not fall.

Image Credit: popularresistance.org

  1. If this is sometime in a future where I have applied for an American visa, and you are a visa officer reading this article, please have the fullest assurances of my deepest respect for God’s Own Country. Please don’t let my visa application fee be wasted.
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