By Bakri Bazara
When I see president Trump, lately, on one of his daily press conferences concerning the pandemic, I shudder when I hear the responses he gives to questions asked by reporters. Instead of answering the questions put to him, like he is supposed to , he goes off on a tangent and begins his tirade of how he’s been victimized by the press. And the abuse doesn’t stop with reporters, in the past he had attacked his political rivals, governors of states, his own colleagues, leaders of foreign countries, and just about any and every body that don’t agree with him.
I’m frequently utterly ashamed, angered on occasions, befuddled at times, humored at other times, and most of the time felt pitiful every time I allow myself to see him on TV. But, most of all, deep down in my guts, I’ve always abhorred his off-hand remarks about racial and religious communities, women, and other nations. Which makes me question, and I’m sure a significant number of people also question : can this man lead the United States? Does he have the know-how, character, and temperament to lead a multicultural democratic society? Does he understand deeply the democratic values that this nation decided to be governed by over two centuries ago?
This nation’s experiment in democracy have progressed significantly, albeit, with intermittent push and pulls, that until recently the multi-cultural communities have been relatively respectful of each other and coexisting peacefully. The systemic and institutionalized racism is still there to a lesser degree, much has improved, but more could be done to ameliorate the racial inequality in all aspects of American life.
It’s common knowledge how far the United States travelled as a democratic nation, we’ve only to look back at the America of fifty-five years ago, where segregation of blacks was sanctioned by law. Jim Crow days is not that far back, memories of the cruelty inflicted on blacks is still ripe in a lot of minds. civil rights was enacted in 1964. Up till then, blacks were not even allowed to be served in restaurants or use a bath room at a public park. The cruelty was so depraved that one is astonished that, in a society that considers itself governed by democratic ideals , such moral turpitude exists. Hypocrisy has been an ever present national character of Americans.
November, 2016, is a day that is remembered, and will be remembered , for its infamy. Donald Trump’s election as president took a lot of us by surprise. Most of us were ignorant of the crucial fault lines that was dividing Americans. We missed to see that a significant number of the population, predominantly white working class Americans and other Whites who were angry at and fearful of the cultural and socio-economic changes taking place , started agitating to change the little progress made towards an egalitarian multicultural society , and became determined to stop what they perceived to be a declining America. Threatened, most likely, by the changing demography of the nation, where non-whites are predicted to become the majority in the coming few years, some whites were scared by this trend and started back lashing against non-white immigrants and minorities in general. Those whites resented this inevitable reality and feared losing the privilege they so far have been enjoying by merely being white. Unfortunately, White America has not been absolved of its original sin of slavery. That dark period in American history still dominates white America’s psyche and dictates how they interact with blacks and other non-whites. So when Trump appeared in the political scene, portraying himself as a self-made wealthy businessman, as some one not part of the establishment, touting the slogan “America First” and “ make America great again “, “build a wall”, it spoke to the core needs of this segment of the population.
Most of us non-whites exactly understood what those slogans signify, to us it basically meant keep America white, and protect white privilege. It is no wonder that these euphemistic slogans , parroted at just about every Trump rally, have emboldened die-hard racists such as white supremacists, who hitherto have been operating clandestinely, to come out openly and spew their hatred for nonwhites. Incidences of violent attacks by these white supremacist groups against blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, Muslims, and any one that was not white increased by leaps and bounds since Trump took office.
Most forward looking progressive Americans early on sensed that Donald Trump was going to be trouble. It was obvious from the style of his campaign, which from the start showed an inclination towards pugnacity, always ready with quips that were confrontational and invariably offensive. He was relentless, at every opportunity he got, to denigrate his opponents, seeming always content to debase and verbally abuse his political rivals. Typical of a bully, he was adept at minting derogatory nicknames or belittling phrases to sully his opponents’ reputation.
Early in his political campaign , he was unabashedly calling Hillary Clinton, a strong contender for the presidency in the 2016 national election, as “crooked Hillary” , “Lying Hillary”, “skank”, and other invectives, all aimed at tarnishing her reputation. Unfortunately, this calumny was readily condoned by his supporters and became the rallying cry that was shamelessly shouted out during his rallies. “Lock her up” , referring to Hillary Clinton, became the popular defacto anthem of the Republican Party in the 2016 election.
The slandering of those he doesn’t like or is in disagreement with continues to this day. In his almost four years as president, he has shown no deference for the opinion of his aides in the administration or of some in Congress unless they show loyalty and give carte Blanche support of what he wants to accomplish. Even those who were once close to him were not spared the slander. He called John Bolton, his National Security Advisor , after they parted ways, as “Mr. tough guy”, “wacko John Bolton”, and “creepster John Bolton”. John Bolton, seizing the opportunity to make money, authored a memoir, detailing his stint as member of Trump’s administration. In his memoir, John Bolton depicts Trump as incompetent, lacking the ability to run the administration let alone the whole country. He also implicated Trump in the Ukraine fiasco, where Trump tried to force the hands of the Ukrainian leader to dig up dirt on Biden’s family so as to ruin their reputation.
It is clear that Mr. Trump would go to any lengths to accomplish his needs. He wanted to be president of the United States and he got it in his own devious ways. I don’t think he was motivated to become a president because of a transcendent vision or a solid plan to tackle the problems faced by the nation, but it seemed he was in it to realize a dream of his to be the leader of the United States and reap the perks, status, and power associated with it. It’s all about feeding his insatiable ego and less about being a transformational leader.
To achieve his goal, he resorted to a gimmick he has been using all along — do some one dirty. We had all seen how he tried to discredit president Obama, stooping so low as to question Obama’s birth place, claiming that Obama was not born in the United Stated, therefore not a citizen. Trump tweeted in August 2012: “ ‘ an extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @ BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” He went even further and repeatedly claimed that Obama founded ISIS ( Islamic state of Iraq and Syria ). As we see, the man would spill out anything that came into his mind, not even bothering to check the veracity of his claims, and ready at all costs to disparage any rival that stood on his way.
It is said that egomaniacs, Trump definitely is one, have a knack of knowing what makes people tick. They are particularly good at understanding people’s resentments and fanning it into action. A good example is the 2016 election when even astute political analysts overlooked the resentful segment of the population who were clamoring to have their voices heard. Trump did recognize those ‘angry whites’ and he capitalized on their sentiment to get himself elected, surprising most in the nation.
The segment of the population that Trump whipped into action and vote for him were mainly working class whites, predominantly males, with mostly high school education, who were vehemently anti-establishment, and who were angry about the situation of their jobs and fearful of the influx of illegal and legal immigrants into the country. To appease the demands of those groups, he devised a campaign that revolved around anti free trade ( installing tariffs ), immigration, and establishment bashing. The strategy worked, he got their votes and became the president even though he lost the nation wide popular votes.
To push his agenda, as president, Trump recruited people who had the same political views as his or at least sympathetic. He wanted people who would be loyal to him and carry out his biddings without any objections. Preferably, he wanted henchmen that would do the dirty job he needed to do when ever he felt it was necessary. People like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Jeff sessions were perfect fits for the kind of work he wanted to do. There were others, but I am mentioning these three because they were , still are, virulently anti immigration and rabid racists. From day one of Trump’s administration, the three of them did not waste time to conceive and implement their draconian immigration policy.
Few days into his administration, Executive Order 13769 was speedily rolled out, banning travel from seven Muslim countries that were deemed espousing terrorism. Next in their agenda was Obama’s DACA ( deferred action for childhood arrivals), aggressively pursued to rescind it, which unleashed the wrath of fair minded Americans. Immediately It was challenged in the courts and stopped Trump from ending it. Trump continued his attempt to terminate the program by appealing the case in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s policy to terminate DACA is “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of federal law that governs administrative procedure. Ironically, in a Spanish-language TV network , Telemundo, broadcasted on the 10th of July, 2020, Trump said he will soon unravel an immigration executive order that will include a “path to citizenship” for “Dreamers”/DACA. It is obvious that he is pandering to the Spanish community now that he is behind in the polls. But his attempt to reconcile with the Spanish community came a bit too late, memories of the harrowing separation of children from their parents when they arrived at the border is still fresh in their minds, and the wounds of the insults he had hurled at them, calling them “rapists” and “murderers” is still raw. No conciliation, no matter how magnanimous, will heal that.
Trump has been in office almost four years, but hardly anything has been done in terms of solving the problems that was and is facing the nation. The nation is more divided than ever, the political polarization has become more pronounced and hostilities has become rampant. Families are divided, communities are anchored at opposite poles of the political spectrum, and the schism has been exacerbated by Trump’s hard-line policies that basically marginalizes and maligns minorities. One can only look at his response to the current legitimate protests against police brutality and injustice by the ‘Black lives matter’ organization. He has yet to acknowledge the legitimacy of the protest movement, instead repeatedly dismissing the protesters as “anarchists”, “rioters”, and “nazis and terrorists”. Rather than addressing the grievances of the protesters, he opted for a Gung ho move that mobilized Federal troops to quell the protests. In some cities such as Portland and Seattle, Federal troops in unidentified vans have been dragging protesters into vans and whisking them away to detention centers.
It is curious that Trump is seeing the protesters as “ nazis and terrorists”, when the very nazi affiliates or sympathizers are right there within his administration, playing key roles in formulating policies of his administration. Stephen Miller, senior advisor for policy to President Trump, and chief architect of his immigration policy, has been associated with Richard Spencer, a neo-nazi and anti-Semitic, affiliated with Alt-right movement, and who was the key organizer of “Unite the right” neo-nazi demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that caused one death and several injured. This ruthless racist has been talking about making Europe as one white identity under a white racial empire. He has also called for the enslavement of Haitians and has been relentlessly advocating for white supremacy. Another key figure in Trump’s administration, Who was eventually fired by Trump, is Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon was chief executives of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and prior to that executive chairman of Breitbart News. In the early days of Trump’s administration he was made chief advisor to the president and played a big role in putting together the harsh immigration policy that banned citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the USA. Breitbart News has been accused of anti black and anti Semitic rhetorics and espousing white supremacy philosophy. Trump knows of the background of these individuals and others in his administration with white supremacist attitudes, but it seems that he doesn’t care about that, he needs those individuals as henchmen to carry out his dirty works. All he is interested in, what consumes him, is to get re-elected, and if there are people who could help him with that, it does not matter to him what their political philosophy maybe. It might even be that he himself is a hard core racist, we see evidence of that here and there, in for example his puerile tweets and comments on TV.
The corruption and mis-governance in Trump’s administration is obvious. I doubt if his constituency achieved anything from him, unfortunately most are still sticking with him and seem like they want him to stick around for another four years. The rest of us should throw our hope with the vibrant ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement which is gaining popularity throughout all sectors of society. It has become the movement where all racial groups are represented and hopefully it would play a great role in blocking Trump from getting re-elected. We have also the segment of the population that resent the way Trump handled the Corona virus pandemic, it is hoped that they would also want a different future for the country and vote out Trump in the next election. The 2020 election is looming in the horizon, all forward looking Americans should use that opportunity to fire Trump.