By ADRIAN GIBSON
The world was shocked early yesterday morning when it was announced that billionaire developer Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. The collective jaws of many across the globe hit the deck, flabbergasted by his thumping of Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, a long-time figure in American politics who has clearly worn out her welcome with the electorate.
We are likely to see a bucking of the traditional and smashing of the status quo in the upcoming general election here. Bahamians are, like Americans, tired of the same ole same ole. We are collectively tired of lying, two-faced politicians who are consumed by self-interest and power.
Unfortunately, such traits are evident in politicians in both the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Frankly, Bahamians are tired of disingenuous politicians politically urinating on our collective heads and telling us that it’s rain.
If there ever is a bull in the political China shop, it is President-elect Donald Trump. He politically eviscerated the so-called establishment, running against and defeating his Republican colleagues -many of whom did not support him but are likely now scurrying about in an attempt to find favour - and then ran against and defeated the Democrats. Credit must be given to Trump because as a political outsider, he - in effect - defeated both the Democrats and the Republicans.
As a young Bahamian looking on, Bernie Sanders’ campaign resonated with me. He struck me as reasonable, sincere and a politician who appreciated the daily lives of working (and middle) class, average folk. By contrast, Hillary Clinton gave off an aura that struck me as insincere, fake, calculating, manipulative and downright condescending. She came off as pandering, dishonest, untrustworthy and gave many the jitters. I tried to will Sanders to victory in all of the Democratic primaries and caucuses but the Democrats - as the world subsequently discovered - had stacked the deck against Sanders.
On the Republican ticket, Ohio Governor John Kasich was the best option. He was balanced, judicious and not consumed by the toxicity and odium that today engulfs Republican politics. He lost. In walked Donald Trump, a tax-ducking billionaire and reality TV star who rode a populist wave into the most powerful elected position on Earth.
It appears that Trump appealed to the inherent racism in some Americans. His campaign hinged on a calling card whose central theme centred upon fear tactics. He promoted a message of intolerance and hatred. Trump has pledged to destabilise the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, prompt trade wars and fuel an arms race among other promises, all under the mantra of making America great again. Mr Trump’s polluted message engendered open displays of white privilege, racism, shameless expressions of xenophobia and blatant sexism.
Given America’s impact upon the world, Trump’s election has caused a period of uncertainty, of economic instability and mistrust. I have seen many articles from reputable publications referring to Americans as “stupid” and “dumb.” I vividly recall the UK Daily Mirror’s headline on November 4, 2004, which asked - upon the re-election of George W Bush - “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”
The excitement and joy I felt in 2008 (and to a slightly lesser extent in 2012) - when I had a viewing party replete with popcorn, t-shirts, bumper stickers of Obama and other keepsakes - was not felt last night.
Frankly, it is possible that Trump doesn’t even believe he won the presidency. Yes, Donald Trump appealed to the insecurities of many Americans but he also won because of voter apathy. After all, Mr Trump got fewer votes than both of the immediate past Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney (2012) and John McCain (2008).
The early polls showed that Mrs Clinton would have a challenge with President-elect Trump. On the other hand, Sanders beat him in nearly every poll.
The fact that the Democrats purportedly rigged their internal processes - which led to the resignation of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz - fixing primaries to facilitate a Clinton coronation. Clinton’s loss, in part, is karma. Plain old karma! A cloud hung over their heads and young voters and independents who had been drawn to Bernie Sanders lost interest in the process. Whilst many of Sanders’ voters eventually voted for Mrs Clinton, those who didn’t stay home went with Trump.
Senator Sanders created a movement and galvanised young people. His movement was comparable to Obama’s in ‘08.
Moreover, due to voter apathy, many of those who would have perhaps dragged others to the polls to vote for a candidate, likely only could muster enough strength to drag themselves to cast a ballot merely to ensure that the occasion was not squandered. Many people were simply uninspired by both Trump and Clinton - two mediocre candidates - and totally shunned the process.
I hold the view that Sanders would have trumped Mr Trump. I contend that he had would have hung on and marshalled the Democratic party’s followers - whites, blacks, young people, Hispanics - and that his message on trade, industries etc would have resonated without playing to the racist, xenophobic undertones. But, that was not to be.
Trump had no overwhelming win. He simply won key states. The Electoral College math was in his favour.
One cannot deny that Trump came off more real, far from politically correct, not as robotic and, on the face of it, more sincere.
Donald Trump won without favourable mainstream media. He won without traditional Republican leaders behind him. Trump also never served in the military or government. Is this the new era of politics?
Yesterday, US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders said it best when he said: “Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media. People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids - all while the very rich become much richer.
To the degree that Mr Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”
In 2017, the apple cart in The Bahamas is likely to be overturned.
Whilst the FNM might wish to capitalise on Trump’s victory and view it as a predictor of that party’s fate, I think the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) could be more likened to a grouping that is yet outside of the political establishment. This election is one where the outsiders and people who are not traditional politicians are likely to make the greatest impact.
I previously said that this election would be between the FNM and the PLP. Today, after taking account of political developments across the world, I amend that to state that the DNA will have an impact. Clearly, the Bahamian electorate is not pleased with the political options being proffered by the FNM and the PLP. It is probable that the DNA could pick up a seat or more this time around. I would certainly not be surprised. We are living in a changing world.
Voter apathy is rife in The Bahamas. Voter registration is at an all-time low, with only six months to go before our next general election. We want more … time will tell.
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