The crowd, as some have said, seemed to call back the tumult of 1968. Then the young across the United States as well as in France bubbled to the streets in uproar against the system. Saturday’s march did not show that much rage, but the discontent was different.
While the 1960’s was against a system, Saturday’s targeted one man: Donald J Trump. The toupee President, who fought in a presidential campaign as though he didn’t. He allowed his foes to take him for granted, and they did.
He bullied to cow his opponents while he wowed his crowd. When he sullied them, his opponents growled in complaints, while he roared in the polls. They all thought he would pull out or lose out, but his opponents were squished. In the fallout, they fell. He preened to see them bleed. One after the other, they licked their wounds.
It was like a movie, and last week, on Friday January 20, Trump stepped on the stage and became the president of the United States. His opponent, the staid, maligned Hillary sat as spectator beside her husband Bill. She was quieted and avoided a squint because of censorious media cameras.
But the Saturday after, we saw a surge of discontent. City after big city, in the United States and around the world, crowds were unbound. I wondered where were they when we needed them? The guy did not show himself a good guy. He said he did not like people who did not sound like him, who did not colour like him, who did not dress like him, who did not worship like him. Although on the worship theme, he did not worship anyone but Donald J. Trump and the money that Donald J. Trump made.
He fed off his crowds and they all loved walls, curses, bigotry. Yet we all looked and thought that somehow, the world was too good to embrace such demagogues. The United States constitution, so superb in its revolutionary impulses for the common good, would checkmate the rise of such a character.
Indeed, the constitution fell first and the people afterwards when Trump won. The idea of the electoral college was to stifle people like him. Rather he rolled the document in his palms and his vulgar psalms made more sense to the people than its homilies.
The founding fathers like George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, etc. may turn in their grave. They never had checks against the rise of a Trump. That is why they did not want democracy, they wanted a republic. Democracy is about the rabble. A republic is about institutions. The founding fathers saw the past democracies, especially Greece, and they saw how it threw up tyrants. They might have recalled a phony like Pisistratus who draped himself in fake blood and lied to the Greek commoner that he was hostage of the elite, and the people backed him until he became tyrant over all. They also read Shakespeare, especially Coriolanus, and how a patriot is misunderstood and the people line behind their tyrants.
So, the United States leaders suspected the popular vote and wanted institutions to mortgage the mob. But as we saw last November, the elite collapsed under the weight of an angry underclass of white men and women who thought it was better to support their own than to own their history of tolerance. It was the rise of the raw blood. They chose race over embrace.They conflated diatribe with tribe.
He has now promised to build a wall. But his whole promise was a big wall. A wall between America and China, a wall between rich and poor, a wall between decency and barbarism, a wall between free trade and fair trade. He has pitched himself on the wrong side of every divide.
Yet, if you listened to some of his rhetoric, many who are tribal bigots here at home would have lined up behind him if they were white. The southern Kaduna crisis is evidence that we are no moral superior. But the difference is that America has always claimed to be the city on the hill, the exceptional beacon of goodwill and integrity, the defender of the better angels of our soul.
Trump is saying, the world has taken that for granted and it is time to hit the other cheek. He says he is going to be friends with Putin. But Putin wants to be the initiator and controller of that dynamics. He quickly despatched Aleppo and staged a conference and invited the U.S. Well, Trump is not sending any envoy there.
He will find out in time that the man who hacked the computers to tilt the polls in his favour wants to be congratulated and deferred to. Putin has no intention to befriend a Trump. A megalomaniac with an adolescent sense of his own power cannot operate equally with another adolescent with equal hubris. The stage is set for a world confrontation. Many just don’t know it yet. Before that, Russia will be forced to let the world and Trump know that it played a role in his victory, and also may blackmail him with video. That will determine whether Trump remains as president or will be impeached.
Such a possible turn of events may be the blood slander that Trump needs to turn on Putin with the potential of a nuclear war. We hope and pray it does not get to that.
On China, we witnessed at Davos how Chinese leader Xi Jinping became a cheer leader of free trade as a counter-dynamic against Trump’s hectoring rhetoric that he wanted to confront China. The truth, though, is that Trump is right. China is speaking about free trade when it thinks it is working for it. Trump wants to renegotiate, and that calls for both powers who need each other to handle this matter.
The Chinese are now more self-reliant because domestic consumption has risen, and their nationals are gradually doing away with their dependency on American products. But that is because they have stolen American brands and domesticated them. They have their own I-phone, Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
But does Trump have the right temperament to turn negotiation into advantage or war? Just as the issues of the South China sea is a conduit of confrontation.
But more importantly though, we want to know if Trump will not destroy the world economy by insisting on protectionism when America needs its products to do well around the world. It could implode America’s economy with inflation.
Then his so-called white working class in Pennsylvania and Ohio will know that we are no longer in the 20th century and technology has roared past them. That was what many knew about Trump but thought he could lose if they did not vote.
The women filled the streets Saturday but it was too late. He is going after blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, etc. They could have shown this zeal on polling day. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” is a quote credited to Edmund Burke without evidence. But it shames the protesters. We hope Trump stumbles, although he has the potential of success. He wants to rupture the system and rebuild. But whether he can rebuild after the rupture is the stuff of history.
Is he a Machiavellian liar with good intention or just for his ego? The lie he told once in his primary campaigns about Muslims portends his reign. He said a storied American general known as Pershing in the First World War slaughtered 49 Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. He asked the 50th person to go home and tell his fellow Muslims what he saw.
This sort of soul does not preside over decent people. He is the don of a new era, and the error of a new dawn.
By: Sam Omatseye