Friday, December 9, 2016

The ‘Yuge’ upset

Shocking! Unbelievable! It’s the end of the world! Those were the sentiments expressed this week as the world witnessed the incredible scenes of Finance Minister Colm Imbert actually apologizing for a remark he made. What fantastical thing will happen next - the Prime Minister holding a press conference where he calmly answers questions directly? But that wasn't the only earth shattering event this week. On Tuesday Americans elected Donald Trump as their 45th President. Defying all the odds, Trump proved the American dream is alive and well. As long as you’re a billionaire reality TV star , telling bold faced lies to your supporters  and bullying everyone who disagrees with you  - you too can become President.

Most Trinbagonians greeted Mr. Trump’s victory with all the excitement of unwrapping your birthday present to find it’s a copy of a Winsie-Ann Cuffie album. How bizarre. For weeks pollsters had confidently predicted a win for Hillary Clinton. But on election night   it became obvious that thousands of voters were not entirely truthful with pollsters about their voting for Mrs.  Clinton. Like the way your Aunt asks  you a week before your birthday “hey do you like Winsie-Ann Cuffie’s music”,  and you not wanting to sound like a mean spirited hater  who despises everything about Winsie-Ann Cuffie,  say- “yeah she's great”.

Others proclaimed that Mr. Trump’s victory was a testament to the fact that America is a racist society as whites overwhelmingly voted for him. Trinbagonians of course are above such despicable things as voting for someone simply based on their race. Some political pundits have suggested that large swaths of Middle America are fed up of being ignored by a media and establishment that dismisses them as uneducated racist hillbillies. For them, voting for Trump wasn’t about his policies; so much as it was about kicking the establishment in their teeth. However most commentators seemed to agree that the only reason Mrs. Clinton lost is because a bunch of uneducated racist hillbillies didn't want to vote for her.

The big question on everyone’s mind of course apart from which country will Trump start a Twitter war with first, is ‘does this mean humanity is doomed’? The answer to that should be a confident -‘most likely not’. Those on social media likening Trump to Hitler and prophesying a new world war should really give Hitler and the NAZIS more credit.

First of all, the genius of the American constitution is that it was framed by a bunch of really paranoid men who did not trust each or even the idea of a President itself.  Consequently they built checks and balances which ensured there was no concentration of power in any one branch of Government. Trump will find that even though he gets to sit in the Oval office and ride around on Air Force One, he needs Congress to fulfil his legislative agenda. Whether it's building border walls, repealing trade deals or installing a giant revolving martini glass on the White House lawn -the power resides with Congress not Trump.

And his promise of selecting Supreme Court judges to overturn abortion and gay rights demonstrates, unsurprisingly a lack of understanding of the function of the US Supreme Court. In any case Democrats will filibuster any nomination they deem extreme.  So hard luck Trump supporters, Omraosa won’t be sitting on the Supreme Court.

The second thing to remember is that Mr. Trump is largely a charlatan who only believes in one thing; Donald Trump. In the 1990’s Donald Trump was a liberal, pro-abortion Democrat who limed with the Clintons. In 2016, when he needed to win the Republican nomination, he became an anti-immigrant; anti-abortion, right winger who thought Obama was born in Kenya.

This chameleon type persona is cravenly opportunistic, but it also perhaps means he’s open to being whatever he needs to be at the given time. And as President he will need to work across the party divide if he is to govern effectively. In short President Trump is likely to be less interested in grand ideological plans and more interested in prank calling Rosie O’ Donnell.

Ironically It is what Mr. Trump does not do that may pose the greater danger to America. He has made some big promises to desperate people. Promises like returning manufacturing jobs lost to China, building a 2000 mile border wall and overturning wedge issues like abortion rights. All of which he has zero chance of doing. In the end, Mr. Trump’s voters may find themselves further demoralized-and who knows where they will turn too next-to feel great again.

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