The ongoing events in the United States, particularly those in Washington DC over the past week have come as a profound shock to hundreds of millions of people all over the world. With the inauguration of the President-elect due in just a few days’ time, the most worrying thought must be that it may not yet be over.
What lies in store for a nation led by a power-hungry demagogue, bent on self-preservation and maintaining what he seems to consider to be his royal privilege to rule? The drama being played out in the Caribbean’s northern neighbour says a lot about the state of American democracy including the inordinately long transition period, but it has serious lessons for us here at home as well.
Donald Trump became President of the United States in 2016 based on a campaign of demagoguery. He successfully exploited the anti-establishment feelings of many Americans who felt that the political class was not addressing their needs and concerns. He railed against the “Washington establishment” and put together a rag-tag combination of business interests, those who felt politically excluded, racists and white nationalists and most importantly ordinary working people and rural folk, all with the grand aim of “making America great again”.
Such was his appeal that the inherently racist content of his platform was masked under this search for a new dispensation.
His coalition also attracted support from some black folk, not only in the United States but also in the Caribbean including right here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Given the host of the problems faced by the working people and rural folk, Trump’s stridency gave him an almost messianic status for he was going to “clean out Washington” after all, to end corruption and usher in the dawn of a new day. He successfully mobilized crowds to the extent that his opponents felt intimidated and ordinary working people were egged on to take actions which they would normally abhor. If Trump did not get his way peacefully, he was not afraid to threaten and bully, convincing his followers that there was a plot to deny this modern “saviour” of power and so deprive them of the mechanism to right the many wrongs they had been long suffering.
But as his self-serving, power-hungry agenda was more and more exposed and he began to lose the grip he had once exercised on broad sections of the population, his power-hungry nature came to the fore and the emptiness of his programme was revealed. His anti-democratic and racist nature emerged in full bloom and with presidential elections approaching, he set out to convince his followers that there was a plot afoot to “steal the election” from him; if he did not win it was because of fraud.
While our situation here is very much different, there is evidence of the use of Trump-like tactics by some politicians here. One glaring example is the dangerous propaganda around supposed election fraud, never mind how unsubstantiated, which has proven to be dangerous for our society. Also familiar are attempts by leaders to play down the seriousness of the Covid-19 situation here and a refusal to take a firmer approach to control measures such as mask wearing.
It is our fervent hope that peace and order will prevail in the United States and that there will be a smooth transition of executive power. Above all we must try to understand how our frustrations can be manipulated by politicians for their own selfish purposes.