In a couple of days, the people of the USA will hopefully complete the process of electing their president for the next four years. Much to the surprise of many, the race seems to be closer than anticipated; it was expected that it would have been a relatively easy win for the Democratic Party’s nominee, Hilary Clinton. Yet, here we are on the eve of the election with Donald Trump, perhaps the most uninformed and politically unpolished candidate in recent decades to run for office, having a realistic shot at the Presidency. Many pundits are asking how did this happen—why, with all his indiscretions, idle chat and blatant disrespect for many groups in America, is he doing so well?
The obvious reason is that he is empowered by half of the American electorate and the wider society who are prepared to ignore those indiscretions. When voters wantonly disregard morality in the public square, there has to be a higher calling. In such a situation reality is routinely distorted and the worst form of delusion and hypocrisy take hold of the country. That is what this election campaign has been all about.
To listen to many Americans one gets the impression that Trump dropped from the skies—he is presented by his detractors as an anomaly, a candidate that is very un-American. Yet anyone who is informed and honest knows that Trump is quintessentially American and his candidacy reflects the political attitude of perhaps a majority of Americans. My argument here is that both the Trump candidacy tell us a lot about American politics and society.
There has always been a glaring contradiction in American politics, although it is not confined to America. America has always managed to project itself as the beacon of freedom and democracy while legally denying sections of its population their humanity and civil rights. It is perhaps the only country that could project democracy and slavery simultaneously and get away with it. When you listen to liberal commentators refer to Trump’s political behavior as reminiscent of Third World political culture, you realize the extent to which the culture of self-delusion has penetrated the psyche of the American elite and the contempt they have for other countries. Even if Trump is politically irrational, many very rational Americans are voting for him.
So how did we get to Trump? America took a major political turn when in 1980 it elected Ronald Reagan as president. Like Trump, Reagan was not politically informed or intellectually curious, but as we are seeing with Trump today, he was able to tap into a constant sense of American exceptionalism and dominance that reside in the country’s political culture. Reagan, then, was used as the medium to cement that political culture at the levels of policy and political behavior. In a sense, Reagan restored the politics of racial and class dominance domestically and American dominance abroad, phenomena which were briefly interrupted by the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam debacle.
The Regan way has since been the dominant politics in America—it is that politics that created George Bush Jr and now, Donald Trump. Bill Clinton won by adapting himself to that politics. Barack Obama, like Jimmy Carter before him, caught America unawares and briefly upset the proverbial apple cart. But as we have seen, Carter’s tenure in office led to the hawkish backlash that produced Reagan; Clinton’s intervention led to the Bush crusade; and Obama’s election pushed the country right back to Jim Crow America.
It is against that background one has to locate the rise of Trump and the difficulty Hilary Clinton is having. Clinton’s pragmatism and sometimes opportunism are proving to be not as effective in countering the dominant politics. Unlike her husband who benefited from White Maleness, she has not been able to blunt the sexism that is embedded in all forms of social and political dominance.
The American electorate is as politically tribal as in any country. Perhaps people attributed too much progressive currency to Obama’s election. Remember Obama only won approximately 40% of the white vote, which is lower that what Democratic candidates usually garner. Obama was lifted up by that extra effort by African Americans and Latinos who voted for Black Uplift rather than Obama’s politics. But the reaction to Black Uplift has always been visceral and that is what we are in the midst of.
Trump’s supporters, who are Republican voters, make heavy weather of the loss of American jobs. They blame it on Obama, but the truth is the loss of American jobs is the by-product of the very capitalism which they want to preserve in its purest form. It’s as if the two sides of the Conservative political brain do not connect. On the one hand they embrace undiluted capitalism and on the other hand they reject the consequences of that economic system. Bernie Sanders had the courage to go there while Hilary Clinton avoided that place. That is the major reason she has had such difficulty with the progressive section of the Democratic Party’s base.
During the primaries, Clinton and the media were celebrating her conquer of the Black vote and bemoaning Sanders’ inability to connect to that community. Now, a few months later, they are mourning her inability to turn out the very Black vote. That’s where surface-analysis takes you—when political people do not talk directly to constituencies, they arrive at wrong conclusions about those them and ultimately do not connect to them. African Americans have unique issues which have not been directly addressed by Clinton and se may be reaping the rewards of that. I hope the APNU+AFC coalition is paying attention.
Whether Clinton wins or not, America’s politics and society will be dominated for the next period by Donald Trump’s politics of simplicity linked to Manifest Destiny. When one adds Obama’s eight years to a potential Clinton eight years, one gets a generation of non-white male political symbolism which is going to be fought vigorously by the gate-keepers of America’s Manifest Destiny. As we say in Guyana-Watch the Ride.
Dr. David Hinds, a political activist and commentator, is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies at Arizona State University. More of his writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org