Ignore the spectacle of the most undignifying tantrums being displayed by the outgoing occupants of the White House: a sitting US president has been denied re-election for the first time in many decades. Juxtapose this with the overwhelming victory given to President elect Joe Biden in the November 2020 US elections, and what is conveyed is the unambiguous message that the American people have not only spoken their minds but have had their way! The beauty of democracy and the supremacy of people’s power were demonstrated in both the nail-biting victory of Trump in 2016 as was the case in his dramatic ouster four years later. If the big man complained bitterly and endlessly even in his triumph back then, his whining in defeat today should not come to anyone as a surprise.
There is certainly no other interpretation to be given to Trump’s defeat, especially in traditionally Republican States in which he also won convincingly in the last election, than that his performance in office is considered disappointing, to put it mildly, by majority of the citizens he represents. The unprecedented turn out of voters, reported to be the largest in US history of elections, were obviously impelled by the determination of the electorates not to leave anything to chance. When you find yourself in a game where the circumstances are at odds or the umpire’s favourable disposition towards your opponent might accord him victory in the event of a close contest, no one needs to tell you that only a resounding trashing would do. A knockout in a boxing match leaves even the most opportunistic referee no other choice that to declare the obvious.
Few leaders combine such level of popularity and notoriety as Trump does, so rabidly loved by his throng of die-hard supporters and despised with equal measure by those in the opposite camp. On the balance, it is nothing but sheer hypocrisy to claim that the result of this year’s elections in the US came as a surprise. The theatrics the world was treated to in all those four years of Trump presidency didn’t seem like the way the country would want to proceed. Internally, his unapologetic embrace of the politics of exclusion, intolerance and bigotry leave the people in their most divisive status ever. Externally, his bizarre foreign policy style had traditional allies and adversaries trade places in a rare twist of fortune, leaving the world befuddled. At a point in the life of the outgoing administration, it became a matter of one day, one trouble. Yet, whatever pains, embarrassment and losses that Americans endured for the period under their 45th President, it really is their cup of tea at the end of the day. Afterall, is it not said that a people deserve the leaders they got? But what about us – the rest of world? What did the world do to deserve the dislocations brought upon it by an iconoclastic US President who has succeeded in literally leaving the world rudderless and in confusion?
Until now, democracy is known as one of America’s strongest and staunchly defended values. We took it for granted that those values are sacrosanct and that the US loves to see itself as a model of excellence in leadership, to the extent that the first nation could be counted on to intervene diplomatically and bring its great influence to bear on leaders anywhere in the world where these values are threatened. When Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat and congratulated Muhammadu Buhari even before the total count of the 2015 elections, many pointed to the behind-the-scene representation of the US who impressed it on the defeated statesman to do the needful. What then can we now make of the current contrived stalemate in the United States of America, when in reality there ought not to be any?
Donald Trump’s recalcitrant posture and unwillingness to concede victory to Joe Biden have shattered his country’s centuries-old history of peaceful transitions, dating back to 1896 when the then newly elected Republican William McKinley had a smooth change of power from Democratic Senator James K. Jones. This tradition has not failed once in all the forty five transitions in American history, including the 2016 elections when Hilary Clinton put her hurting aside and graciously congratulated this same Trump (who by the way had openly promised never to accept defeat if he had lost).
All the signs of authoritarianism now on blatant display makes you wonder if this is America! Much like borrowing from the playbooks of despots of Africa and Latin America, Trump’s intransigence has so emboldened his followers that there is now a rising wave of pro Trump demonstrations, supported by some right-wing media which keep feeding the public with unfounded allegations of voter frauds. Yet, from the declared results so far, the gap between the two candidates remain unassailable; Biden’s Electoral College votes of 306 to Trump’s 232 and in the popular vote their respective results of 50.8% to 47.2% are as wide as you can get, providing many world leaders including US allies of Canada, Germany and France the latitude to officially congratulate President elect Joe Biden.
The current stalemate is not only making a mockery of America but is further diminishing the country’s stature. Former president Obama describes Trumps present attitude and that of his Republican co-travelers as delegitimizing democracy. And here is my major worry. Of the several areas in which the world is left to try and pick up the pieces of what Trump has made of the old order, with the last four years of his administration having enforced different standard and values , the reversal of the gains he has now brought upon democracies, especially in Africa where it is barely finding its feet, has done a damage that may take us many years to recover from, if ever. The legitimacy of the electoral process is in grave danger. Now tyrants know it is not a matter of nation or colour, the same blood runs in the veins of those in power, and it is entirely left to you to accept or refuse electoral outcomes however indisputable the polls results may appear. The people can go to hell!