Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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Ordinarily, the first Tuesday of November of an election year is like any other day where Americans in the US go about their daily activities, casting their ballots in between breaks while awaiting results of the presidential election in the night of same day without any undue anxiety as to who wins generally, in the firm belief that whoever wins will serve the best interests of America as the bastion of democracy where the ideals of democracy are held aloft, the universal principles of freedom and dignity of the human being cherished. But 2020 has already proved to be an abnormal one with the rampaging corona virus upending our ways of living. And the US election for this year is proving to be like no other. Looking back at the campaigns one would think that this election was holding in a developing, under-developed country. For it is only in such ‘depraved’ countries with their mass of illiterate people rather than an advanced nation like the US could such shenanigans as we witnessed during the fierce campaign months occur, we thought. Alas, human beings on earth are the same, the worst and the best of us can be found in every single country. As it is , it seems the worst of humanity in terms of its shortcomings, character flaws et al, are the ones flaring up in many nations right up to the highest level.
Advanced democracies as the US never tire to tell those who subscribe to that form of governance, of its underlying principles which include level playing field for all contestants, sticking to issues rather than personalities during campaigns, eschewing any form of violence directly or indirectly, being gracious in defeat and magnanimous in victory. However, in the United States of American, the guardian of democracy, these principles are being defiled. At the centre of it all is a certain Donald Trump who like a bolt from the blues, became president of the USA, the richest country, some four years ago. Since then he had been defying standard presidential and leadership protocols/etiquette of decency, right from the day he was inaugurated. Recall that he quibbled over who between him and his predecessor, Barak Obama had the most crowds on inauguration day – such inanity. He continued to argue over this while pushing the narrative that he had more attendees.
This president to put it mildly, is economical with the truth and to put it more bluntly, tells blatant lies and seemingly without qualms. Americans are more divided today than ever before, no thanks to him. Indeed, he sowed the seeds of hate amongst Americans which is now manifesting everywhere. He asked a racist-leaning group, the ‘Proud Boys’, to “stand by and stand up” during the election; refused to say categorically that he would accept results of the election whichever way the pendulum swings and in fact he referred to his supporters that were causing nuisance to Joe Biden’s campaign bus on the highway (an incident which the FBI is now said to be investigating) as “patriots’’. Such is the hatred that supporters on both sides of the political divide were removing, defacing each party’s campaign signposts, an unwarranted hatred stoked by the president himself who as a leader should be above board, evincing all the virtues as best as he can in order to galvanise the citizens for the common good in love.
The president apparently has nothing but contempt for his challenger, mocking him at every turn, not delving into issues but probing into his family affairs. As a result some Democratic supporters have also resorted to attacking the president’s family too, although Mr. Biden has refrained from this even though he had also launched personal attacks on the president. Such is the filth oozing out from the president’s uncouth language that it has alienated himself from many world leaders, America’s western allies who secretly wish that Biden wins to normalize US standing in the international community. This year’s US election is eagerly awaited worldwide. Tension grip Americans as many fear that violence may break out during and after November 3. So much so that shop owners are covering their glass windows with ply woods to shield them against possible attacks while many others are taking off-days until Thursday when they hope to know the direction in which the country is headed. Thus, America is certain to remain fractious, no thanks again to the president with his cantankerous speeches/tweets.
He has cast doubt on votes by mail through which a record over 80 million Americans have voted due to the corona virus pandemic that is still hitting the country hard. He had boasted that the only way by which he could lose was if the election was rigged. So, if he loses, his die-hard supporters could foment trouble. Similarly should Biden lose hardened Democratic supporters could vent their anger on the streets, unwilling to stomach four more years of a Donald Trump presidency. What is more, conspiracy theories are flying around about what the president could do during the remaining two months of his tenure until inauguration day next year, should he lose. Some of them are so unbelievable but in these abnormal times when a Donald Trump was thrust unto America and the world, just about anything is possible with him. Overall America appears to be at a turning point and the battle for the soul of the US is well underway.
This is not to write off President Trump for he still commands a huge, fanatical following like a rock star. In truth, but for the corona virus pandemic, he probably would easily have won this election because the economy, the single most important factor for most Americans, was soaring in the over three years he was on the saddle. Then came COVID-19 and suddenly, literally overnight, all of Trump’s economic gains over the years were wiped out and the focus shifted dramatically from the economy to corona virus which has killed over 200,000 Americans to-date and witnessing a resurgence now there. Recall that in 2016 despite some heavyweight Republicans turning their backs on him as some are doing today, despite celebrities lining behind his opponent as many are doing today and despite the pollsters predicting that he would lose as they are forecasting today, Donald Trump against all odds triumphed to become the 45th president of the United States of America. It is still possible. A Bidden win is not necessarily a vote for Biden but one against Trump. And should the president be reelected, it means that abnormal times as this could throw up abnormal persons who gel with the times and triumph therein.