GUEST COLUMNIST By Dr. Bisi Olawunmi
President Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, took America by storm in 2016, culminating in the election to the White House of a political outsider who worsted the professional politicians of both major parties. With his supporters storming the symbol of American democracy – The U.S. Capitol – on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, Trump was to leave the White House with the country literally flailing in political stormy waters. He rose in the American political firmament like a blazing meteor that blind-sided his political opponents and left the political-military-industrial Establishment that has the country in a vice grip, in a moan. But not for long. Fury, induced by untamed anger, was to become Trump’s UNDOING, with the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol storming by his supporters. The Establishment, in a rebound and capitalizing on that incident, got him where they want him – with a hurried second impeachment , giving him the dubious record of being the only president to suffer that fate, arising from the gloating desire of opposition forces to get his name in The Hall of Infamy. A last laugh on Trump ? Maybe, and maybe not, as many – 74 million plus Americans, resentful of the ‘’Washington Elite’’ – may want to put his name in The Hall of Fame : different strokes.
Senator Ted Cruz, one of those who contested the 2016 Republican primaries with Trump, summed up the Trump phenomenon : What no one understood at first was how his excesses would appeal to voters – not all of them poor white people – whose jobs, prospects and tradition have been destroyed – who feel marginalized or threatened. Cruz concluded that Trump became a ‘’stealth candidate until too late’’ to stop him.
President Trump is a strong personality, with strong passions and strong convictions who attracts strong emotions – for and against – you either hate him or love him – no middle roaders when the issue is Trump. The rise of Trump as a ‘Strongman’ in American politics is a phenomenal development that caught the American Establishment napping and led to a four-year CONTEST OF WILL during the Trump Presidency. It can be conceded that, in the end, the strong institutions prevailed, with the inauguration Mr Joe Biden as the 46th American president on Jan. 20, 2021, but at great cost. However, that the American system can even produce a ‘Strongman’ and the devastating body blow inflicted on American democracy, following the hotly disputed 2020 elections, and even the larger American polity by this ‘Strongman’ should be humbling to America, which as the Evangelist of Democracy, wants to force-feed the world with its brand of democratic government .
President Trump committed two grave political offences : gate-crashing the political establishment’s dinner and compounding it by not observing table manners. Translation – Trump gate-crashed into the political oligarchy by clinching the Presidency in 2016, against all odds, and for not conducting himself in the prescribed PRESIDENTIAL manner once in The White House. On his way to The White House, Trump had first trounced 16 top ranking professional politicians in the Republican primaries to emerge the Republican Party candidate, against the wishes of the leaders of the party. The 16 Republican presidential aspirants defeated by Trump included icons of the political Establishment such as governors and senators as well as Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida, younger brother of President George. W. Bush and son of President George. H.W. Bush. The projection in Republican circle was that Jeb Bush will emerge Republican candidate in 2016, consolidating the Bush Dynasty. In its August 7, 2000 special edition on the Republican Convention, TIME magazine had the three Bushes – President George .H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush – on its cover page, with the caption : Inside the Bush Dynasty. But Trump truncated the progression of the Bush Dynasty. In the face-off with Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, Trump completed the rout of members of the political oligarchy by humiliating the haughty Hillary at the polls and frustrating her ambition to make history as the first female president in America. Trump also took on the media , a formidable American institution, exposing the lies, inaccuracies in media reports which he dubbed ‘Fake News’, a labeling and highlighting of media’s flaws that has gained global traction. The American media which have pranced in the global media arena as the epitome of excellence in journalism was exposed for what many of them really are : attack dogs for partisan interests with little or no regard for the Doctrine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. In this regard, it is illustrative to point out a classic CNN goof in its obsession with negative portrayal of Trump and touting the Russian connection in Trump’s election . The CNN had on June 22, 2017, barely five months into Trump presidency, published an article on its website indicating federal investigators’ probe of a meeting between then White House adviser , Anthony Scaramucci and director of a Russian investment fund, Kirill Dmitriev, which the anonymous source disowned, and had to be retracted by CNN. By June 26, 2017, three top CNN journalists, including Eric Lichtblau, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest recognition award, were forced to resign for their roles in the article ! Trump, predictably after the resignations, had in a Tweet, Wowed : “FAKE NEWS !”.
Virtually all the American mainstream media, including the CNN, New York Times and Washington Post endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and all the polls, popularized by the media, predicted sure victory for Hillary, a projection that Trump victory rubbished. So, Trump assumed the American Presidency with formidable foes to contend with and they never let up.
TRUMP : THE NATIONALIST
Trump is an American nationalist who had preached America First years before he contested the presidency. In fact, all the positions he campaigned on and which he tried to implement during his presidency, including his anti illegal migration stand, more financing of NATO by European countries, the lopsided North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and China’s unfair trade practices which, he said, made America a dumping ground for foreign manufactures, all in the name of multilateralism, had been articulated in books he authored earlier . For instance, in his book titled : ‘The America We Deserve’ published in January 2000, Trump had decried the ‘’laxness toward illegal immigration’’ and warned America, nearly two years before the 9/11 terror attack, against the ‘’danger of the sort of terrorist attacks that will make the (1993) bombing of the (World) Trade Center look like kids playing with firecrackers”. Trump also indicated that America, under his presidency, will not want to be the policeman of the world and would not fight other peoples’ wars or play ‘Father Christmas’ to countries. He criticized America’s invasion of Iraq in the Second Gulf War and the killing of Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, describing him as a stabilizing factor in the Middle East. He ended America’s involvement in the Syrian war.
Trump is the only American president not to have been involved in wars in the past 32 years – Bush Sr. fought the First Gulf War, the son fought the Second Gulf War while President Bill Clinton was involved in the 1993 war in Yugoslavia which got that country dismembered. President Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. president, was involved in the 2011 Arab Spring Uprising in North Africa that saw Libya factionalised into lawless fiefdoms of Warlords and its leader, Muammar Gadaffi killed. Obama presidency also supported the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and a military coup that brought Gen. El-Sisi to power. President Morsi eventually died in detention. That is Obama’s legacy of violence in Africa, not by a ‘racist’ Trump !! And we cannot forget Obama’s audacity of trying to impose Gay Culture on Africa. Yet, many Nigerian commentators continue to adulate, celebrate Obama, while demonizing Trump.
Trump is out of power, but Trumpism – a movement symbolized by the 74.2 million Americans who believe in Trump and voted for him in the 2020 elections and who endorsed his MAGA (Make America Great Again ) mantra – cannot simply fizzle out with his exit from the White House. This implies that Trump would still be politically relevant for sometime to come. Wishing away Trumpism, in the immediate future, may therefore be wishful thinking. This therefore demands tact from President Joe Biden in handling the emergent deep divisions in America , where the temptation to adopt a hawkish approach may inflame an already volatile situation. These, really, are challenging times for ‘God’s Own Country’.
Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Adeleke University, Ede. Osun State. Email address : email@example.com Phone ( SMS ONLY ) 0803 364 7571.