Where did we go so wrong to allow our democracy to trip?
BY SOUMANOU SALIFOU
In the wee hours of November 9, 2016 our democracy tripped, and a man with dangerous behaviors and frightful ideas claimed victory. Today, the proclaimed winner, a gross man with a documented history of woman’s groping, a demagogue who stands for everything and its opposite, was sworn-in as our 45th president, thereby throwing us and the whole world—except his accomplice, Russia’s autocrat Vladimir Putin—in fear. Some of us were scared, and others disgusted, to hear the man whose name we are not prepared to associate with the word “president” take the oath of the greatest office in the nation, with his wife—whose nude pictures are all over the Internet and the social media—holding the Holy Bible.
The optimists among us thought once Trump has insulted and lied his way to “victory,” his demeanor would be a presidential one. As it turned out, it was like expecting an uncaged bird not to fly. The man, imbibed with an egomania that it’s still hard for some of us to get used to, continued his impetuous attacks on any institution and individual he can think of, including civil rights icon John Lewis who described him as illegitimate, not unlike thousands of other Americans who took to the streets for days across the country to protest his election and those, larger in numbers than the unimpressive crowd at his inauguration, who took advantage of that same constitutional right to protest his inauguration. In the same vein, several NBA teams took the bold step of boycotting Trump’s hotels in protest of his election. This is in contrast with the jubilation of some of the darkest forces in our society, including the KKK, that Trump proved reluctant to distance himself from during the nasty campaign.
Our democracy hasn’t seen this level of rejection of a president-elect in my lifetime, let alone his associates being investigated for possible links with our long-time adversary Russia after the intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government has contributed to helping their man, Trump, win the election. Despite his low, 40% popularity rating, he couldn’t, for once, hold his arrogance in check. Instead, he claimed in his inaugural address that his election is part of “a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen.”
Where did we go wrong to allow our democracy to trip so dangerously? Trump confessed he was surprised by his own victory, just like the majority of the voters who was confident—too much so—he stood no chance of winning the high office, and therefore didn’t work hard enough to stop him. Even some of our fellow-citizens who voted from him, like the West Virginia miners who now fear losing their coverage through Obamacare that he vows to erase aren’t sure they made the right choice.
History is full of dangerous surprises. It threw Nazism, fascism and communism upon the world. But ours is a democracy with deep-rooted institutions that won’t allow the worst presidential choice in our recent history to cross the Rubicon. Not surprisingly, barely hours after Trump’s inauguration, a movement to impeach him got underway and was collecting signatures fast.
Our democracy may have tripped, but it’s alive and kicking, and will survive the next frightful four years.
Soumanou Salifou is the founder & publisher of The African, the premier African magazine published in the U.S. Since 1994.