Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2020-11-07 11:32:51 Published on Nov 07, 2020
It has transformed frustrations into a nihilistic anger. But it is not the real America.
Fighting Trumpism

Donald Trump may lose the election, but Trumpism will remain triumphant. His support base has not wavered despite his chaotic presidency and disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is manifested in the GOP staving off a strong challenge in the Senate, and actually denting the Democratic majority in the House. Joe Biden may win the election, but will find it hard to govern.

Once done, elections were supposed to unite. But in the US the divide is too deep to be easily overcome. Trump is unlikely to help narrow it, and though Biden is trying, he may not have the political heft to succeed. The election has not been about Biden, but his rival.

Trumpism, which is here to stay, is the assertion of America’s white supremacy and that project remains strong. Trump came in the wake of the first black president, Barack Obama, and if there was one running theme of his presidency it was to undo Obama’s legacy. The geopolitical masterstroke, the TPP, the much-needed Affordable Care Act and the vital Paris climate change agreement were trashed. The rich were rewarded with a huge tax cut and little effort was made to address the growing crisis of inequality in the US.

An analysis in NYT revealed that 92% of those born in 1940 out-earned their parents. But of Americans born in 1980, only 50% have a chance of exceeding their parent’s income. Life expectancy in the US is below that of all its peers, even though it spends more on healthcare than any other country. The hollowing out of America’s manufacturing may have played a role here, but blaming China alone is to pass the buck.

Trump has not been the only president to ignore this. But his genius has been in transforming the frustration of the middle and lower middle classes into a nihilistic anger that cements his electoral support base and has wrapped itself around the once-great Republican Party.

America has never quite been comfortable being a representative democracy. Had it been so, the result would have been clear: Biden with 50.5% of the votes as against Trump’s 48%. Blacks and poorer Americans face voter suppression tactics, its presidential election is based on an electoral college with a built-in bias for states with a small population. Democrat-leaning California with a population of 4 crore gets 55 electoral votes against 3 for mostly Republican Wyoming with a population of 5 lakh.

While the system was born of the conservatism of the founding fathers, it also had its malign roots in slavery, since the slave holding states were allowed to count three-fifths of their slaves for the purpose of getting more electors and seats in the House of Representatives.

This bias is writ all over the 100-member Senate, which also appoints Supreme Court judges. Since each state has two senators, regardless of population, Wyoming has the same number of senators as California. The Senate sets its own rules and one is that a proposal to change things requires a minimum of 60 votes to advance. Everything is designed to prevent change, which in practical terms means the dominance of the white majority.

Slavery and a distrust of “the masses” shaped the American constitution. Two centuries and more later the document and its system are not just dated, but positively reactionary. Change will come, like it does to all democracies, but it will be so slow that it will continue to deprive tens of millions of people the opportunities – political, social and economic – that they ought to have had as citizens of the richest and most powerful country in the world.

Actually, Trumpism with its distrust for immigrants, its racist outlook and lack of empathy, is not the real America; it is a remnant of the past clinging on. The Americans are known for their generosity, their helpfulness and openness to the world. If things go well, they could win this election and get the process of democratising America back on track.

This commentary originally appeared in The Times of India.

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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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