Tuesday, May 21, 2024

American politics ‘are such a damn mess’

The political spectacle that started with Donald Trump’s unexpected attainment of the presidency of the United States two and half years ago continues to steamroll the country, breaking hearts and careers and, at the same time, writing and introducing new bare-knuckle politicking never seen or practised in America.

The goal posts are moved every day with no backlash; nothing is sacred anymore.

What America is witnessing is a clash between two pillars of power: Congress and the Presidency with the third, the Judiciary keeping a hesitant watch over the two.

The situation is very volatile and does not seem to be ending soon.

One thing that the Trump presidency has done is to overturn the political cart. No other person can ever be elected to any office using Trump’s financial and personal resume.

Trump’s election has shown that ‘political cleanliness’ does not matter; it has shown that electing a candidate mired in scandals and, in addition, keeping him in place despite many more accusations of misconduct is easy and acceptable.

Trump’s presidency has stimulated a need to revisit the many statutes that deal with the separation of powers because, to some, it appears as if the presidency has overtaken the other two.

Making matters worse is the revolting partisan appointment of judges. Democrats appoint judges deemed to be liberal while Republicans appoint those viewed to be conservative and their rulings are always expected to mirror the political philosophy of the party or president that appointed them.

Donald Trump will either be remembered as a trailblazing hero or he will be reviled and touted as the worst mistake in American presidential history. That will depend on what happens to his presidency as from now on.

Trump started upsetting centuries-old political norms and behavior during the presidential campaigns. He broke rules at will and each time he did that, people laughed and said that was the end of his political journey.

Scandals after scandals were dug up with plenty of evidence, something that continues to this day, but he survived and is still standing.

America is still there, absorbing it all but there are now fears that Trump’s “behavior” has gone too far and will hurt the country and the political landscape of tomorrow.

Some consider Trump to be dangerous because ‘he knows how to communicate’, always inserting himself in any subject people are discussing.

Some say he always ‘introduces stories that detach us from reality’, turning conventional wisdom on its head, which, they say, is why he gets away with serious violations in politics, in government and in his personal life.

But Trump has a base he relies on. His core supporters always register between 33 and 35% and hardly vary downwards or upwards.

And his supporters have been described as ‘conservative, white and non-evangelicals’ who are ‘less educated than the traditional Republican’.

Trump supporters are generalized to be with prejudice, right wing and nationalistic who have no use for political decency.

The issue though is that whatever Trump supporters are, they are not alone but are joined by some who prefer not to be known as Trump supporters because Trump could not have won the presidency with votes from only ‘core supporters’.

With America reportedly overwhelmed by Mexican and South American asylum seekers, the immigration issue is one area in which Trump gets grudging support from many people.

Projections are that white people in America will become a minority by year 2045.

And who will replace them? People of colour, a silly moniker that means anyone who is not white and that, on its own, is cause for panic among certain circles.

Funny enough, I am not conflicted about Trump’s stance on immigration. Uncontrolled borders damage a country economically and socially, causing stress on local population.

Uncontrolled emigration can cause problems and xenophobia as we have witnessed in developing countries.

I have seen the stress it caused in Zimbabwe when the country hosted South African, Angolan, Ethiopian and various other people from Great Lakes region; I have seen what it did in South Africa; I have seen what it did in Botswana and now, I see what it is doing to America.

The answer, however, does not lie in the harsh treatment of those who seek relief, those who seek a helping hand.

The economics of survival is very simple: a father in Plumtree where there is no bread, will not let his family starve when he sees bread across the border at Ramokgwebana.

The issue of immigration has become a very sensitive talking point, with many Americans expressing disgust at being asked to “press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish” whenever they make a call.

Nothing divides Americans more than the issue of immigration and nothing defines the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats than the issue of immigration.

Currently, there is a nasty stand-off on this issue.

Be that as it may, Trump better finish his revolution because an unfinished revolution is a dangerous precedent.

Many are accusing Trump of weakening public confidence in the presidency and in Congress. Many say that Trump has destroyed expected norms and rules of fair play.

For better or worse, past presidents have never dominated people’s lives like Trump has.                                                                                                                                 He never gets punished for anything he does, even when it is proven, nothing sticks on him.                                                                                                                               And, he is running for a second term of office.

The polarization and partisanship have reached levels never seen before and nothing is worse for elected officials than to put party before country.

Despite it all, there is still plenty to admire about American politics. I cannot think of any other nation that can wither the rough and tumble of politics the way America does: thanks to their institutions.

America’s strength lies in its institutions and my only fear is that they might not survive the onslaught of attempts to personalize them, to make them answerable to an individual and a political party.                                                                                      And the fireworks haven’t even started!


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