Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Michael Abrahams | Something stinks in America

Published:Monday | November 14, 2016 | 11:58 AM

If someone had told me a year ago that America would elect a man awaiting a fraud trial and a rape trial as their next commander-in-chief, I would have dismissed them and recommended that they undergo psychiatric evaluation. But on November 8, 2016, the American people did just that, and the stark reality of a seriously divided America was on display for the world to see.

This has got to be one of America’s darkest periods in modern history. The recently concluded presidential campaign was one of the nastiest and most bizarre ever. The two main candidates, Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party, and Donald Trump for the Republicans, were both unpopular. Both consistently had unfavourability ratings above 50 per cent prior to the election.

There are valid reasons for people to have issues with Hillary Clinton. The management of her private email server regarding sensitive information was cause for concern, as was her handling of the Benghazi attack, and her refusal to release transcripts of paid speeches she gave to investment banks on Wall Street did not help either. Clinton is also pro-choice and supports same-sex marriage, stances which run counter to the beliefs of many persons of faith.

But whatever flaws Clinton may possess, they pale in comparison to Trump’s. The name-calling he engages in is highly hypocritical, as he appears to be even guiltier of the transgressions that excoriates others over. He refers to Ted Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” and Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary”, when he appears to be even more dishonest. 

Fact-checking after each of the presidential debates consistently showed Trump to make significantly more false statements than Clinton. And some of his lies are brazen, in-your-face ones. For example, during the second presidential debate, he was taken to task over a tweet referring to former Miss Universe Alicia Machado’s “sex tape”. The tweet was there for millions to see, but during the debate, just nine days after the tweet, Trump denied referring to a sex tape. 

More recently, he told an outright lie on President Obama. While the president was speaking at a Clinton rally in North Carolina, an elderly man in military attire showed up carrying a 'TRUMP, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN' sign. The crowd heckled the man, but Obama would have none of it. He admonished the gathering, reminding them that in America freedom of speech is allowed, advising them to respect the fact that the man is elderly and likely had been in the military, and told them not to boo. But despite Obama’s dignified and mature response, Trump seized the opportunity to tell another enormous lie. While addressing a crowd at one of his rallies, Trump said that Obama “screamed” at the protester and that it was a “disgrace”.

In addition to being pathologically dishonest, Trump has also displayed racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, demagogic, narcissistic, rude, disrespectful, unethical, unfair, crass, crude, cruel, malicious, vindictive, manipulative, petty, immature, thin-skinned, inconsistent, unstable and ignorant behaviour. The list of negative adjectives that accurately describe the man is astounding.

Unprecedented in the run-up to the election were strong critiques of Trump and/or endorsements of Clinton, from public figures and even fellow Republicans. Deepak Chopra described Trump as a "racist" who has the "emotional retardation of a three-year-old”, Robert Di Niro expressed a desire to “punch him in the face”, and outspoken Republican strategist Ana Navarro and former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly denounced him and announced their intention to vote for Hillary Clinton. 

A long list of newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Atlantic endorsed Clinton and cautioned against voting for Trump. The number of publications supporting Trump paled in comparison, but interestingly included The Crusader, the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan.

Now the American people have made their choice, and even though more people voted for Hillary Clinton, giving her the popular vote, thanks to the Electoral College system in America, Donald Trump is in line to be the new president, and unprecedented happenings continue to take place in post-election America. 

There have been demonstrations in cities across the country since the result was announced, walkouts at schools, and the appearance of anti-Trump and Nazi graffiti, including swastikas, on buildings and monuments.

An increase in reports of racial intimidation is already being noted, with 200 reported in the four days following the election, including one in which a female Muslim student was allegedly approached by a man who threatened to set her on fire if she did not remove her hijab. 

The day after the election, messages including 'whites only', 'Trump Train' and the 'Nigger' were scrawled on a bathroom door at a high school, while at another, the principal reported "disrespectful, inappropriate and racially offensive graffiti" on a girls' bathroom wall. Another teacher spoke of students coming up to her and asking if they are going to get deported.

Trump is viewed with such disdain that some congratulatory messages to the president-elect are accompanied by warnings. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned him that "going it alone" is not an option, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, “Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views”, and “I offer the next president of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”

Donald Trump is the oldest person ever elected to be president of the United States, the only one with no political or military experience and one of the most divisive. In rejecting Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party and anything to do with Barack Obama, America has cut off its nose to spite its face. Their organ of smell may has been amputated, but the world notices the stench.