Wednesday, January 18, 2023
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CommentaryReflections on the election of Donald Trump

Reflections on the election of Donald Trump

Certainly, for President Barack Obama, Donald Trump’s presidential victory is nothing less than a nightmare becauseDonald Trump deeply resents Obama. It was Donald Trump who stoked divisions and preyed on people’s racist fears, including lies and insinuations about Obama himself. Obama, on the other hand, had made tremendous efforts on Hillary Clinton’s behalf unprecedented for a modern sitting president, writes Fisseha-Tsion Menghistu.

A few days before the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America I wrote a commentary on The Reporter wrongly predicting that Hillary Clinton would be elected. I said so because I never thought that those who voted for Donald Trump were so naïve and ill-informed to have him as the leader of the United States – the most influential superpower in the world.  I thought the people of America, who preach about respecting women’s rights and about equality and equal opportunity for all, would act as a role model for by electing the first woman president in the history of America. It goes without saying that elections are unpredictable as football matches are and that is what is exciting about elections. At any rate, I publicly accept and admit that my prediction in confidently saying that Hillary Clinton will be elected has been found wrong.

The result have defied the highly organized and most informed US polling predictions. Moreover, there might also be millions and millions of people around the world who might have shared my ideas and have publicly made the statements about Donald Trump including the Foreign Minister of France who publicly supported Clinton. Similarly, there were many others who—in their heart of hearts—never wanted to see Trump as president. However, for the sake of being tactful many decided to keep quiet and decided not to make any statement about their feelings, opinions and beliefs. I am sure many leaders who never had high regards for Trump have now sent congratulatory messages to the president-elect. Diplomatic courtesy and diplomatic relations demand such practice.

It is now clear that in the US and many industrialized countries, it is money and not good ideas and good vision that talk. That is also why the world is in socio-economic, cultural and political crises. Trump achieved one of the most improbable political victories in modern US history. So, if this is the sort of leader the people of America want to have, I can only say good luck to them.

Donald Trump said that he would build a wall on the US-Mexico border. It was reported that 79 percent of his supporters favor this mantra. That is why it has also been the centerpiece of his immigration policy. He also insisted that Mexico would pay for its construction.

Almost a year ago—following the massacre in San Bernardino, California—Trump issued another most dramatic proposal: “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”. Although he tried to say that it applies “from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism”. Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, who called the original proposal “offensive and unconstitutional”, said that Trump no longer supports an outright ban on Muslims entering the US. But Republicans seem to believe Trump had it right the first time. At least they want a temporary ban against Muslims from entering the country.

Trump has also been resolute in his opposition to both the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He has vowed to renegotiate the terms of NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, leaving open the possibility of pulling out entirely, and has said he will not approve TPP as president.

Since President Barack Obama was worried about US-EU relations and to limit the damage, he even spent the last 18 months reassuring US allies that Trump’s announcements about America do not reflect the country’s real values. Ironically, now, Obama has the bitter responsibly of handing the US government to the man whose actions he openly condemned. Similarly, many European and other leaders will have to deal with a man whose policies they do not like and even oppose.

In my view, the election of Donald Trump is sad to the people of the United States – particularly those who did not elect him – and to the rest of the ordinary people of the world who aspire to see and have wise, farsighted, visionary, compassionate and self-less leaders than a man who became rich from his casino business and who only knows how to make money for himself and his family than for the people of America.

Incidentally, I like to stress that I do respect the decision of the majority of the American people to elect Trump as their President.  It is their constitutional right to do and I respect that. Perhaps, they might have elected him because they are fed up with seeing old faces or because of their resentment to the politics and practices of Washington DC. At any rate, I still do not think that the election of Trump as the President of the United States is a good omen for the peace loving people of the world. This is because since the United States is the most influential superpower, its policies directly or indirectly affect all of us unless we decide to cut our relationship with such superpower, perhaps to our detriment. 

Now that Donald Trump has been elected president the question remains – is he going to “Make America Great Again” as he has promised? I doubt it! I have lived long enough to listen to many Presidents of America who made lofty promises but who did not keep their promises, particularly with tax matters. When Obama announced his presidential run in 2007, he vowed to reform Washington. Eight years later, the race to succeed him ended up being one of the darkest national election races in American history. It was a bitter and ugly fight unexpected from those who want to be leaders of a global superpower.

Obama had tried to sell his vision of a hopeful America or to give hope to Americans by renewing the American dream. How much Obama has brought about with regards to the renewal of the American dream is debatable. Many say he has achieved a great deal, others say, the Washington political establishment and the American system did not allow him to do what he wanted to do. Now that Donald Trump has been elected president there might be little hope of salvaging his legacy. In fact, Obama’s presidential legacy or accomplishments on jobs, healthcare, foreign policy, climate change and equality might even go “down the drain” as he said. After all, Republicans have been trying to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare act pretty much from the moment it was signed in 2010. Now, Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) might be reversed by Republicans who, in January, will control the White House, the Senate and the Congress. The prospects of undoing Obamacare might thus be real.

Certainly, for President Barack Obama, Donald Trump’s presidential victory is nothing less than a nightmare because Donald Trump deeply resents Obama. It was Donald Trump who stoked divisions and preyed on people’s racist fears, including lies and insinuations about Obama himself. Obama, on the other hand, had made tremendous efforts on Hillary Clinton’s behalf unprecedented for a modern sitting president, to show his unwavering commitment and support to have his former Secretary of State get elected as the next President of the United States.

Now that Trump has been elected president, I believe that there is a dire, serious and urgent need to rethink and reflect, de novo, our understanding and expectations about politics, political parties and political leaders. In a similar vein, we should also understand why poor and marginalized people elect rich individuals to power. Incidentally, although Trump has been elected by a narrow majority, we should not forget that Clinton won the popular vote.

If democracy, as we know it, has been fair and inclusive then the outcome of the popular vote should have been considered. Otherwise the wishes of the majority of people of the United States, who have voted against Donald Trump, would be ignored. This is to say that there is a problem whether the American system of democracy genuinely reflects “the will of the people”. The election of Trump shows requires a serious reexamination of the system.

When Bill Clinton became president, he tried to appoint some Republicans to his administration with the hope of bridging the gap between the tow parties. It was his own decision and choice not because he was legally or constitutionally obliged to seek accommodation with the opposition. He felt that it might create a smooth working relationship between the two main parties and to get things done and minimize obstacles to his administration.

At any rate, I do not want the American political system to be imported to many developing countries let alone to Ethiopia. However, I believe it is important to engage the people, scholars, academic institutions and even the leaders of the United States and many other stakeholders than to simply disengage. I believe that US politics  is about the politics of the rich playing games with the passion and emotion of  millions of innocent and perhaps many ignorant people who do not have a much sophisticated and deep knowledge and understanding about the role of politics, political parties and political leaders. In fact, I have argued in the past that there is a decline in leadership.

What is certainly good about the political system of the United States is that despite their internal differences and squabbles and political animosity, they do not kill one another and do not lead their country into turmoil and bring about a great deal of suffering for their own people as we have witnessed in many developing countries. In the end, all US presidential candidates and their close supporters put the interest of their own people and their country first. Obama will, thus uphold the longstanding traditions of an outgoing president by welcoming Trump and his family to the White House in the coming days and handing off the powerful levers of government to the man he spent the last two months saying he is unfit to be the President of the United States America.

Certainly we can learn many things. But it is beyond the scope of this article to write on them. But I can says that it helps to trigger a much wider debate about the role, importance and relevance of issues such as democracy, good governance, respect for human rights; the role and effectiveness of elections and on what type of society and institutions and administration do countries like Ethiopia like to create in order to make poverty history and in order to genuinely improve the quality of life of our people and to have a united, strong, peaceful, prosperous Ethiopia.

In as much as American presidents and leaders put the interest of their people and their country first irrespective of their widely opposing policies, ideologies and religious beliefs, I also want to see Ethiopian leaders to also do all within their powers to put the interest of the country and that of the vast majority of the Ethiopian people above everything else. That is what the Ethiopian people expect them to do.

Ed.’s Note: Fisseha-Tsion Menghistu (Prof.) is a legal expert, consultant and an expert in investment, taxation and finance. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].


Contributed by Fisseha-Tsion Menghistu


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