The US Presidential elections are of interest not just to American citizens but to anyone with a remote interest in world affairs and politics. Therefore, it was no surprise when social media erupted once it became clear that real estate baron Donald Trump has done the unthinkable – shocking the wide favourite Hillary Clinton in his march to the White House. Reactions in India ranged from calling white American voters bigots to expressing shock at the election of a sexist Trump over Clinton who would have made history as the first woman president to be elected in the history of the country.
But is this election result really shocking? And is it a real departure from how voters elsewhere in the world have voted in recent times – a case in point being the Brexit and India’s own national elections in 2014 where BJP swept to power with a landslide victory.
Here are 5 reasons why Indians should stop expecting voters to be any different in US or anywhere else.
1. It is stupid to be aghast that America can elect a man like Trump – an egomaniacal, bigoted, misogynist, climate change- denying, xenophobic, where-do-we-stop – to become President. Enough of countries have right-wing war-mongers as heads of state. Russia and China get away with it everytime. So does Israel, and the Middle-east. France and Germany could, soon. To an extent, India does too. The question is, why does America have to be different? It will merely stop being the flag-bearer of the Free-world, which will be missed, but they don’t owe us that.
2. Was Hillary’s loss another evidence of the glass-ceiling? I’d disagree. It was the women voters who abandoned her, after all. And let’s please not forget that women have made it to the top in most other countries that matter by now. Some, like Golda Meir in Israel, Angela Merkel in Germany, Margaret Thatcher & Theresa May in Britain have done so even without the benefit of political lineage. America has merely ceded its right to be called great, and to look down at the rest of us. But that’s their choice.
3. Much of the commentary has hoped that Trump will be better than his worst critics predict (such a low-bar). And he will be. But that’s missing the point. If you are a middle/upper class Hindu, you have to admit that India has had Achhe Din the last two years. If you are not, but toe the establishment line, you can still get by. It is only the people on the margins that have been killed or arrested on trumped up charges. Not necessarily on the orders of the leader, but by his claque. That will happen in the US too. The vote for Trump will begin to be interpreted as a vote for everything he stands for, and it is only a matter of time before the faithful begin to take the law into their hands (There was ample evidence of that in the campaign). America will stop being an inclusive democracy, and an economic bully. From Climate change to Free speech, it’s leadership will be missed. But then again, why do we need it to be something its current inhabitants don’t want to be?
4. Donald Trump’s feat is, nevertheless, impressive when you consider what he ran against. Just about all the political bigwigs of the time (All living presidents had come together to denounce him), the entire rich guy-club (Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban, et al), all of show-biz, almost the entire media (including half of Fox News), the comedians (I hurt most for them, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers). The reason is simple. When you have a wealth gap as huge as you have, you cannot be credible when you claim to be fighting for the poor. At best you sound patronizing. Perhaps, a failed businessman selling you pipe dreams, when he claims to be anti-establishment), sounds more credible.
5. The sad part is that Hillary Clinton was not a tenth as bad as she was being made out to be. The charges against her were more deliberate malignation than anything else. But starting from the tea-party several years ago, Americans have knowingly gotten themselves into this mess. It is tempting to think that this is the culmination. No, this is just the beginning of a decline – hopefully temporary. As the saying goes, “IF YOU REAP THE WIND, YOU SOW THE WHIRLWIND”.
(Abraham C Mathews, a former journalist, is currently an advocate practicing in the Supreme Court)