Trump: Not until he is disgraced

Incumbent President Donald Trump lost the US presidency and hundreds of Americans danced in front of the White House. No policeman shot at them; no soldier whipped any of them. Sad, angry Trump did not hire thugs to machete them. Could any person make such noise in front of our Aso Rock without consequences? Before that day of finality, desperate President Trump did not want millions of unfavourable votes counted. He filed several suits in several jurisdictions shopping for orders to prevent his sack by the American people. The courts made sure justice was blind to power, they did not work in aid of wrong. They all said the votes should count and be counted. That was at a time one Nigerian court composed an exparte order freezing accounts of people who protested against police brutality. Trump’s anti-vote-count cases did not drag beyond twenty-four hours; the Nigerian anti-protester application was supposedly filed on October 20, the court ruled on it on November 5.

Every democracy has a character, so do the institutions of the state. The character of the American democracy evinces ethical comportment, enforces checks and balances and deplores arbitrariness. Despite the unusual four years of Donald Trump, it is pleasing to see in the November 3 election and its aftermath that these standards of ethics and integrity of character have remained undelete-able in that country. The 2020 US election is a teacher of how democracy should run. The American military and other security forces did not do eye service by sending ‘unknown soldiers’ to break the victory celebrations. They maintained the apolitical lane their country allotted them. They did not invade the vote counting centres in support of their commander-in-chief who was in severe pains. Election officials focused on counting all the votes ignoring the subversive “stop the count” tweets of Mr Trump. They knew the character of their nation does not pander to the whims, caprices and the fleeting presence of a president. The American media also stood their ground. They focused on the figures and called the votes when they were due; they did not mind that it was a sitting president’s ox that was being gored. Shoulder to shoulder, the institutions worked in defence of the integrity of their democracy. I wish Nigeria could learn.

Trump is like Tortoise who is going on a journey and his neighbours ask him when he would return; he says “not until I am disgraced.” Trump is still not done with his ways. He wants to do what the Nigerian politician does after a loss at the polls. He wants to be the United States’ first Supreme-Court-installed president. He thinks he has the numbers there, five of nine. What his 70 million supporters could not achieve for him through the ballot, he wants to use his country’s apex court to do. Five years ago, he boasted to Americans that he knew “more about courts than any other human being on earth.” Four years ago, he asked Americans: “Who knows more about lawsuits than I do? I’m the king.” Because his tortoise is determined to be disgraced, he is not prepared to accept the verdict of democracy and move quietly into the night as nine of his predecessors did after their own reelection losses. Trump is a rich man with a poverty of character. He had four years to body-fill that dent in his makeup. But he was carried away by an inexplicable fascination with powers he did not have and the noise from his hosanna orchestra. The Trump people enjoy(ed) his theatrics. They hailed the extremism in his ‘America first’ rhetoric. For four years, they clapped as their god shot at values held sacred by his country. They thought because he won in 2016, he must win this year and forever. They were wrong. Trump as an experience was/is all drama and the curtain must certainly fall on his era like it does on every stage.

Character is everything. Trump still has 72 days to spend in the White House but his presidency is already being tensed in the past. These past four years, he did things his own way – and had his way. He was not bothered about his image and its crooked hue. That he was called ‘Don the Con’ got a shrug from him. He gave notice of his brattish propensities during his first campaigns four years ago. He said he could commit a capital offence and get away with it: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Confident Trump said this at a campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa four years ago and his supporters clapped for him. They did not cringe, they instead said he was the right thing for America. They voted him into their nation’s highest office believing he would make their country great again. He became president and got away with very many unbelievable wrongs putting question marks on the civilization of America. His supporters enjoyed every bile he fed the system and beatified his sacrileges with endorsements. They still do even after this loss. Critics call them ‘Trumptards,’ a pejorative coinage that sounds like that very bad word ‘retard.’

My people say if there is a character, ugliness becomes beauty; if there is no character, beauty becomes ugliness. Those two lines come down to just one word, Iwalewa, in Yoruba. We’ve seen how in just four years, the enviable character of America’s democracy succumbed to the moral ugliness of a man they elected as their leader. Trump’s inveterate critic, the late John McCain left a number of sound bites. One of them is the warning that “it is your character and your character alone, that will make your life happy or unhappy.” That is what Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, meant when he said character is destiny. If you have a good head but lacks character, the head will soon lose its goodness. The outgoing American president, in his glory, alienated every icon, living and dead, including his country’s long-gone founding fathers. Nothing, not history, not truth, was too sacred for him to assault. Trump’s respect was chiefly for everything Trump. He defined everything of value according to his own standards. He displayed an uncommon disdain for fact and science. He flipped truth with the same passion he cuddled the untrue. In his way and fate, we see that ultimately, what matters is character.

Philosophy teacher, Nick Gier, in a 2018 article refused to agree that Trump has character flaws. He said the man’s problem was that he actually had no character. That was a rather harsh judgment. And he said this after quoting politicians and other columnists who listed disorder, chaos, soullessness and intemperate statements as the flaws in the character of the now fallen US president. Other critics sum him up as a narcissist – someone with an inflated sense of self-importance. Sander Thomaes, a development psychologist at the Utrecht University said in 2016 that he used Trump to teach his psychology classes. He wrote: “My research is primarily focused on narcissism. There is no better example than Trump; he is a prototypical narcissist.” What does this mean in life outside the books? Psychotherapist Sandy Hotchkiss lists the seven deadly signs of narcissism: shamelessness, which the Yoruba describe as king of all diseases; magical thinking (they see themselves as perfect, flawless); arrogance (big, inflated ego); envy; a sense of entitlement; exploitation of others, and, lack of boundaries (they see others as their appendages). All these fit into the persona of Trump, a president who repeatedly told Americans that no one was better informed than he was on all subjects. A leader with such a basket of disorders will wreck his society; a society inflicted with such an all-knowing ‘messiah’ is wreckage. That is the death which America exorcised from its life on November 3. Many African societies have this strain in their leadership system. Nigeria does.

The character of the American voter deserves a reexamination after this election. We have seen in the results of the poll how the one who torched all ancestral monuments was not short of admirers. Trump has not been exactly what a good president should be. Maybe he had some pluses which the very glaring minuses crossed out. But despite his warped ways, he still had seventy million Americans with him in that election – eight million more than he got four years ago. That figure is huge and unprecedented in election loss statistics in that country. He has been inexplicably popular but he had to lose because con artistry is a drama with a short closing glee. His cheers have been huge in sound but louder has been the voice of the jeering crowd. But he was too fascinated by the aroma of his own ‘flawlessness’ to notice the end closing on him. That explains why he had an equally unprecedented seventy-four million Americans voting against all he stood for, his character. Trump’s loss is the end of an era; the world will miss the joke of his presidency. But then, let no one go home and sleep. There were 70 million ballots cast for this man, what was the attraction and why? The world should ask and answer these two questions if it will be safe from experiencing another Trump in 2024.

Trump: Not until he is disgraced

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