Trump, the transparent

By Nazarul Islam

Copy Edited By Shafaat Khan, Washinton DC, TIO: I have greatly admired Albert Camus, for his wisdom. In my adolescent years, he inspired me tremendously. In his writings, he has opined that Insurrection is certainly not the sum total of human experience. Camus could not have been more close to life’s bitter realities.

We will all remember for the rest of our lives, where we were on January 6th, when Trump attempted to hold America hostage.

Today, I also remember my old teacher and a pastor, who had once shared smilingly: Few know it, but the Devil rewards insurrection. After all, rebellion is the original sin, and he (?) did conceive it.” “How all my brain was in tumult—and all my heart in insurrection?”

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It has always been easy, to dismiss the worst-case scenarios as the product of alarmist academics, overly imaginative Trump- haters, biased liberal commentators, and disgruntled former officials. The most concerning outcomes may come to pass in developing countries in Africa or Asia, or in middle-income economies, such as Hungary, the Philippines, Poland, and Venezuela.

But could these events really happen in a country like the United States, with its deep democratic roots and established institutional checks? To many like me, that seemed unimaginable.

Those among us, who failed to foresee the risks of the United States’ current crisis weren’t paying enough attention to Trump’s actual words. After all, for years, the president has repeatedly aired grievances about voter fraud and rigged contests. He has sent more than 300 tweets complaining about electoral integrity since election night alone. There is perhaps no more transparent leader than Trump.

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Even so, his words were often treated as merely outlandish political theater, red meat was thrown to his base but not something to be taken literally. It was just a cynical game, insiders said. And so when Trump mobilized his supporters for January 6—tweeting “Be there, will be wild!”—the Capitol Hill security forces were clearly unprepared. But even more unprepared were Republican leaders, who had failed to take the risks seriously.

We need to ask ourselves: Does the blame for the chaos at the Capitol, lies primarily with the president?

From the day he had declared his candidacy, on June 16, 2015, Trump signaled that he was willing to trample over the norms of liberal democracy. In March 2016, well before he became the Republican presidential nominee, people who knew him identified him, as a leader who used populist rhetoric—only as a smokescreen, to camouflage authoritarian values.

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Populism has remained a style of discourse that claims that legitimate power rests with “the people,” not the elites, and populists, therefore, reject rival sources of authority. In this view, disobedient journalists, scientific experts, officials, and judges are the enemy. It should not have been surprising, then, that Trump has promulgated a disturbing set of authoritarian values.

Like many other populist leaders—including Hungary’s Viktor Orban, India’s Narendra Modi, the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte, and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro—Trump has an us-versus-them mentality. As he sees it, when defending “us” against the existential threat of “them,” nearly everything is justified. That was why the rioters were to be praised, not denounced. “We love you,” Trump said in his video response to the mob. “You’re very special.”

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We need to ask: Does the blame for the chaos in D.C, remain primarily, with the President?

But the rot obviously does go deeper than one man. In the last eight elections, from 1992 to 2020, the Republican Party won a majority of the popular vote only once (in 2004), and as its national electoral prospects declined, it has drifted further toward illiberalism. Two recent independent cross-national studies, by the V-Party project and the Global Party Survey, show just how extreme the GOP has become.

In terms of its position toward the principles of liberal democracy, it is now estimated to be closer to authoritarian populist parties such as Spain’s Vox, the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, and the Alternative for Germany than it is to mainstream conservative, Christian Democratic, and center-right parties. By contrast, the studies found that the Democratic Party’s position is similar to that of many moderate parties within the mainstream center-left.

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Finally, the problem also lies in the Republican base. The foundations of American civic culture—trust in government, confidence in the political system, and support for democracy—have weakened over the decades.

The ‘World Values Survey’ an independent NGO has questioned whether people approve of various types of political systems, and in 1995, 25 percent of Americans said it was a good idea to have “a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections.” That already alarming share rose steadily, and by 2017, 38 percent of Americans embraced this belief. Trump was thus throwing a lit match into a puddle of gasoline when he chose to claim that Biden had stolen the election.

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In one single poll taken just before the DC skirmish, 75 percent of those who voted for Trump stated that he should not concede, and 88 percent believed that there was enough electoral fraud to change the outcome. Immediately after the Capitol was stormed, another poll had found that 45 percent of Republicans approved of the attack, and only 27 percent of them considered it a threat to democracy.

Republicans were more likely to see participants as protesters or patriots, whereas Democrats saw them as extremists or domestic terrorists.
The experiences of other deeply polarized countries with contentious elections suggest that it is easier to destroy trust than it is to rebuild it. But the United States can at least try to do so. Soon, the Democrats will control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House.

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Once they do, they should renew efforts to pass the For the People Act, a comprehensive package of moderate reforms, such as reducing gerrymandering and expanding voting rights, that the House approved in 2019 in an effort to restore confidence in the electoral process.

The Republicans, meanwhile, may well react to the shock of the insurrection, coupled with the loss of the White House and the Senate, by choosing to cooperate across the aisle to fix the United States’ many grave ills. But it would not be wise to count on that. At least for the next four years, then, it will be up to the Biden administration to attempt to do what needs to be done: restore the civic culture, rebuild trust in government, and convince the country to choose unity over division, tolerance over hatred, and decency over corruption.

Finally, when it comes to transparency—In the kingdom of glass everything is transparent, and there is no place to hide a dark heart. Don’t ever let anyone put out your light, because they are blinded by it.

Read more By This Author: It’s time for America, to move on…

Curated by Humra Kidwai, Compiled By Adam Rizvi

Nazarul Islam

Nazarul Islam

The author is a former Educator, based in Chicago (USA).

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