Friday, November 27, 2020

America reeling in Trump’s Banana Republic

America, as it stands today, is in total disarray.

America is traumatised by Covid-19, radicalised by Trumpism and divided by systemic racism. The centre no longer exists to hold the nation together. Whatever remains as the centre is split right down the middle. In the absence of a centre America is going down in a free fall inside a vacuum and no one knows how to stop it. Those who know best have lost their courage to identify and name their plight. Spinning in the chaotic, dizzying vortex they no longer can fall back on the vaunted values to guide them or sustain them. Words have lost their meaning. Giving help to sick, disabled or poor is condemned as evil socialism. When the people are offered the truth, they accept the fake news twittered by their leader.

Fact-checkers have listed the American leader as the Number One Liar to occupy the Presidential chair. The Leader has convinced his followers not to believe in rainbows. They believe only in one colour: white. And if you are black all the states’ men will put the knee to your neck until you suffocate and die. White America is bent on making America great by shooting the coloured ethnics in the streets first and not even bothering to ask questions later. Fear of backlashes from the populist Leader to the Congressmen and Senators make them stick to the known devil.

Republican usurpers are gambling dangerously hoping to make America great by placing Trump first – a loser who has come second. They know that there are no prizes for those who come second. Hence their desperate bid to make him Number One by delegitimising millions of votes that picked Joe Biden as their next leader. Biden has been elected President by winning over 5 million votes.

No amount of recounting and accusations of voter fraud can bring back the Leader to the White House. Even in courts Trump has to prove (1) voter fraud and that (2) there is a sufficient amount of frauds to swing the election in his favour in each state. A few cases of fraud, if found, will not be sufficient to disenfranchise the millions who had exercised their votes legitimately.

But for Trump to take over power from Biden he has to delegitimise the democratic process by challenging the legitimacy of votes in courts. This is not an easy task.

To invalidate the votes conducted under electronic monitors and human supervision of observers from both sides is an impossibility. Besides, voter fraud has to be done on a mass scale to swing the votes in favour of one party or the other.

Ultimately winning power in a democratic system is based on pure arithmetic. The king-makers in a democracy are the numbers. It is the legitimate power of numbers (plurality) that stands steadfastly as a defence the tyranny of one (singularity).

Trump is struggling in vain to impose his powerless singularity against the overwhelming plurality. He has no moral, political or mathematical weight behind him to win. He will lose the White House.

But – and this is important — he will retain the power outside it. He has virtually half the nation behind him as seen in the numbers that voted for him. Trump the man will be loser. But Trumpism will remain as a dynamic force in the American polity.

After Trump America will never be the same again. And no one seems to know how to halt the decline. The cult of Trump seems triumphant. He has captured the American Right. Which means he has captured the Republican Party which is now putty in his hands. The American Right-wing is nothing other than Trumpism. The Right-wing establishment has sold its soul to Trump.

For instance, the pro-Trump Fox News owned by the media mogul Rupert Murdoch represents the obscene vulgarities of white supremacists. In other words, Trump has cast his deadly shadow deep into the future — a future changed beyond recognition by Trumpism. It forecasts the shape of Right-wing fascism that is to come if the subterranean force represented by Trump grips America.

Trumpism is a force that has seeped into the American political culture and is not likely to go away in a hurry. Donald Trump has lost the authority of the Presidential seat, as of now, but not the power to rise again under appropriate circumstances. Donald Trump is the dynamic force that would grip America by its neck and drag it into Right-wing extremism, sooner or later. In the eyes of Fox News he is virtually the unelected emperor of the Banana Republic of America who can do no wrong.

What is frightening is the way his own rank-and-file have ganged up to line up behind Trump, irrespective of the consequences that is tearing America apart into irreconcilable camps. Besides, Donald Trump is on his way to be the biggest killer of Americans in peace time.

The biggest holocaust of Americans occurred in the Civil War in which 600,000 Americans died. Donald Trump is nearly there now. He is on his way to be the killer of 450,000 by March 1 if the Corona virus is not contained, according to medical experts.

Donald Trump power is in creating fear among the people. His Congressmen and Senators fear him most. His popularity in the electorate keeps them on the leash.

They fear to go against him because their future depends on getting his endorsement in future elections. Trump, in other words, has taken over the Republican party the way Stalin triumphed over Trotsky by taking the entire political apparatus under his one-man rule.

The fear of vindictive Trump’s reprisals is stamped in the consciousness and the subconsciousness of every political aspirant in the Republican Party. When Trump says jump they ask over whom first before they ask how high. That is the level at which American democracy stands today, It is a one-man band and Trump’s ambition is to keep it that way.

Backed by his daughter, Ivanka and his son-in-law — not to mention his obsequious cronies – he has moved craftily in the direction of establishing a Banana Republic.

He is blocking every legitimate avenue kept open freely, without any hindrances, to the in-coming successor. Joe Biden has been shut out of the key administrative briefings, resources, personnel and other entitlements due to him.

This is not the eccentric act of a maverick going off the norm. It is the high-handed act of an arrogant Banana Republican on his way to dismantle the Weimar. He is using the available powers of the democratic institutions to undermine the democratic traditions and norms. He is in process of establishing a Trumpo-crazy in place of a democracy. He is testing the waters to see how far he could go with Trumpo-craziness. All said and done, there is no doubt of his arrogance to make laws as he goes along according to his personal needs and not that of the nation. He is ready to take on the establishment. It is a political adventure reminiscent of Hitler overthrowing the Weimar Republic with the sheer will power of an outsider challenging the entire political order of the day.

So, far the only predictability in Trumps career has been his unpredictability. He will push the law to the edge of its limits. He has packed the courts hoping that his nominees will back him all the way to victory, even if it means violating the Constitution.

Right now, he is dependent on two strategic bases : 1. the high courts and 2. the low streets. He has street power though it may not be strong enough to make him the king of their Banana Republic. And if he can team up with the Armed Forces he can still make it with the street power of millions who are loyal to him.

But to do so he has to delegitimise the votes that went against him. Hence his desperate bid to delegitimise the democratic power to make and unmake kings,

But he need not go down that path at all. He has an alternative path if he can wait till 2024. He can then contest the next presidential election and even win. He has a good chance of winning given the current electoral base which can flip in his favour, come 2024. Then, again, he may not want to risk that. Over all, the best option for him, and the nation too, is for him to go home gracefully. But if he does that he will not be Donald Trump, would he?

Joe Biden has been playing it very cool, knowing that the winds are blowing his way. Win or lose, the coming events forecast that he is in for a rough ride – perhaps, the roughest in his career.

If, for instance, the Democrats fails to win a majority in the Senate his wings will be clipped. His main task will be to halt and/or reverse Trumpism. A Republican Senate will stand in his way all the way, if he decides to halt or reverse Trumpism. But it is the impact of his regime on Sri Lanka that is most worrisome to us.

Will the coming of Biden-Harris combination shift US-Sri Lanka relations into a critical and hostile phase, almost as intrusive as the Indian phase. Of course, it will not go as far as putting troops down on the ground like the IPKF. But the presence of two key officials of Tamil-origin would make all the difference to US-Sri Lanka relations.

The power and positions held by Vice President Kamala Harris and her Chief of Staff, Rohini Lakshmi Ravindran Kosoglu in the foreign policy-making process are bound to impact on the internal affairs of Sri Lanka as never before. This is inevitable partly because the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict that has plagued for decades has direct links to Ms. Kosoglu, a Sri Lankan who had experienced the riots of the ‘80s in particular, and partly because the Tamil diasporic lobby is well connected to the two ladies in the White House.

The big question facing the nation is this: Sri Lankan survived the first big Indian intervention imposed by the Gandhi family. India burnt her fingers severely by meddling in the domestic affairs Sri Lanka by taking the side of the Tamil separatists initially. Second, was when the West waded in with Milliband and Kouchner rushing in, demanding Sri Lanka to stop the war.

They didn’t rush in when the deadliest terrorists were winning. It was only when the Sri Lankan forces were winning that they began to feel pangs of sorrow in their hearts and rushed in shedding crocodile tears only for the Tamil victims of the war, as if there weren’t any Sinhala or Muslim victims. But they did not succeed in their mission.

American too was there pushing Sri Lanka to stop the war or face reprisals from the international community. Now that the war is over pressures are bound to come not from the old war-and-peace issues but from the personal interests that concern the two Tamil ladies whose concerns will be at a more intense level to bring international pressure on Sri Lanka to concede the Tamils demands, irrespective of the consequences to the others. This is going to be third big push from abroad. The new element that will be significant is Ms. Rohini Kosoglu who is going to be the Chief of Staff to the Vice President. She is a seasoned hand in serving key decision-makers in both Houses. She has earned a reputation of being a thorough professional. She was handpicked by Ms. Harris essentially because of her expertise and professionalism. Above all, being an old hand she must be a political heavy weight who knows the ins-and-outs of the political system in Capitol Hill.

It is somewhat fanciful to conclude that a competent Sri Lankan Tamil insider in the Capitol Hill will not make her influence felt in the decision-making process without putting in her perspectives. Rightly or wrongly, her narrative, and the perspectives drawn from her narrative, will colour the decisions coming out of the new American foreign policy on Sri Lanka. It is inevitable that the Foreign Ministry will begin to feel increased pressure to yield to Tamil demands.

Pressure will increase based on the arguments / principles that will be narrated by Ms. Kosoglu who will invariably claim a first-hand knowledge of the events that led to the North-South conflict.

Having lived through the riots of the ‘80s she is bound to recite the usual litany of Tamil complaints with an authority that no other official or alternative narrator can present to balance her narrative to get both sides of the picture. Clearly, a one-sided narrative will dominate, leading to a hard-line policy framework that will worsen US-Lankan relations.

The partisan narrative of the anti-Sri Lankan lobby has been one of the main reasons that had led to the perennial impasse. Any discourse aimed at finding solutions cannot succeed if the decision -making process falls into the same old ruts. There is a need to revisit the old narrative that had reinforced the intransigent policies of the Tamil hardliners.

Besides, America is stepping into a critical stage in the Indian Ocean Rim which needs no destabilising crises that would be detrimental to American interests. The presence of Ms. Kosoglu should not be seen as an obstruction or impediment to the progress of US-SL relations. He role should not create fear and suspicion if America intends playing any constructive role in Sri Lanka.

As a through professional one can expect her to keep her distance and weigh each issue on its merit, evaluating both sides objectively and fairly. At a time when America is poised to play a key role in the Indian Ocean, with China muscling in with subtle and successful diplomatic moves in the region, Ms. Kosoglu can be expected to bring her best skills, experience and confidence-building initiatives to ease tensions and construct new paths to stabilise critical parts of South East Asia for the maintenance of peace in the whole of the Indian Ocean Rim.

BY H.L.D. MAHINDAPALA
Source: sundayobserver.lk

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