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Acid test for democracy in US elections

By Levi Obonyo
Friday, November 27th, 2020
Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. Photo/TASS
In summary

It is increasingly being accepted that the United States of America’s experiment with democracy, had a rather narrow survival following this year’s election.

The outgoing President, Donald Trump, sensing possible defeat at the elections, placed huddles on the path of any winner to take over power. His plans were well laid out.

First was to define his opponent with the hope of diminishing the opponent’s standing before the electorate. So the sobriquet Sleepy Joe was devised and slapped on the leader of the Democrats. 

That did not work, so the president went to the next level, to create an impression that his opponent was mentally unsound, as a factor of his old age and further a captive of the far left. The difference in age between the two men is four years.

There were other plans that included claims, that the votes were rigged, through the inclusion of mail in ballots that were not authenticated.

Secondly to go to court and ask judges appointed by his right-wing predecessors to find fault with the elections. 

If the legal path failed, then there was the political path to work with. This included inciting party representatives at the State level not to certify the election results.

Beyond that then, to cause confusion in the nomination of State election representative to Washington in order for them to overturn the election at the elector’s conference.

But it seems that Trump, who has a near fanatical following among the right-wing crowd, was also fermenting civil rights unrest that would lead to violence and potential rolling out of the army into American streets.

It is never too difficult to get out a crowd willing to do one’s bidding.

But this plan ran into difficulty when the Secretary of defence did not cooperate. Trump sacked him.

Sensing danger, the head of the armed forces issued a strong speech, pointing out that the military’s loyalty is to the constitution and not to an individual.

Two weeks after the elections, Trump’s seemingly well laid out plans all failed and finally the transition process began.

Trump, could only watch as the train started leaving the station slowly with Biden, instead of Him, at the helm.

Those watching from young democracies must wonder whether the governance experiment called democracy is full proof. 

If America could come so close to failing, and only survived because Trump was clumsy in some of the executions, it is hard to know whether the system could survive the onslaught of an individual much smarter at execution.

For example, Trump bungled in his choice of lawyers, provided no evidence to the courts, had some party members bulk out etc.

Besides the fact that the elections were not close anyway. He lost by more than six million popular votes, and by 64 electoral votes.

How can younger democracies survive a similar threat? Militias in younger democracies are for hire and all too ready once given a machete.

Our courts are beholden to the sitting president, hardly would any party member bulk out, the military is beholden to the tribe and the media is in the same boat. 

The west has often sold Africa their package as full proof and Western non-State actors spend inordinately huge sums of money to build African institutions of democracy. But institutions can fail.

Television talking heads and commentators peddle to Africans the virtues of democracy, often with no provision of the frailties that have been seen in the USA this past election.

The Constitution has been roundly praised as the sure guarantee of civility and political maturity.

But it is as good as the hands in which it is kept. That is the lesson to be learnt from the American case.

The Constitution may be great, but ultimately it is the people entrusted with it who matter. 

Leadership matters. Sometimes it takes one man to stir up either the good or the bad in society, particularly when the good human beings do nothing. — The writer is dean , School of Communication, Daystar University

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