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From the ashes of Trump’s malevolence

  • Published at 06:02 pm December 14th, 2016
  • Last updated at 05:51 am December 15th, 2016
From the ashes of Trump’s malevolence

Democracy is a much abused word in the English language. Because it carries a connotation of popular will, dictators and totalitarian regimes have latched on to it, and proclaimed their regimes as democracies. Comically, the racist apartheid regime of South Africa attempted to pass itself off as “plural democracy.”

The general consensus is that in a democracy, the top vote-getter wins.

That sacrosanct ideal is being repeatedly flouted by the leader of the free world, America. For the fifth time in its history -- twice in the last 16 years -- the second place finisher in the popular vote count has “won” the presidential election. The victims have always been the Democrats.

Currently, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 2.1% in popular votes cast, an astonishing 2.8 million more votes, (Clinton: 48.1%; Trump: 46.0%); yet Donald Trump remains the president-elect. America does not practice the “supremacy of the popular vote” democracy; it practices “supremacy of the Electoral College” democracy, even if that contradicts popular will.

If the Republicans had been the victims of Electoral College shenanigans five times in a row, they would have changed the law. After Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president four times in a row (1932, 1936, 1940, 1944), the Republicans exercised their power through the little-population small states to pass a constitutional amendment to limit presidential terms to two. With a job approval rating of nearly 60%, President Barack Obama would have won a third term in a landslide, if he were allowed to run.

Since the Republicans are the beneficiaries of the undemocratic Electoral College system, and they control two-thirds of the state legislatures and governors’ mansions, they will never allow a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College.

However, it is up to the states to decide how to apportion their Electoral College votes. The popular vote winner does not win all the Electoral College votes in Maine and Nebraska; some EC votes are allotted to congressional district winners. Republicans will never allow proportional representation to allocate EC votes, because that will make the national vote winner the president.

What the Democrats can do is to legislate in the states they control that the national vote winner will win all the state’s Electoral College votes. If 20 states or to enact such legislation, pressure will mount on the Republican-controlled states to abandon their undemocratic ways, and let the national vote winner win all the Electoral College votes in their states.

That is unlikely to happen any time soon.

More likely, the Democrats will do nothing and wait for the tide of demography to turn in their favour in the next 30-50 years when most, if not all, states will become Democratic-majority.

The fallout from the recent acerbic election is being felt in every nook and corner of the country. America takes its cue from its president. Because of Donald Trump’s repugnant campaign rhetoric, forces of intolerance have been unleashed against minorities throughout America.

Actor Samuel L Jackson has said that Muslim-Americans are the new black kids in America. Although Muslims make up barely 1% of America, because of Trump’s hate-mongering rhetoric, hate crimes against them have skyrocketed since November 8, according to Southern Poverty Law Centre, which monitors hate crimes.

The primary victims have been the most visible embodiment of a Muslim -- the hijab-wearing women. They have been verbally and physically assaulted, and their hijabs have been snatched away.

This is the decent America that Donald Trump has not been able to contaminate. This is the decency that will continue to rise and act as an antidote to Trump’s venom

Thanks to Trump, there is an extra spring in the steps of white supremacists everywhere post-election. The day before Thanksgiving, Evergreen Islamic Center (EIC) in San Jose, California received the following hate mail: “There’s a new sheriff in town -- President Donald Trump. He is going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews. You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”

Then decent America made its voice heard.

Professor Hasan Zillur Rahim, my childhood friend from Chittagong, wrote a moving piece in San Jose’s The Mercury News about what happened next:

“After some deliberations, the EIC board contacted the police on Thanksgiving Day. Within minutes, law enforcement officials rushed to the centre and offered to provide extra security for the community. Local priests, rabbis, and elected officials condemned the bigotry and assured us of their support.

“As word of the hate mail spread through TV, newspapers, and social media, support poured in. Our initial emotions of shock and distress gave way to hope and courage; and we realised, anew, how fortunate we were to be living in a country where ordinary citizens were united by the common goal of justice and freedom for all.”

Dr Hasan Zillur Rahim then quoted from some of the emails and cards that the centre received from ordinary Americans: “As a Christian,” wrote Vance, “I am taught that above all else, ‘love thy neighbour.’ I want to extend my love to your community and want you to know that many Christians, like me, stand in solidarity with you.”

Miriam wrote: “Not all Americans feel the way the hateful people do. I am a Jew and I support you, my cousins. Love and peace, we are all one.”

Holly assured us: “I will do whatever it takes to help protect your first amendment rights.” Stacy reminded us: “There are many of us in San Jose who do not feel the way the haters do. We welcome you for the diversity and the rich culture you bring to our lovely city.”

Davida was sad because “here in the Bay Area, we think we live in a sanctuary of unity, but unfortunately that is not the case. I pray for peace and understanding for all in this uncertain time.” And Marina said: “I have heard some people talking about a ‘Muslim registry’ -- many Americans have said they will register as Muslims regardless of their faith, as many Danes under Nazi occupation wore yellow stars. I, too, will register as a Muslim if that time were to come.”

I should like to stress the last point. Many ordinary Americans, including priests and Rabbis, have said that if there is a Muslim registry under Trump, they, too, will register as Muslims.

This is the decent America that Donald Trump has not been able to contaminate. This is the decency that will continue to rise and act as an antidote to Trump’s venom. The rising phoenix of decency will sustain and embellish America.

Fakhruddin Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar.

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