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OP-ED: Will the world learn to trust again?

  • Published at 11:00 pm November 1st, 2020
Donald Trump
Photo: AFP

The causes of Trumpism are not going to fade away even if Trump himself is beaten

Is it safe to come out from behind the sofa yet?  

Could it really be true that the Trump show is about to be washed away by a record voter turnout? 

Personally, lacking a vote, I do not see much value in optimism. This is 2020 remember, the worst that can happen is already in charge of the White House; if I assume it will just find a way to cling on, that leaves less room for disappointment.

Life was simpler in 2008. The Dubya/Cheney ascendancy was in freefall and, while playing devil’s advocate was fun, there was no room for real doubt about what the US electorate would decide. Barrack Hussein Obama was going to win all summer long.

Fast forward 12 years and all wells have been poisoned. 

President Trump has spent much of this campaign counting the ways in which he will call on his enablers and judicial appointees to find a way to stay in office. Having packed the Supreme Court for a party that has spent the last 40 years perfecting the dark arts of gerrymandering, this is not just the shrill pleading of an impeached president facing his final day of reckoning. 

If there is any pseudo-legal way left available to resist a large popular vote against them, the Republican party can be relied upon to plumb new depths. The causes of Trumpism are not going to fade away even if Trump himself is beaten.

The only thing it is safe -- but not polite -- to predict is that, whoever wins, odds are that well before the next election the reality will be that either President Pence or President Harris will be in charge. (And that so long as he can type a tweet or utter an entertaining soundbite, President Trump will still find ways to enthrall and appall the world at large.)

One can hope, and polls certainly predict, that voter revulsion at the impeached president’s incapacity for basic leadership will see even the built-in bias of the electoral college evaporate in the next few days.  With a little luck and come the inauguration in January, even I might breathe a sigh of relief as the circus finally leaves Pennsylvania Avenue.

If a change in the US presidency does occur, then mere relief about a return of sanity can only go so far. 

For all the goodwill and authority that a Biden/Harris presidency might attract, perhaps even with a friendly Senate, it will still have to operate in an American system hamstrung by corporate capture and vested interests. The world will be watching with hope for sure, but cynicism won’t be far behind. 

Perhaps if the Democratic party had spent less energy resisting Bernie Sanders’ progressive politics, there would be more reason for hope, but even so, at the very least, a new broom, albeit in the old form of Joe Biden, replacing the current freakshow should in itself give some cause for comfort.

Global depression has hit every economy. Even countries like South Korea that had coped with the virus more competently than most still face the domino effect of the pandemic on the world’s economy.

Most people in most countries seem likely to be disinterested in positive news stories unless and until they can be convinced that the pandemic has passed.

This sounds true even in Bangladesh as it approaches its 50th anniversary of independence. No amount of data from Europe about death rates being worsened by concentrations of the old and obese is enough to dissuade many people from their belief that the Covid death rate in Bangladeshi slums “should be higher.” 

People who might otherwise point with satisfaction at the nations’ life expectancy figures compared with its neighbours scour the internet for more negative spins.  

All news must be bad or should be unless we can all begin to feel a little less fearful about Covid-19.

With new waves of the virus bubbling up around the world and a year needed for any vaccine to make a real difference, it seems clear 2021 will need all the optimism it can get.  

A new POTUS that is not called Pence would no doubt help a little. 

But unless and until there is definitive evidence that American voters have prevented all possibility of President Pence, I will carry on hiding behind the sofa a little while longer yet.

Niaz Alam is London Bureau Chief of Dhaka Tribune.

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