America in Transition

(Photo by ViewsWeek via video stream)
(Photo by ViewsWeek via video stream)

Restoring America’s “greatness” struck a chord among Americans, nonetheless thousands came out in protest against what my good friend Frank Neuman had confidently and correctly predicted, a stunning victory for Trump.  While protestors shut down highways and burnt his effigies, Trump’s emboldened white supremacist supporters reportedly spray-painted swastikas and racist graffiti on non-Christian worship places, publicly accosted Jews, colored people, women wearing Hijab, etc.  Almost unanimously supporting Hilary Clinton, the media faced scathing verbal abuse if not outright physical attack.  A “clear the air” rapprochement meeting with electronic media executives and anchors ended with Trump lecturing them “you got it all wrong”.   Expect an adversarial Trump-media relationship for the immediate future!

Notwithstanding no love lost between the two, Obama immediately invited Trump to the White House a day after the bitterly fought election campaign.  This symbolic initiating a smooth peaceful transition of power following a democratic Presidential election is the ultimate American tradition, emphasizing the strength and vibrancy of the democracy that has made the US of A truly great. The conciliatory overtones of the Oval Office meeting highlighted the magnificence of a strong functioning democracy.

Hillary’s winning the popular vote was fueled in part by those who elected President Obama lost four years ago — white, college-educated voters especially white women preferring Hilary’s stability and predictability. Unfortunately for Hilary, minorities and millennials did not turn out in the numbers they did for Obama in 2008 and 2012. The working white men were angry about the loss of their jobs because of companies shifting their factories abroad for cheaper labor, avoidance of US taxes, etc. Generally content and satisfied with their lifetime jobs and lifestyles, they are bitter and insecure without alternate employment and deteriorating lifestyles.

Better educated migrants enjoying better lifestyles exacerbated deep-rooted latent resentment against non-whites among the broad mass of the white population. Capitalized on by Trump, this rage carried the so-called “swing states” were white blue-collar workers were worst affected. With support of less than a quarter of white men without a college degree, Hilary lost crucial “Democratic” safe states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Obama gifted Trump Florida by opening up relations with Castro’s Cuba, did anyone expect the Latinos of Cuban origin to accept this lying down?  Michelle Diggles, a senior political analyst with the center-left think tank “Third Way”, described the split between the white working class and whites with a college degree as “the most underreported story of this year.”  Half of Americans considered middle class, making $100,000 a year or more, supported the 70-year-old billionaire.

Many billions of US dollars in aid has sustained infra-structure development in dozens and dozens of developing countries. Unfortunately this has been at the cost of denying Federal aid to those badly affected within the USA. Tragically corrupt third world leaders have siphoned of billions making their own future bright while making their own masses poorer.  Exit polls reveal that 53% men voted Republican, 54% women for Hillary with Trump getting 42%. Four in 10 voters hungry for change overwhelmingly favored Trump.  Republican-appointed FBI Director James Comey delivered the “October Surprise” coup-de-grace 11 days before the elections about Hilary Clinton emails “appearing to be pertinent”.  While Comey retracted his statement two days before the elections, to quote Hillary Clinton, “it halted the momentum of my election momentum”. Donald Trump was expected to win the popular vote with the Electoral College stacked against him, in fact it was the other way around. Hilary repeatedly honing in on Trump’s lack of political experience as a negative aspect actually added to his appeal among the voting public. Fed up of years of more of the same,the electorate saw Trump as an agent of change.  On the other hand Hillary, as my friend Frank Neuman has been insisting, was never able to shake off charges of sleaze and deceit.

As the first Republican President since 1982 to have a Republican Senate and House of Representatives, Donald Trump’s choice of Supreme Court (SC) Justices will change its character to “Hard Right”, potentially affecting US politics for the next 2-3 decades. His appointees like Sen Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Mike Pompeo as CIA Chief, Lt Gen Michael Flynn as NSA all have hawkish extreme views. Sessions has often been labelled a racist while Flynn has denounced Islam-ism (among other “isms”) as a danger akin to communism.  White House Chief Strategist appointee Steve Bannon owns being racist. Trump will scrap or roll back those Obama’s policies he dislikes, such as TAPP, the healthcare law, the nuclear deal with Iran, US participation in the Paris agreement to fight global warming, etc.

While he has every right to put into action his own legislative agenda, failure to distance himself from the far Right will lead to bitter polarization in a very divided electorate.  To his credit he has recently done just that, distancing any connections to Ku Klux Klan, Nazi-type nationalist entities, etc.  Other than anti-muslim overtones, there are indications of a return among white working class Christians to the Jew-baiting that existed pre-World War 2 in the US. Keeping his erratic personality traits under control could create heartache for the Republican Party, Trump could very well end up being impeached, given his temperament and errant behavior.

Trump will take some time before turning to Pakistan. One cannot discount the Indian lobby along with Afghan-origin Zalmay Khalilzad, a virulent Pakistan-hater and a possible Trump appointee, leading the charge.  With the most of the Middle East in turmoil, sane voices in the US will prevail.  Speaking at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in October, General Petraeus said that  he did not see one piece of credible evidence as Commanding General in Afghanistan and later as Director CIA, linking the Pakistan military and/or the ISI to Jihadists, he dismissed it emphatically as a “Journalistic” thing.  Knowing this was it fair for US President Obama repeatedly asking Pakistani soldiers to sacrifice their lives “doing more”?  For ungrateful Afghans engaged in a proxy war for India against Pakistan?

Even his detractors would like Trump to succeed, if he succeeds the US succeeds. The Presidential transition notwithstanding, more importantly there is another far-reaching but very troubling transition. Can extremists reverse what was started by President Abraham Lincoln almost 150 years ago? My friend Frank Neuman will remember how Jews and Muslims suffered during the Spanish Inquisition five centuries ago? The free open society that the world envied the US for before 9/11 may change to a far more discriminating reality that we woke up to on 11/9.

(The writer is a defense and security analyst).

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