24 May, 2019

Blog

Draining The Swamp

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Donald Trump prevailing over Hillary Clinton is a matter that gives contemplative satisfaction to those who wish for ethical governance. During the primaries, I desperately hoped that Bernie Sanders would succeed Obama. The triumph of Trump is a consolation prize. Had Hillary won she would have reversed the process of 2008. In contrast, the Trump presidency is only a temporary setback. Bigotry is curable. Humbug is incurable. Sanders has spoken. Sad but not surprising.

Obama should have endorsed Sanders at the primaries. He could have taken a cue from Senator Elisabeth Warren. If he displayed the same disdain as Senator Warren did for the Clinton candidacy during the primary season, Sanders would have won the Democratic Party’s nomination and the presidency.

Obama earned the Nobel Prize no sooner he assumed office. He did not earn it. He did not and still does not deserve it. The Norwegian parliament decided that the award would be a fitting celebration of ‘Ugly Americans’ electing an African American who had read St. Augustin’s Just war theory.

“I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations” Obama intoned in his Nobel acceptance. That is the rub. Americans cannot afford Americans global leadership. Obama leaves the White House as the cleanest President after Harry Truman. Not a whiff of scandal. He failed the millennials. He failed to make what is important measurable. He opted for the convenient by measuring the trivial.

It is possible that Trump would share the Nobel Prize with Putin. The horse sense of the two mercurial manipulators may manage to stop the carnage in Syria and Iraq.

In the digital age, the discourse on ethical conduct in politics has reached a crisis level in all democracies fake, real and quasi. Laws alone cannot ensure a just society. Promises alone cannot

deliver us from the evil of greed that makes it routine for politicians to plunder public resources.

Spotless white does not conceal politics of hogwash. We learnt that bitter lesson when our Reforming president announced that ‘khaki’ is the colour of heroism and that glitter of medals should supersede the rule of law.

No surprise. We are trapped in a Hegelian conundrum. The German philosopher who inspired Marx continues to animate political thinking even to this day. In ‘Philosophy of the right’ Hegel offers a classic example emblematic of the riddle that continues to baffle us. When a father inquired about the best method of educating his son in ethical conduct, a Pythagorean replied: “Make him a citizen of a state with good laws” As civil society activists in Sobhitha thero’s movement have discovered, good laws are meaningless if good people do not administer them.

What happened in America is easily explained. The brilliant cynic Gore Vidal observed “We are the United States of Amnesia, which is encouraged by a media that has no desire to tell us the truth about anything, serving their corporate masters who have other plans to dominate us. The US media is flooded with their peculiar Brahmin beliefs. The American melting pot has been replaced by a tossed salad of multi-cultural, multi lingual communities. As this is written American cities are exploding with ill-concealed displays of identity affirmations.

‘Draining the swamp’ in Washington is what Donald Trump promised early in his campaign. It was a ‘natural’ and ‘archetypal’ metaphor that came easily to the real estate Moghul. It was authentic because Trump used it, early in the campaign, when he was firing from the hip stubbornly refusing to rely on the teleprompter. The ‘teleprompter equips politicians to hide ‘Jekyll’ and sound ‘Hyde’. Trump was blessed with a thicker hide. It was a profound, unfeigned expression of the anti-establishment billionaire buccaneer. He honestly believes that America should mind its own business and leave others to mind their businesses.

The metaphor is authentic and powerful. It captures the dynamic of the Trump narrative. It succinctly and flawlessly captures the mission and intent of the quintessential outsider. He comes to the Capitol to drain the swamp and not to wallow in it.

The subject is of special interest to us in Sri Lanka. SirisenaWickremesinghe coalition has no intention to drain the swamp. Ranil lost little time before hiring Arjuna Mahendran to widen the swamp. Early on, by appointing a sibling to head Telecom, appointing the son in law of pal Austin to a diplomatic slot in London – the peasant from Polonnaruwa reassured us that he intends to delight in paddling the nepotistic canoe, wallowing deep in the swamp.

There are other interesting parallels. Our man tried to get control of his party by appointing rejects to parliament, reversing the democratic charter. Trump seized control of his recalcitrant party by the simple expedient of letting the dice roll.

The Republican Party that stood aloof has come around unconditionally. Paul Ryan the Republican Speaker conceded “Trump, has succeeded in making American Politics stand on its head.’ There again, is an interesting parallel. Our man has made the people who elected him to stand on their heads.

It may sound strange. There are some important points of convergence between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They both agree that the US must decisively break with its hegemony strategy. America’s hegemony strategy compelled it to underwrite the cost of defending the European heartland against Russian expansion, Defense of Japan against Chinese expansion and defense of the Korean peninsula against the loony Chinese puppet in Pyongyang. The Germans, the Japanese and the South Koreans were happy to oblige. With American hegemonic commitments protecting their backyards, they gave their own people social safety nets the Americans could never dream of. They invested heavily on infrastructure that spurred economic growth.

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders arrived at some basic home truths taking different routes. The generous social welfare funding in Japan, Korea and Europe were at the cost of American manufacturing and American jobs. The squalor of the inner cities of America and the grandeur of the futuristic cities of China were two sides of the same hegemony coin. Global trade is too serious a business to be left in the hands of neo liberal economists.

The working class of the United States has averted a disaster. There will be no third Obama term under Hillary Clinton.

We are not so lucky. We are two years in to the third MR term under M-R. We are neck deep in the swamp. No draining. The deluge continues. What price for a mere hyphenation?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 3
    7

    Dr De Alvis,

    I am afraid you have got it horribly wrong! Trump is both bigoted and a humbug! Hilary is qualify in every respect apart from the debacle of the email saga!

    Putin and Trunp for Noble price! Is this an aberration a blip on your sagacious disposition?

    • 2
      3

      B.I.

      Sarath has tactfully avoided to mention about ‘Tigers for Obama’ Neither he has speculated over the really important question how many coconuts are required to effect a regime change in America?

      Soma

      • 1
        1

        soma,

        No matter how many coconut you can crack the US foreign policy will not change! If Obama wanted to save the ltte you could not have done anything about it!

        If Dr De Alvis based on his assessment purely on predicated on SL like you would do, he is equal to Dayan!

    • 3
      0

      Sarath de Alwis

      RE: Draining The Swamp

      “The subject is of special interest to us in Sri Lanka. Sirisena–Wickremesinghe coalition has no intention to drain the swamp. Ranil lost little time before hiring Arjuna Mahendran to widen the swamp. Early on, by appointing a sibling to head Telecom, appointing the son in law of pal Austin to a diplomatic slot in London – the peasant from Polonnaruwa reassured us that he intends to delight in paddling the nepotistic canoe, wallowing deep in the swamp.”

      Sirisena has turned into a Turncoat, Traitor and Gona(whore) Sirisena, and completely disappointing the 62 lakhs who voted for him.

      Turncoat, Traitor Gon Sirisena has turned the swamp into a cesspool, like his former buddy Mahinda Rajapaksa.

  • 5
    1

    Sarath,

    You say “…good laws are meaningless if good people do not administer them.”

    How can such people be “good” then?

  • 2
    0

    No malice intended Mr. de Alwis. It is a DAMN DISGRACE to equate our politicians to the “SWAMP” in the USA. No matter what political party, what we have here are political feces that contribute to overflow our sewage because none of us have had the guts to drain or flush them en mass.

  • 4
    0

    Never mind Washington DC, can we get started soon draining the swamp in the Diyawanne. (Careful: It is full of a rare species of frogs!)

    • 3
      0

      SK,

      Not rare species of frogs. They are a special species of rats. They are normal rats until they cross the Diyawanna oya. Then they metamorphose into something really special. The Diyawanna rats devour everything and leave nothing for the other rats. They have no shame, no honour, no ethics, no social responsibilities, will lie as a matter of course, become con artists, master fraudsters, good at deal making and very highly manipulative. The sadness is when we Drain the Diyawanna swamp every now and then another new lot enter it and become this very rare species of Diyawanna rats.

  • 3
    0

    Every 8 (sometimes 4) years, a new administration comes to Washington with variations of the ‘drain the swamp’ rhetoric, but in the end, they get consumed by Washington. Already Trump is hiring tainted lobbyists and insiders for several cabinet positions–drawing from, not draining the swamp.

    People who think it will happen do not understand how presidential power is circumscribed by congress, judiciary, powerful lobby groups, entrenched bureaucracies that will resist orders, etc.

    There is not going to be a leftist revolution for the next several decades in this center-right country. Had Bernie Sanders been the nominee, he would have failed; those who say otherwise are making all kinds of assumptions about the electorate. It might happen one day when the Latinos go from the current 18% of the population to 30%.

    For working classes, the answer was to vote for Clinton but then strengthen the Sanders-Warren wing of the party. Trump is a charlatan who has employed workers in his projects and then not paid them, and he repeatedly declared bankruptcy 6 times, enriching himself at the expense of small businesses and workers.

    There is a high likelihood he will fail to separate his business interests from government and do something horrible that even the Republicans may be forced to impeach him within a year or two. Even if that doesn’t happen, as someone who didn’t win the popular vote, he will have diminished legitimacy, and will have 4 years full of conflict. But taxes on the rich may go down; how pro-working class!

  • 2
    0

    A lot of utter gibberish is being written about the US election and Donald Trump. To begin with,there was the Sri Lankan protofascists (Amarasekera et al) exulting in the victory
    of another protofascist in US– as reported in the Island.First of all they got the facts wrong: Clinton won the popular vote and it is bec. of the artifice of the archaic electoral college system that Trump will be President.Secondly, many members of the minority communities did vote for Trump, particularly Hispanic Catholics who like his stance on abortion and even a sufficiently large number of African Americans who began to believe in his promise of “jobs”.
    Now we have De Alwis repeating the lies and fabrications that the American right has been fostering about Clinton for thirty years and used by Trump in his campaign. Indeed there is no more ruthless a fighter for white privilege and corporate interests than the American Rightwing and Trump is its new leader. Even the Ku Klux Klan likes his policies and attitudes. And now we have Sri Lankan commentators sanctimoniously exulting in Trump’s victory without realizing what a catastrophe it is for the progressive values every where Bigotry, sexism and corporate greed are a deadly combination . Just you wait

  • 2
    0

    Normally, I receive the opinions of Sarath de Alwis well. I am afraid that I cannot do so, this time. The presumptions are all wacky!

    Bernie Sanders was never a serious contender. He had a message. That was all what he had. He could not establish that his message was viable.

    There was no way Obama could have taken sides during the Democratic run-up for Presidency. It was not only against tradition, but also against principles. To hypothesise on an eventuality ‘if’ Obama would have done the unthinkable is not critical analysis.

    ‘Bigotry is curable. Humbug is incurable’, is argumentative. It has no bearing to American politics. (It is better suited to Sri Lanka. There is no politics in Sri Lanka. Only, suitors for illegitimate power & wealth!)

    Media never tells you the truth. You, by your write-ups are part of the media. You cannot afford to tell the truth either.

    Trump, when he entered the contest, was not a politician. But, the shrewd businessman that he is, he has adapted himself fast! Today, he is a politician. The way he has conducted himself since Nov. 08th, he might turn out to be a good one, too.

    There is nothing SL can learn from American politics or elections. Our people need a revolution to teach them the fundamentals of politics.

    There are some sane and intelligent people in our midst. But, they shun politics, and for the right reasons!

    In the mean time, you can carry on writing, merrily.

  • 0
    0

    Sarath de Alwis

    We are not so lucky. We are two years in to the third MR term under M-R. We are neck deep in the swamp. No draining. The deluge continues. What price for a mere hyphenation?

    You people are the journalists in major media in Sri lanka. Is that not true, that American people did not trust major media that is how they came to where they are.

    Don’t you feel ashamed when you guys are the journalists and still crying out loud ?

    Secondaly, it looks that you were waiting for Hilary amidsts all her scandles and corruption.

  • 2
    0

    Americans have spoken very clearly. They have rejected both Trump and Hilary.
    46 Percent Americans did not cast their Votes.Accordingly 70 Percent
    Americans not endorsed Hilary and 70 percent did not endorse Trump.
    So it does not matter who rules U S A.

    If having spent Billions, of dollars if contenders could not get Americans
    to Vote, they have no legitimate right to govern USA

    • 1
      1

      I agree with several, but not all, important points raised by the author.
      But the point made by Mugalan is spot on.

  • 1
    0

    Bernie Sanders is a socialist. America will not have a socialist as a President at any time soon. At least not in our life time. Even the not well to do Americans aspire to be rich some day. But they do not want to get rich by distributing the wealth of the rich among the poor.

    SL has little hope as long as people like RW and MR are around. RW should have gone long time ago. After losing so many elections he finally came to power with the help of the SLFP. In any other country, he should have resigned from the leadership or would have got kicked out.

    When a country refuses/or pretends to investigate the murders such as Ekneligoda, Thajudeen and Lasantha, it has no hope or the future. In the U.S, no one is above the law (most of the time!), perhaps with the exception of Clintons.With that instead of Clinton now we got Trump. And I am hopeful of Trump presidency. He doesn”t owe anything to anyone for his victory, not even his party. If he decides to do so, he can ignore the campaign slogans and start serving the people and be a great President.

  • 1
    0

    “We are not so lucky. We are two years in to the third MR term under M-R. We are neck deep in the swamp. No draining. The deluge continues. What price for a mere hyphenation?”

    Critical minds would have anticipated this outcome if they evaluated the key actors behind M-R project. Sarath et al just jumped onto the bandwagon and in the process allowed the project leaders to cleverly conceal themselves and their motivations/intention from general voter base.

    Sarath is equally culpable for the deluge caused and continue to cause by the hyphenation.

  • 1
    0

    Talking Of Swamps(The New York Time)–Over to You Mr de Alwis

    The problem, of course, is that Mr. Trump’s campaign was based on appeals — some explicit, some coded — to racial and ethnic resentment and division. His followers heard it starting with his speechdeclaring his candidacy, warning of Mexican immigrant “rapists,” continuing to a rally last weekend where he promised to bar all Syrian refugees because they “will import generations of terrorism, extremism and radicalism into your schools and throughout your communities.” These statements emboldened and even encouraged those who have been looking for a license to lash out against immigrants, refugees, minorities and anyone else they find threatening. They take his victory as vindication of their feelings.
    David Duke, the former Louisiana lawmaker and former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted that Mr. Trump’s victory was “one of the most exciting nights of my life,” and also, “Our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!” In another tweet, he wrote, “Anyone telling you this was a vote for ‘unity’ is a liar and they know it!”
    As a candidate, Mr. Trump could get away with ignoring racist and sexist abuse by his supporters. But as the president-elect, he has the moral duty to reject it in the most aggressive terms. There should be no space in American political discourse for violent or abusive behavior. And that includes, of course, acts of vandalism and other violence by anti-Trump demonstrators.
    In a little more than two months, Donald Trump will take charge of a country of more than 320 million people of all races, ethnicities and religions. Every one of them deserves to live in safety, with dignity.

  • 0
    0

    As usual, Sarath’s contribution has raised a lot of questions, some stupid, some not.
    Bernie Sanders could have made a difference and there was, despite his lack of the financial resources that were available to the Clinton campaign a chance of his receiving the Democratic nomination. However, that proved to those of us who held out that(slender) hope an exercise in futility.
    The difference I’m seeing in the US as compared to SL is that those who oppose Trump and all he stands for are unafraid to speak up. If the Rajapaksa horde had won either of the previous elections here, the jackasses who comprise the political horde would have been more subservient than they are even now!

  • 0
    0

    Sarath had presented a thoughtful article on USA election. I doubt that Donald Trump will be able to drain the Washington swamp but may be able to SWAP it to something else!

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.