By 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. 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.
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?