Obama's legacy, racism, and Trump's victory in America
As there are multiple causes and factors behind most events, so is Donald Trump's election victory not attributable to any single factor. However, there is always the "most important factor" behind everything. Here, neo-fascist racism played the most important role in the election of Trump. One may attribute his victory to the so-called Obama Legacy or factor. We know Trump is "their" man; and the ubiquitous "they" represent white supremacists, the military-industrial, and Israeli lobbies who are committed to establishing an ultra-conservative, racist America.
Since Trump's own bigotry, racism, misogyny resonate with fascism, we have reasons to worry about the future of America. Under a proto-fascist administration, the US can destabilise the entire world. This isn't an imaginary scenario from science fiction. Ominously, the day after Trump's taking the oath, various neo-Nazi white supremacist groups held public gatherings across West Europe, in solidarity with Trump and his racist ideology. Neo-Nazi David Duke of the now defunct Ku Klux Klan has already celebrated Trump's victory: "Make no mistake … our people played a HUGE role in electing Trump!" It wasn't hyperbolical, or an over-statement.
Francis Fukuyama, a leading neo-conservative thinker, asserts in his essay "America: The Failed State" in the January 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine that the world is living through a very turbulent phase of its history. "The triumph of the Trump brand of nationalism is arguably of a piece with authoritarian advances …. by making populist democracy an active threat to individual liberty", he affirms.
Until the last presidential election in November 2016, desperate Americans by turn were trying to improve their lot by electing a candidate from one of the two major political parties. Although Donald Trump was officially a Republican candidate, he was actually an "outsider" (who previously had mostly flirted with the Democratic Party). Independent Senator Sanders was practically an "outsider" too.
The rise of "outsiders" signals something very significant: the average American's declining faith in organised party politics. What began with the election of film actor Ronald Reagan was re-enacted in Trump's victory, a reality TV actor was formally ushered in to the White House on 20th January. While individuals, rather than political parties have become the decisive factors in running and winning elections in America, sections of the alienated population, who think themselves as marginalised and powerless, are available for mobilisation by the loud mouth and demagogue, with racist, fascist, or terrorist ideologies.
Unfortunately, Trump's victory signals a new beginning in the history of America, which is most likely to be a turbulent and unsettling one.
Further degeneration of America began in the post-Lincolnian period, with the occupation of Hawaii, the Philippines, and unnecessary bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The unjust US invasions of umpteen numbers of countries – including Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – further degenerated the political system, democratic and ethical values in America. "Might is right" re-emerged as the cardinal principle of governance in America. Thus the average White American continued to believe in White supremacist ideology as something natural, and even designed by God.
The degeneration of the average White American reached near its culmination point possibly after America had invaded and killed millions of innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya. The bulk of Americans knew their government was lying and invading countries and killing (non-White) people for the sake of glory, wealth, and power. Many of them – civilian and military – were beneficiaries of these unjust invasions. Sadly, in the wake of all these killings and the handful of counter-killings by terrorists, the average Americans have been desensitised to killing; and thanks to the concerted government and media propaganda, have started believing themselves as the hapless victims of Islamist terrorism, and non-White invaders.
Since racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia were fast moulding the American psyche, many Americans have started believing that Obama was partially responsible for the "unimpeded" rise of Islamism, which they believe poses the biggest security challenge to their country. Without giving any credit to the Obama administration for destroying al Qaeda bases and killing Osama bin Laden, thanks to the conservative demagoguery, many Trump supporters believe in undoing the so-called Obama Legacy.
Just as soon after Khomeini's ascendancy to power in Iran, people attributed it to the misrule of the Shah - "No Shah, No Khomeini" became the catch phrase - similarly, Trump's victory may be attributable to the Obama presidency; "No Obama, No Trump" could become axiomatic too! Despite his terrible foreign policy, which led to unnecessary wars, and deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people in the Muslim World, Obama's legacy is one of substantial growth, job creation, and declining budget deficit. In fact, he salvaged the sinking auto industries, banks, and financial companies in America. His rule was diametrically different from what George W. Bush delivered to his nation.
Yet, for all the wrong reasons, Obama was indirectly responsible for the rise of Trump and Trumpism. Obama's race and Muslim background were the catalysts in this regard. What White Americans couldn't reconcile with for eight years – a black man in the White House – which is the "We've lost America Syndrome" played the decisive role in the rise of white supremacist ideology and rhetoric in the country. No wonder, the bulk of white men – surprisingly white women too – not only condoned Trump's utterly vulgar assertions about women, Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, and other non-White people, but also elected him to power.
Trump's rhetoric about creating more jobs in America, especially in the so-called rust-belts; and his building a wall across US-Mexico border – "to be funded by the Mexican government" – to stop illegal Mexicans from entering the US, who according to him take away American jobs, rape American women, and peddle drugs in the streets of America have been racial than economic in tone and by implications. His victory in short is the victory of White supremacy.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – renowned human rights NGO in the US – believes Trump's victory has emboldened hundreds of active hate groups across America to verbally and physically attack Muslims, African Americans, Mexicans, and other non-White races across the country. The SPLC has documented 867 hate incidents in the US in the first ten days after the Election. Nearly 900 hate groups across America – neo-Nazis, anti-Muslim, Anti-Black, and anti-LGBT groups – are celebrating Trump's victory.
According to an SPLC report, while White supremacists are publicly asserting: "The white race is back in the game"; a White man in Colorado told a 12-year-old African-American girl: "Now that Trump is President, I'm going to shoot you and all the blacks I can find"; a little Muslim girl clung to her kindergarten teacher and asked, "Are they going to do anything to me? Am I safe?" Welcome to the new and "Great" America Trump and his cohorts represent today! If they are going to prevail, is altogether a tricky question! There is another tricky question for the women and men who are now protesting Trump's victory, and the 60 Democratic lawmakers who boycotted Trump's oath-taking ceremony last Friday: Did you guys ever classify the wars America fought, killing more than four million people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the last 40-odd years, as illegitimate wars, and the perpetrators as war criminals?
The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org