WITH the swearing of Joe Biden ago as the 46th American President, the rest of the world joined America in celebrating the resilience of her democracy and institutional durability, all of which came under severe stress and strain with twice impeached President Trump’s four-year war against American political ethos. But the tragic Trump episode must also be seen as a sad reminder of an enduring systemic racism, America’s original sin through which 10.7million African slaves were taken to America and the Caribbean.
Obama as president was merely tolerated by Trump and his white supremacist groups. For two years, Trump lied to his base, claiming Obama was not born in America. Obama by all account was a great American president. He inherited Bush’s avoidable two wars, a depressed economy and a frightened Americans who for the first time became conscious of the level of anger of some of her enemies with the 9/11 bombing of the New York American World Trade Centre. Obama ended the two wars, took America out of economic recession, eliminated Osama Bin Laden effortlessly using brain instead of brawn thereby rekindling American hope and restoring her confidence.
Obama had warned that Trump was not fit to govern. The 70million Americans that voted against Hillary Clinton, Obama’s candidate cannot be said to be uninformed. In any case, besides Obama, nearly all Republican leaders especially those who contested against Trump in the primaries agreed he was unfit to govern and that his presidency would be a disaster for America.
Despite the analysis of those who try to play the ostrich by attributing Trump and ‘Trumpism’ to Obama’s neglect of American middle class, the only plausible explanation for emergence of Trump is systemic racism. Trump as a leader of the white supremacist was the only talisman he needed to overcome his disabilities as an American presidential candidate against a tested Hillary Clinton that had devoted all her life to public service. Republican leaders including Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate majority leader who once swore to make a Obama a one-term president, who mobilized their base to vote for Trump, are all racists.
It was not lost on them that Trump’s battle-cry of “let us take our country back”, was a denunciation of Obama, who Trump and his white supremacist supporters could not stand because of “the colour of his skin despite the content of his character’.
They were all accomplices in Trump’s four years of trying to undo everything Obama did including Obamacare, that provide health care for millions of less privileged Americans, taking America out of Paris climate change international agreement and Iran nuclear deal, co-authored by Obama and American allies not because Trump and his Republican white supremacists had a better alternative, but out of a desire to erase Obama’s legacies.
With about 400,000 projected to die from Corona virus by the end of March and the millions he had literarily directed to commit suicide by not wearing their face masks as directed by doctors , with thousands of small businesses closed down and thousands of those who lost their jobs queuing up for food rations, Donald Trump still got 74m votes in the last November election. Egged on by Republican senators and Congressmen, he continued to lie that the election was stolen from him. Many of them still stood by him after the mob he had incited took over the Capitol shouting ‘hang Mike Pence’ and ‘kill Pelosi’, two people that stood on the way of Trump’s creeping dictatorship.
Joe Biden, with his almost 50 years of preparation however has his job – healing America of systemic racism – clearly cut- out for him. As he has eloquently put it: “The work of the moment and the work of the next four years must be the restoration of democracy, of decency, honour, respect, the rule of law.”
Although Biden’s task as America’s crisis president has been made more arduous with COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the land with a projected figure of deaths by March put at about 400,000 due to inept leadership of Trump, with a more divisive and divided America society accentuated by Trumps lies and falsehood estimated by facts check at 250,ooo according to Washington Post.
For four years, Trump played politics of fear appealing, and mobilising victims of what one model builder called ‘politics of cultural despair”. He told his white supremacist supporters that voting for Biden means loss of identity of America as a country of white. He told them their country election was stolen and urged them to fight to take their country back so that he could guarantee their white privileges.
For months after the election, Trump, a sore loser, continued to lie about the result of the election. Those he had driven in to frenzy believe his repeated lies despite his loss of all his challenges to the election result in courts. As Timothy Snyder, a Yale University Professor of history and the author of On Tyranny said, “big lies can outlive a big liar”. Trump has created a crisis of legitimacy for Biden. A survey has shown that over 64% of Republicans believe the election was rigged in favour of Biden despite the fact this was not true. Those he had deceived to believe Biden’s presidency is illegitimate because of his selfish interest will probably try to make America ungovernable for Biden.
Biden, who was elected into the American Senate at 29 and for 35 years, travelled daily from his Delaware home to Washington DC by train to perform his duties is however bringing his unique qualities and the quality of responsible leadership he had offered his people all through the years to bear on his new assignment as an American crisis president.
Biden with about 50 years in politics having made his first attempt at elective office with contest for New Castle County Council, in 1970, and two earlier attempts at the presidency has already indicated “he is on a rescue mission for a beleaguered country.” He understands American society more than any of his contemporaries, hence his new crusade for social justice which is a far cry from his 1975: “I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and… to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race.” (Washington Post).
He has already released his policy thrust on systemic racism. It covers investing in Black-owned small businesses, creating a new tax credit to help Black Americans buy homes, and investing in historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
His eight years as Obama vice president has also prepared him well for his foreign relations challenges such as relations with China, North Korea which has been projected to have both long-range missile capabilities on top of being a nuclear power and the current hacking of federal agencies by suspected Russia agents. Also re-joining the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accord will also not be difficult with Democrat’s control of the senate and the Congress albeit with small margins.
But above all, many believe Biden’s modesty, integrity, selfless service as well as the quality of leadership provided as a senator for 35 years and vice president for eight years adequately prepared him for his new challenges.