Trump stopped in his pop­ulist tracks – for now

With Democrats back in sad­dle he faces tough time with a span­ner thrown into his works

Pretoria News - - OPINION - SHAN­NON EBRAHIM Ebrahim is the group for­eign ed­i­tor at In­de­pen­dent Me­dia

US PRES­I­DENT DON­ALD TRUMP can con­sider him­self stymied. The Democrats fi­nally emerged from their elec­toral ap­a­thy and voted in large num­bers in this week’s US midterm elec­tions – and are now in a po­si­tion to block Trump’s far right pop­ulist agenda.

It may not be “a new day in Amer­ica”, as Demo­crat Nancy Pelosi – the likely new Speaker of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives – claims.

But Trump will have se­ri­ous trou­ble pur­su­ing his leg­isla­tive agenda, and avoid­ing ag­gres­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his busi­ness deal­ings, sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions, and al­leged Rus­sian col­lu­sion.

With the Democrats now in firm con­trol of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, they will be able to con­trol com­mit­tee chair­ships, is­sue sub­poe­nas, and can en­force ag­gres­sive over­sight over con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

They can also ini­ti­ate im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings, but that would not trans­late into re­mov­ing Trump from of­fice as they would not get a twothirds ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate. With the Repub­li­cans firmly in con­trol of the Se­nate, they will con­tinue ap­prov­ing Trump’s cab­i­net nom­i­nees and ap­point con­ser­va­tive judges to the Bench. What makes Pelosi so op­ti­mistic is that she says Amer­i­cans are tired of the pol­i­tics of di­vi­sion.

But un­for­tu­nately Trump’s di­vi­sive rhetoric will con­tinue un­abated as he ral­lies his base, en­cour­ag­ing their racism, xeno­pho­bia and ul­tra na­tion­al­ism.

And be­hind his largely white, ru­ral and work­ing class base, is an­other key con­stituency of sup­port – the white evan­gel­i­cals who have also led the charge in favour of Trump’s poli­cies. It seems they are not irked by Trump on is­sues of moral­ity or his state­ments on women, claim­ing “many politi­cians have skele­tons in their cup­boards”, but are pri­mar­ily con­cerned with Trump main­tain­ing his so­cially con­ser­va­tive poli­cies on abor­tion and gay mar­riage.

For evan­gel­i­cal pas­tors like Tony Perkins, who led the “get out and vote” charge for the Repub­li­cans in this elec­tion, their sup­port for Trump is viewed through a lens of “spir­i­tual war­fare”.

For them, Trump is on the side of the right­eous, fight­ing against the forces of dark­ness.

How spir­i­tual lead­ers like Perkins can see Trump as rep­re­sent­ing the “straight and nar­row” is in­ex­pli­ca­ble. In­stead of en­gag­ing in crit­i­cal thought and see­ing Trump’s fear mon­ger­ing for what it is, the evan­gel­i­cals have been jus­ti­fy­ing Trump’s mo­bil­i­sa­tion against il­le­gal im­mi­grants, claim­ing he is se­cur­ing the coun­try’s borders. Any hu­man­i­tar­ian per­spec­tive on the mat­ter is com­pletely lost.

Trump has been us­ing fic­ti­tious stereo­types to char­ac­terise the il­le­gal im­mi­grants com­ing from Hon­duras to the US bor­der to paint them as dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals and ter­ror­ists.

Trump has re­fused to de­scribe them as what they re­ally are – a few thou­sand im­pov­er­ished young men and women with their chil­dren, who are leav­ing a largely de­stroyed coun­try be­ing ruled by a dic­ta­to­rial gov­ern­ment in­stalled by a US-backed mil­i­tary coup in the 2009.

In­stead the pro­ces­sion is be­ing de­scribed as a “car­a­van” evok­ing im­ages of Arabs in the desert, play­ing into the al­ready preva­lent Is­lam­o­pho­bia in the US. Mean­while no pack an­i­mals or ve­hi­cles are in­volved. Trump has gone as far as call­ing them dis­ease rid­den Arab ter­ror­ists, rapists, and killers try­ing to in­vade the US.

The fact that Trump has mo­bilised 15 000 US troops to meet them at the bor­der is be­yond be­lief – the largest mil­i­tary mo­bil­i­sa­tion on US soil since the Civil War.

And if the troops are not enough there is the mo­bil­i­sa­tion of armed right wing mili­tias who say they will open fire on the refugees if they dare to throw rocks – some­thing Trump an­nounced would be jus­ti­fied.

Trump has made the most ou­tra­geous state­ments, say­ing that he be­lieves all asy­lum seek­ers are fraud­sters, and claim­ing that they will all be kept per­pet­u­ally in de­ten­tion camps un­til their cases have been heard.

Trump knows ex­actly what he is do­ing – play­ing into the fears of Amer­i­cans who have very lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of the world around them in the hope that it will make him more pop­u­lar at a time where his pop­u­lar­ity rat­ing is sit­ting at 39%.

It is un­usual for a pres­i­dent to be so un­pop­u­lar at a time when the econ­omy is do­ing well with a 3.1% GDP growth rate, and un­em­ploy­ment is at an all-time low of 3.7%. That is why Trump said dur­ing his re­cent ral­lies that it is bor­ing to talk about the econ­omy, which he claims is the best in the world.

He is all too well aware that de­spite the per­for­mance of the US econ­omy he re­mains an un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent, and he is re­sort­ing to fear mon­ger­ing to im­prove his pop­u­lar­ity rat­ings. So Pelosi and her party have a lot of work to do to over­come Trump’s pol­i­tics of di­vi­sion.

One of the great in­tel­lec­tual minds of this cen­tury Noam Chom­sky had lamented prior to the midterm elec­tions that we are liv­ing through one of the gravest mo­ments in hu­man his­tory.

He con­tended that the re­sults of this elec­tion would im­pact on ev­ery­thing from cli­mate change to nu­clear weapons.

He can breathe a sigh of re­lief that the midterm elec­tion re­sults may now en­able the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to stop Trump in his tracks. Per­haps Trump’s dan­ger­ous alt-right tra­jec­tory has been slowed, for now at least.

It may not be ‘a new day in Amer­ica’ as top Demo­crat Nancy Pelosi – claims. But But Trump will now have se­ri­ous trou­ble pur­su­ing his alt-right leg­isla­tive agenda

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.