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Trump's America can't become great again if it's divided and depressed

Amit Sengupta
Amit SenguptaJan 23, 2017 | 13:35

Trump's America can't become great again if it's divided and depressed

Can America become great again? The dark irony in the US currently and for some time now has been that it is sharply divided, if not overwhelmingly depressed. The buoyancy of Donald Trump’s supporters might not reflect in their everyday lives, because he has not won on a positive agenda.

No one believes that he is going to liberate the low income groups and create jobs. He has won by pandering to the lowest common denominator in the collective human instinct, creating mass phobia, fear and polarisations, pitching community against community, and generally denigrating all concerned, including the media and women. This might have appealed to his ardent supporters, but, surely, it will in no way make America First or Great again. How can a deeply divided and unhappy nation become first and great at the same time?

Barack Obama did a few things extremely right in the last phase of his presidency, and that has shown the mirror more sharply on the new president of the USA. For one, Obama gave clemency and freedom to scores of prisoners, many more than all the other presidents of the past, though rights activists were hopeful that this was clearly in his power and he could have done more in a country where the prisons seem to be overcrowded, especially with people of certain communities who are routinely hounded by the police.

He made a stunningly visionary last speech, tears in his eyes, which proved both his secular, multi-cultural and intellectually refined worldview. Besides, in a stunningly brave act, he reduced the prison term of Chelsea Manning from 35 to just over seven years, even while Julian Assange called for an immediate and full pardon.

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Ascendancy of Trump in the midst of thousands of protesters, especially women, and his combative attitude, is surely not going to help in healing the wounds of a polarised nation.

In a certain sense, "progressive" sections of America, mostly young supporters of Bernie Sanders, which hated Hillary Clinton for the manner the Wall Street hawks loved her, or the manner she was blamed for unleashing the Syrian war, besides the groteseque murder of Libyan leader Muhammar Gaddafi as a public spectacle, might have been pleased with Obama on this note.

The anger with Obama on the daily drone attacks which killed an unspecified number of people, or the deportation of 2.5 million people – all-time high in the history of the US - might not have completely eased, though his TRP ratings continue to be high, like that of his popular and highly respected wife, Michelle Obama.

Indeed, the ascendancy of Trump in the midst of tens of thousands of protesters, especially women, and his combative and I-care-a-damn attitude, is surely not going to help in healing the wounds of a polarised nation. That most of these “nasty women” as they call themselves, are opposed to not only the misogyny unleashed during the election campaign, they are also against xenophobia, racism, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, and stand for universal human and women’s rights, might not jell with the ideological vision of the current regime led by bankers, billionaires, and sundry hardliners who sometimes sound like the Right-of-Ku Klux Klan.

Besides, by changing Obamacare as one of his first acts, and deleting all references to climate change from the official website, the new dispensation has not really tried to endear to basic consensus or pluralism, so as to take everybody, including the opposition, along.

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Despite the overt sexism displayed in the Trump campaign, almost 52 per cent white women voted for him. (Photo: Facebook)

The truth of the American dilemma is that while the cities might have been blue and democratic, the countryside, which is vast, empty and unlimited, and the white working class, have overwhelmingly supported Trump, against what was known to be the "Washington establishment", this time led by Hillary Clinton. This economically and socially marginalised underbelly has felt immensely betrayed by the past regimes, including that led by Obama.

Despite the overt sexism displayed in the Trump campaign, almost 52 per cent white women voted for him, including educated women, and it only proves that neither his language, nor alleged actions, seem to have put them off. Indeed, Trump’s confidence is reflected from this fact that his constituency agrees with his worldview, and that he is a real estate billionaire is only yet another feather in his cap. Truly, in that sense, this is the advent of a neo-synthesis of conservative totalitarianism and isolationist capitalism in modern times, perhaps unprecedented in history, a very similar phenomena as in Britain’s Brexit.

Surely, with the rise of the Right and xenophobic forces in many parts of Europe, and across the world, it is going to be a hard day’s night for those who still believe in idealism, gender justice, peace and humanism, among other progressive values. Besides, there is a contradiction. How come the so-called post-Obama anti-racial society suddenly turn so inwardly and tacitly racist? Or, did it become too much for the disgruntled masses, especially the white supremacists, to first endure a black president for two terms, and, then, to be hypothetically followed by a woman, though not so universally liked? This is a dilemma which, presumably, will remain unresolved.

In many ways, perhaps, it tells the original story of the heart of darkness that is so deeply hidden and entrenched in America.

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Last updated: January 23, 2017 | 13:35
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