Farrukh Dhondy | A divided America is battling for its 'soul'

Deccan Chronicle.  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Columnists

Gentle reader, democracy requires you to choose your side!

President Donald Trump supporter Steve Roberts plants campaign signs near the Seminole Heights Public Library polling precinct on November 3, 2020 in Tampa, United States. After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans head to the polls on the last day to cast their vote for incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. (AFP)

“So raise a glass to the losers --

In life that’s all of us!

Those who think they are winners

Will inherit Destiny’s cuss.

Time, they say, doesn’t hang about

The years and millennia pass

O Bachchoo if all the world’s a stage

We’re all acting out a farce.”

       From The Son-in-Law Also Rises, by Bachchoo


The world awaits the results of the presidential election in the United States of America. I resort to the television, radio, or the news app on my phone to check if any more states have declared a result and whether --Ahura Mazda be praised -- Joe Biden has finally crossed the 270 collegiate-votes finishing line.

As I write this, and perhaps even by the time it’s in print, the likelihood of a decisive result is remote. The clown prince, President Donald Trump, has already threatened, even as the election and the count is in progress, to question, dishonour and even disobey the result if it goes against him. His gang of lawyers are waiting to challenge the results announced in the “battleground” states in the courts.

The idiot Trump, unfamiliar with the Constitution’s provisions or the procedures and rules of American elections, says he’ll go to the Supreme Court. His lawyers and Democratic spokespersons will have told him, I hope, that that’s not the first step in any electoral challenge. The states of America each have their detailed procedures for electoral challenges and these will have to be pursued in the courts of that particular state.

Donald Trump’s tantrumic determination to throw the toys out of the democratic pram has made him tweet several demands to even stop the counting of ballots. He has been authoritatively informed that that won’t happen. Every last vote, personal or postal, will be counted and if legal, it will be honoured.

In the 2000 presidential contest, Al Gore lost to George W. Bush by a margin of a few hundred votes. I remember that election night and the news bulletins of the following days. The decision, finally made by a Republican-manipulated Supreme Court after several lesser courts had ordered recounts in the last-to-decisively-declare state of Florida, hung on an examination of the machine-printed ballots. The TV bulletins showed the vote counters looking at pieces of paper through large magnifying glasses, presumably to determine where and against whose name the equivalent of the handwritten cross was marked. These pieces of paper were labelled the “hanging chads”. I haven’t heard that noun used subsequently. The ones which were unclear were declared spoilt ballots and they gave the victory to George W. (or “Dubya” -- as he called himself, to distinguish himself from his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

The present election may hang in a similar balance with similar challenges but, gentle reader, this election is certainly different from the one back in 2000. The Gore-Bush election demonstrated a nation with a divided vote. The Trump-Biden election is the drama of a nation with a divided soul. In preparation for it, barbed wire fences and fortifications have already been built around the White House. One can be sure that President Trump may have ordered a Mexican-border-style wall to be built around it but was vetoed by his restless staff. The shops and streets of the big cities, including the American capital have been severely boarded up, against the possibility of riots, arson and mayhem. There is talk of rival pseudo militia clashing.

The surveys on TV tell us that the three main issues dividing the nation with the shadow of violence threatening like a dark cloud, are the economy -- meaning employment and a wage to earn, racial equality and then the exploding Covid-19 numbers. Donald Trump boasts that he has raised employment and put food on the table of households, but after the Covid-19 pandemic swept the planet, that boast is questionable. Joe Biden’s economic plans, as he is the candidate whose party is taking the coronavirus and its effect on the economy seriously and scientifically, may do even more for putting food on the table and supporting economic activity with subsidies which the arch free enterprisers of the Republican Party won’t do.

On racial equality, it is clear that Mr Trump has supported the far-right groups and attacked and insulted the Latino population. Despite which, there are groups called Mexicans for Trump and Blacks for Trump and, of course, the famous group Turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The United States is not alone in its battle for its soul, by which I mean what sort of country, with progressive modern freedoms for all its citizens, do populations want to live in? If the Democrats in the United States have a majority in the Senate (though that seems unlikely at this juncture), they will not do the sort of trade deal with Brexit Britain which Donald Trump seemed to promise but never made any plans to deliver. Post-Brexit Britain will then fall back, says the free-marketeering UK chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak on the free port, providing in Britain the tax-dodgers of the world, money-launderers and drug dealers a safe haven. Then he probably will propose a bill in the House of Commons to change the nation’s name to Bringapore. It won’t do much for food on the table or the employable dignity of very many Brits who voted for Brexit. But Rishi’s hedge-fund pals will no doubt use their expanded loot to buy properties in Europe.

The United States is not the only country which is battling for its soul. Ironically, it is democratic processes which expose this battle in so many nations.

Gentle reader, democracy requires you to choose your side!