Monday, December 12, 2016
The Trump Syndrome: What To Do When We Don't Like The Outcome?
I am something of a veteran being on the losing side of elections. And, with interests in politics globally, I am on the losing side more often than normal. I have indeed no business taking sides on US or Filipino Presidential elections, or the referendum in Italy, but I did want an outcome and ended up being on the losing side. Closer home, I did vote Remain and was stunned by Brexit, and more disappointed than surprised by Indian choice of their Prime Minister in 2014. It is not a good time for people with 'Liberal' sympathies, and I am sure to be in for some more disappointments in 2017, including some major ones in France and Germany, as it looks like.
However, I am writing this not to moan my plight, but rather to reflect on what one does when elections produce unpalatable results. I did indeed express my disappointment and question the merit of Direct Democracy in the morning after Brexit, a genuine feeling that I came to regret with time. In fact, now that the disappointment with election results are increasingly becoming the norm rather than exception (the only recent exception of the norm being Austria's rejection of Norbert Hofer), I think time has come to think seriously about 'Trump Syndrome', that feeling of resentment with the outcome of an democratic election, which, if taken any farther, would undermine the democratic system as a whole.
I would have called this Brexit Syndrome, as the feelings and its consequences were very similar. However, in the aftermath of Trump's election, this has become serious business, with White House dropping hints of Russian involvement, electoral college members filing lawsuits, the Green Party pushing for recounts and even suggestions that Trump could be impeached upon assuming office (which has near-Zero chance of going through a Republican House and Senate). So, it is befitting that we call it 'Trump Syndrome', as the question is crystallising around Trump and the Liberal panic.
One should see that valiant that it may be, all these post hoc actions to undermine Trump's election undermine the democratic process itself. I am no admirer of Mr Trump, and I am as panicked in anticipation of his presidency as anyone else. However, I think the issues being raised and discussed around the validity of his election rather counter-productive. The popular vote is important, but there were Presidents who lost on popular vote before. The question of Russian Hacking is without proof that this had impacted the outcome in some way, and in fact, a big failure of the outgoing administration as they failed to prevent it (would Obama want to be remembered as the President who let Russians control the US Presidential election?). The question of Trump's ownership of foreign assets being seen as a violation of first amendment is quite far-fetched, as Trump did not acquire those properties using Presidential offices, and treating legitimate business purchases (as in renting a premise or a hotel stay) as bribery or favours would open up floodgates of other conflict of interest instances which may affect anyone, including the Congressmen or Senators voting on it, who may own a share in any corporation trading globally. Finally, the silliest of all, the complaint that FBI opening the enquiry into Hillary Clinton's email server late in the day allowed Trump to win is to request the world to stand still so that Clinton could win the election, and indeed, a strange way to overlook her naivety (or complicity in something sinister) in maintaining those servers in the first place. Each one of these complaints and assertions have effectively told the world not just about Trump's flawed election, but the broken system of democracy - and therefore, had the opposite effect of its backers' intent.
So, what is the correct response when democratic elections produce unpalatable results? Undermining democracy, or questioning the process itself, is hardly the best way to go about it. Yes, in a way, this has been America's way of conducting democracy elsewhere - countries could be democratic as long as it produces friendly governments (Egypt being a recent example) - but this is hardly the way one could maintain a stable polity. The other way is to maintain an accountable system in place, wherein the winning party is under checks-and-balances and the losing party has to go through self-questioning and correction. The British system is not perfect, but this is quite close to what I am describing. And, this was my realisation after my frustrated comment about democracy on the morning after Brexit vote: That there was a lot of turmoil, and a very bad Cabinet that came of it, but the system is self-critiquing and potentially self-correcting.
Which is not what could be said of the Democratic Party in America, or Indian National Congress in India. There was very little discussion about how Democrats lost the election primarily as they bent over backwards to ingratiate Clintons. And, indeed, in India, the Gandhis are beyond questioning, even though they preside over election debacles after election debacles.
Seen with this perspective, it may be that the unpalatable results are not that bad after all. A madman may win, but only if his opponents really falter. The point I need to take home is that the Liberal position itself is unsustainable, and the people like Clintons and Gandhis have nothing to offer to the people. In fact, the Trumps and Modis of the world are as much a creation of the bankruptcy of Liberal politics as it is of other things, and people, after all, have chosen wisely.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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