The horror show

2016-11-15 06:00

THE 2016 United States presidential election was bound to be extraordinary no matter what happened.

I came to the U.S. to report on what I believed would be a historic moment when a woman would rise to the most powerful political position in the world, and a racist, sexist bully would be rejected by the electorate.

Instead, I was witness to a horror show.

Until the eve of the election, it looked like there would be a smooth passing of the torch from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton.

At a rally in Philadelphia, first lady Michelle Obama delivered a rousing speech, saying they would be handing the White House over to “a leader who takes this job seriously.

“Speaking here tonight is perhaps the last and most important thing that I can do for my country as first lady.”

She said the U.S.’s daughters would be safe under a Clinton presidency and an atmosphere would be fostered where “our sons understand that truly strong men are compassionate and kind”.

While the Obamas believe Clinton is someone they can trust, half of the U.S. voters thought she was not.

What unfolded on Tuesday night until the early hours of Wednesday morning felt like a nightmare and defied all expectations.

Donald Trump won support in key battleground states and therefore swept to victory.

This election was not something anyone could remain dispassionate about. The future of our world, respect for people of different races and faiths, and our values as a human race, are all on the line.

In his victory speech, Trump adopted a reconciliatory tone, promising to be president for all Americans, not just to those who voted for him.

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; we have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

This was obviously scripted to be reassuring. But his words rang hollow after all the threats, vitriol and wild promises that defined Trump’s election campaign.

Among the promises was the pledge to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to prevent people entering his country.

He also undertook to eject Muslims from his country and other people he profiled as terrorists.

Now that the dust has settled, it seems even more surreal that a bigot with abusive tendencies towards women, erratic policies and dodgy business practices could be trusted by millions of people to run a powerful nation like the U.S.

Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate and her past scandals weighed heavily against her.

But how a man who thinks it is appropriate to walk into the dressing room of teenage girls and who believes he is entitled to grope women and brag about it could be preferable beggars belief.

While some people believe Trump’s “success” in business qualifies him to run the country, they remain in denial about the numerous times he has filed for bankruptcy and his refusal to declare his tax returns.

It is true, however, that Trump has extraordinary powers.

How else do you explain why millions of people believe the litany of falsehoods that he spouts and consistently look away from his loutish behaviour?

On Wednesday, protests broke out in several cities around the U.S., with people taking to the streets to demonstrate their rejection of Trump as their president. But the dye is cast and people in the U.S. and around the world will need to reconcile with the fact that a person with an unstable personality who flies into fits of rage over tweets will now have access to the U.S. nuclear codes.

Those who voted for Trump believe he will change their lives for the better.

I believe that the U.S. and the world are headed for unprecedented volatility and that those who bought into his nonsensical vision will come to regret doing so.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick.

Read more on:    us 2016 elections

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