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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

Trump’s Heavy Footprints on History | T J S George

Friday 13 November 2020, by T J S George


For America’s sake, and for the world’s sake, it was important that Donald Trump should not win a second term as President. That he came close to it points to the power of a disturbing element in American life — racism. Ultimately racism counts in America. In all white countries, there are blacks. But American blacks represent something distinctly American. This relates to the prominent role blacks played as slaves in American history. Following the civil war during the presidency of the great man, Abraham Lincoln, nearly 4 million slaves were freed.

Donald Trump is not just an American, he is a white American. This was so when he was just a real-estate businessman making his millions in New York. At one point, the Justice Department filed charges alleging racial bias in the Trump family’s company. Trump of course dismissed the charge as "ridiculous." In the casino the Trumps ran in Atlantic City, it was standing practice that whenever Trump made an appearance, the bosses in charge would order all black people off the floor.

It is an accepted fact that the coastal states of America are relatively liberal while the south and the hinterland are conservative enough to be racist. This explains Trump sweeping the south and the interior. Clearly a substantial chunk of American citizens are influenced by the hangover of the days when racism was part of life. Slavery was a legally approved practice from the day the United States was founded because the influential plantation owners had institutionalised the import of black Africans as slave labour.

There was a larger cultural mindset that facilitated the import of African slaves. This was the Anglo-Saxon insistence that non-Protestants were not their equals. Thus Irish, Italian, Polish and other "alien" non-Protestants were treated as outcasts. Hispanics, Jews and Middle Easterners like Arabs and Iranians were never recognised as full-fledged Americans. The so-called Native Americans were subjected to organised genocide. Those who still survived were confined to internment camps made especially for them. Racism marked the contours of American history.

Trump is a proud inheritor of that history. It is no surprise that he helped coin that peculiar American phrase, "birther movement." It was the birth of Barrack Obama that was referred to. Trump was the initiator of the theory that Obama was not born in America. That was the only way he could face a popular leader like Obama. Trump’s line proved a lie when Obama released his birth certificate and said, "We have no time for this kind of silliness." The phrase stuck. Birtherism now means the theory that anyone not born in America, and not white, is not a real American.

Seen from any angle, a racist approach of that kind was not welcome to many Americans. Trump tried to wriggle out of the mess by saying that he was only talking about the need to crack down on forged birth certificates, a policy followed by Obama and George Bush. No one bought that line, of course. People knew that Trump went to the extent of being nasty in implementing his discriminatory policies. According to the Washington Post, a growing number of Latino citizens in Texas are having their citizenship questioned and being denied passports. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations said: "Birtherism is now federal policy. Anyone who is not white is suspected of not being a real American."

That Trump has gone so openly birtherist and that half of Americans approve of it bodes ill for America and the world. Don’t fail to note that they gave such a high level of support to him when a decent alternative was available in the persona of Joe Biden. Active in politics and campaigning vigorously, Biden is a more weighty opponent than John McCain was to Obama in 2008. It seems that the perspectives of American voters have changed. Values and ambitions have changed, for the worse.

Is the World facing a new America? After the collapse of the Soviet Union, America had become the sole superpower. Then China rose to challenge it. Trump has no notion of China and what it means. An American leadership that cannot understand China and Asia is a leadership doomed to fail. The question is whether Trump will drag America down with him. If that happens, it would be a tragedy. It is a tragedy that we have a world leader who cannot see beyond him and his party. In real terms, this is the fall of America.

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