‘Are we better off today than we were before the elections in 2016? And will the voters want more of the same?’
MAKE America Great Again!” So promised Donald Trump when he was running against surveys-favorite Hillary Clinton in the race to be the 45th President of the United States. “We will build a wall” to keep illegal Mexican immigrants out, he promised as well, “and Mexico will pay for it.” And yes, there was the promise to “drain the swamp!”
During the campaign no one seemed to mind what promises Trump made, because the elections appeared to be a coronation-in-waiting for Clinton, described by Barack Obama himself as the “best prepared” to be President. Hillary, Obama claimed, was better prepared to be President than he himself or her husband Bill (POTUS #42) were.
Remember that Obama was a first term senator from Illinois when he sought (and won) the Democratic Party’s nomination over Hillary in 2008, while Bill Clinton was the outgoing governor of the state of Arkansas in 1992 when very few wanted to aspire for the party’s nomination to face a re-electionist in George H. W. Bush, #41.
But surveys do not vote, and on Election Day in 2016 America (the world, too) was stunned by the unexpected victory of the reality TV host and real estate mogul who liked to be referred to as “The Donald.” I will never forget that night, because I was holed up in a room at the Crowne Plaza in Washington, DC watching how once solid Democratic states were going for Trump the way battleground states were. As early as 9 p.m. when it looked like the impossible was going to happen I switched off the TV and drove around the city and, when passing Georgetown I saw college students sobbing. I knew what it meant: Bill Clinton would not become the first First Gentleman in the history of the United States.
That day – a day that would (to borrow from Franklin Roosevelt, POTUS #32) “live in infamy” – marked the start of four years of a wild joy ride unique in the annals of US presidential history. If you were only watching history unfold through the nightly news you would have had enough reason to scratch your head so very often. Read the books written by insiders who couldn’t let Trump complete his first four years and you’d be shaking your head. Laughing in disbelief and worrying in fear as well.
Is America great again, four years after Donald Trump took the oath of office before the biggest inaugural crowd in his imagination? Thankfully, I am no American citizen and so I can say without worry that, at least from where I stand, America is far from great again. It is no longer the leader looked up to by Europeans, nor the one feared by the Russians and hated by the Chinese. Even Canadians snicker at their bigger neighbor to the south. And North Koreans? They’ve learned how to dance around the US President; to make him dance to their tune even.
America has a population of over 300 million in a world with over 7 billion people. Yet one in every five infected with COVID globally is an American, as is one in every five of the dead. These statistics alone tell you that America has lost its mooring – and were it not for its military might it could easily go the way of the Soviet Union – that is, eclipsed by China, which to Moscow was once just the junior partner in the Communist bloc.
But it’s election time again and Trump is fighting to avoid becoming a single term president like the Republican he derided, Bush #41. And so from his mouth pours forth a new stream of promises – about an economic miracle of a rebound and about a vaccine and all that – because election time is for promises, promises that politicians hope the voter forgets by the time he returns to the polling booth.
Indeed 2016 was full of election promises, in our case about the return of discipline and the end of drug and rice cartels and “endo” and all. But all America got – as did the rest of the world – was COVID which put all governments to the test. Revealing, as a result, those which promised little but did much, and those that promised much but achieved little.
When a people vote we see whether they’ve learned their lesson or not. In less than 20 days all eyes will be on America; and in less than 20 months all eyes will be on the Philippines.
Are we better off today than we were before the elections in 2016? And will the voters want more of the same?
Pass the popcorn.