The dangerous Mr Trump

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 12, 2024

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeDonald Trump, the Republican nominee, will face President Biden, the Democratic nominee, in the next US presidential election. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Trump could win that election. Most of the polls, including the prestigious New York Times/Siena College poll, have given Trump a 2% lead over President Biden.

Many Americans are dissatisfied with this choice. Nineteen per cent of registered voters, according to the Times/Siena poll, did not have a favourable view of either Trump or Biden. However, Trump seemed to be particularly disfavoured. An editorial in The New York Times bemoans his inadequacy: “As an individual, Mr Trump has demonstrated contempt for the [US] Constitution and the rule of law that makes him unfit to hold office. But when an entire political party… turns into an instrument of that person and his most dangerous ideas, the damage affects everyone.” (March 7.)

Some of my radical friends welcome the US fall from grace. They feel the US has been an unrestrained bully, running the world as it pleases, supporting undemocratic regimes, and throwing its power around. They seem most dissatisfied with US support for Israel and its complicity in the atrocities that are taking place in Gaza and the West Bank. They grieve that thousands of people, mostly women and children, were killed and their land crushed to the ground in this latest conflict.

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama, a professor at Stanford University, published The End Of History And The Last Man, to much acclaim. He argued that the world had come to the “end of history” with the institution of liberal democracy, the highest point in the evolution of political freedom. He did not consider Trump’s entrance into the American political arena.

Fukuyama changed his tune a week ago. He wrote “there has been a steady decline in the quantity and quality of liberal democracies around the world for the past 18 years. Among the backsliders, there is no case more serious than that of the United States”. (Financial Times, March 2.)

He continued: “American institutions have been decaying steadily for some time, and are now at a major crisis point. Nearly a third of the electorate believes the falsehood that President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election. Polls suggest that voters would be prepared to re-elect Donald Trump, the former president who propagated this lie among supporters, resulting in an assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in a bid to keep him in power.”

Apart from Trump’s demagogic approach to politics, the gullibility of many Americans frightens Fukuyama. He reminds us: “Polls show that 17% support QAnon, whose narratives include Democrats drinking the blood of children in hidden tunnels under Washington. Over half of Republicans believe that vaccines are more harmful than helpful, while many evangelicals think that church closures during the pandemic were the first shot in the campaigns of liberals to close their churches permanently.”

America used to be a society that welcomed immigrants from all parts of the world. In 1883, when Emma Lazarus wrote her famous sonnet, “The New Colossus”, she included the stanzas, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” These words adorn the Statue of Liberty at the entrance to New York Harbour.

These words greeted my great aunt, Eugenia Cudjoe, who immigrated to the US in 1912. My grandfather, Robert James Cudjoe, wrote in his Notebook: “My dear sister leve us for America on the 5th of 1912 October.”

In 2018, Trump described the immigrants from Haiti and Africa as people coming from “all these shithole countries”. He suggested that the US encourage more people from places like Norway to be a part of the US population.

The UN human rights office noted that those comments, if confirmed, were “shocking and shameful” and “racist”. The New York Times reminded us that Trump “branded Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and was slow to disavow the support of the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke”. (June 11, 2018.)

In October 2023, in an interview with Mehdi Hasan, Trump renewed his venom against non-white immigrants. He said undocumented immigrants coming into the US were “poisoning the blood of our country…[and] coming in with diseases”. He used a similar phrase in October 2016 when he debated Hillary Clinton during that presidential election.

Observers compared that particular phrase (“poisoning the blood”) to certain passages that Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf. He said in his book: “In the north and in the south the poison of foreign races was eating into the body of our people.”

Immigrants have always been the backbone of America’s development. Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, understood the nature and vitality of the immigrants who built America. She noted: “America draws strength from our long, proud heritage as a nation of immigrants, who are the constant reinvigoration of our country. Each wave of newcomers brings their patriotism, bravery and determination…to our shores.”

The demise of great nations always comes from within. How Americans vote in November will tell us a lot about the future they envisage for themselves. The world awaits an answer.

PS: I apologise for misspelling Andy Knight’s name in last week’s column.