A-Jazeera / November 7, 2020
Trump is fired. Now we have to recover from his presidency and here is how.
Trumpty Dumpty, broken and tired.
Trumpty Dumpty, now you are fired!
In 2017, I wrote a piece titled Five Reasons to like President Trump, where I anticipated how United States President Donald Trump’s capacity to polarise would expose the deep underbelly of American racism and xenophobia but also create the conditions for an unprecedented powerful pushback.
And indeed, after four years of him in power, Americans mobilised and responded. They not only organised heavily to protest his controversial policies but also ultimately ousted him from power. Today we see the result of this mobilisation in the record high voting turnout and early vote numbers.
But his presidency has also done much damage to the country and its psyche. Very often, egomaniac autocratic leaders like Trump lose sight of losing and think they can do anything, anywhere and anytime, until the forces of justice or the brick wall of reality offer correction. Today, in the face of facts, the incumbent president refuses to accept his defeat by Joe Biden and is shaking confidence in America’s democratic institutions.
This is very much in line with what he has done for four years in office. The Trump administration has been fraught with a wall of lies, deception, firings, convictions and massive blunders. Its policies have separated migrant children from their parents at the border, taken the US out of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and pandered to dictators.
The list of un-presidential behaviours is quite long, but three Trump misjudgements stand out.
First was his decision to shield Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from the fallout of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. One cannot condemn state-sanctioned murder and yet continue to do business as usual with leaders that practise it. This is hypocritical.
Second was his decision not to act on early information he received about how infectious and deadly the coronavirus was, and instead, to downplay it and ignore the advice of scientists. This has cost the lives of thousands of Americans. This is unconscionable.
Third was his decision during his presidency and re-election campaign not to renounce white supremacy and instead to tell the far right to “stand down and stand by”. This is racist.
It is clear that the impeached Trump has diminished the office of the presidency, the integrity of being American, and the international standing of the US. Now with Biden in the White House, we must recover from these dark four years.
Here are five ways to do that:
- Address COVID-19. Trump’s response to the pandemic has been slow and pathetic and he has repeatedly expressed the belief that the pandemic is over. His refusal to create a comprehensive federal action plan informed by medical experts has cost this country thousands of lives. The health and wellbeing of Americans must come first under the Biden presidency. We need leadership that recognises that the crisis is real and takes smart and science-based action to bring the current uptick in the spread of the virus to a halt. The judicial threat against Obamacare must be removed and all Americans should be given access to proper healthcare.
- End divisive leadership and messaging. Trump gained much political capital by tapping into white Americans’ fear of losing privilege and power. His White House has been a white boy fraternity that looks like a cross between a Connecticut country club and a mobbish after-hours joint in Las Vegas. His vicious attacks on political opponents, even within his own party, his assault on mainstream media and his embrace of white supremacist rhetoric have polarised the American public. We need Biden’s White House to embrace inclusion, social justice and diversity. We need an administration that fully reflects the diverse demographics of the nation and does not focus solely on its core electorate. Biden must also reach out to the millions of Americans who voted for Trump with kindness and civility and meet their energy of division, fear and isolationism with a message of community, both local and global, governmental transparency and social justice.
- Redress anti-Black racism. Even before becoming president, it was clear Trump harboured racist views. That was evident from his own discrimination practices in the real estate he owned in New York and his support for the death sentence for five Black youths wrongfully accused of the murder of a jogger in 1989. When he took the White House, he brandished his support for Confederate symbols, downplayed police brutality and ignored systemic racism. The Black Lives Matter cause must be embraced at all levels of society, especially by the office of the president. Biden must address police brutality in Black communities and facilitate the removal of Confederate monuments.
- Return to the international community. Trump alienated many US allies around the world while sweet-talking autocrats in Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. His authoritarian nationalism and “America First” drive threatened the US’s standing the world and undermined collective action on key issues such as climate change. Biden’s administration must bring the US back into the WHO, the Paris Agreement and other international institutions and agreements, which Trump exited. We must commit again to multilateralism and international cooperation.
- Bring back science. Trump has done much damage to science and the scientific community. He has called climate change a hoax, compared COVID-19 to the flu and promoted various unscientific and dangerous views on treatment, including the ingestion of bleach. Trump cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) and the National Science Foundation, removed various necessary environmental protections and scrubbed climate change information from government websites. Politicising science endangers public health, the economy and the environment and must be stopped. Biden’s White House must respect the autonomy and knowledge of the scientific community and value its place in shaping vital policies. It must support efforts to combat climate change both at home and abroad.
Trump has bullied his way to both limited success and abundant failure. His confrontational strategy has no place in the White House or in the global community. This kind of person cannot represent the full complex diversity of America. While it is very shocking that nearly half of those who voted support Trump and his divisive, corruptive and disrespectful ways, it is redeeming that the other half wants change.
While Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are not perfect, they are far more competent and respectful than Trump. They understand much better the process of leading through compromise rather than division and unilateralism.
But the critical change that needs to happen in the US will require political and cultural action beyond the office of the president. So going forward, Americans need to commit to and seek a future of diversity, inclusivity and justice and resist division, inequality and racism.
In this historic time of a pandemic, civil unrest and racial division, it is time to heal, transform and un-Trump America.
John Sims, a Detroit native, is a multi-media artist, writer, and producer