Outgoing President Donald John Trump had the good world made for him. By inherited wealth and a rambunctious if erratic and eccentric personality. He fitted into the world, almost perfectly. When I read Mary Trump’s (Donald Trump’s niece) account of the dysfunctional Trump family in her book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man (2020), and her prognosis on his character, I guessed that it was merely a matter of time. Something would give. And something has given.
It came in the form of a resounding defeat in a presidential election. Defeat? Trump a one-tenure President like Jimmy Carter? No. It did not fit into the narrative of the Superman which Trump had managed to create about himself and pushed into the public space!
Trump had also created his own world and dominated it. It was a make-believe world. Part of it was hot air. A huge balloon that could have taken Icarus to the moon of imagination. It could also be easily perforated by a pinch. But Donald Trump became larger than the world which he created. He was king. He was law; he was the law.
He hired and fired people as it fitted his imagination. It was sign of power. Financial power! He blustered and made big talk like Willy Loman, Arthur Miller’s tragic character in Death of a Salesman. But Loman was a mere salesman, low on the rung of things. Donald Trump was high up. He was big. He was and is a millionaire, a billionaire. He then topped it up with being President of the United States of America! That was big, very big. It was an icing on the cake of his rise to the top.
The real rise after years of blustering and pushing, came when he ventured into politics. Against all odds, he secured the presidential ticket of the GOP in 2015, clearly beating all the old elephants and foxes in the party. He ran as an outsider.
A man who would do things differently from the Washington establishment. He promoted an agenda that ran against the idyllic America the world had come to believe was the real America. If the Washington establishment distanced itself from racism and racist slurs, Trump sat right atop racist narratives and built his reputation on it.
He had no apologies for it! The vicious attack on the Obama presidency based on a patently false allegation that Obama, first African-America to win the American Presidency, was not an American, not born in America was enough to signpost his character.
For him, the Obama Presidency is not a part of history. It never happened. So, he set about dismantling everything that Obama did in health, foreign policy, the environment, and defence of the homeland. But the American world in the aftermath of the insult that was Obama presidency to White Supremacists tolerated his shenanigans.
The build up to Trump’s election into that exalted office removed character as a yardstick for electing the President. Philandering which blighted the otherwise brilliant career of Bill Clinton with an impeachment was no longer a factor. Trump groped women, insulted them and broke all moral rules. Yet, he beat an old hand, Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
There is a quote attributed to Trump way back in 1998 in People Magazine. ‘If I were to run’, he said,’ I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up.
I bet my numbers would be terrific’. Well, he sure had his hand right on the button many years before he ventured out. Once he won, he seized the GOP and stamped it with the filth that was his style. To be sure, he had powerful friends and his base remained loyal till the end. He made long-established Republicans look like chastised schoolboys who must eat lunch only on permission from the Imperial Headmaster. The only powerful voice that stood up against him in the party fell out with him.
Senator McCain left him out of the list of guests at his funeral. In the four years that Trump occupied the White House, an elephant was in the chinaware shop.
Yet, Trump is not to be dismissed as a non-starter. He may have fallen from the exalted seat of the presidency. But his followers, over seventy million Americans, are still active. They stand for what he represents. He represents what they stand for. They will not go away.
They will lick their wounds and bide their time against the next opportunity. Seventy million Americans believe Trumpism. The divisive rhetoric promoted through tweets and press interviews will remain in minds. Their injuries endure. America is bruised and divided.
The fall of Trump will not stop the division. It will exacerbate the tension in the land. Sadly, Trump has not helped matters by promoting a false narrative that the elections were rigged. He is a sore loser, a bad one, a poor sportsman. It is not in the convention of America for the President to humiliate the office in the twilight of his tenure.
Trump has fallen from power, from the highest office in the land, from the most powerful office in the world. It is not an easy thing. It requires a man of honour and dignity to graciously accept defeat. But Trump the elephant would rather pull down the house. Mary Trump’s assertion that her family has produced the most dangerous man in the world haunts all of us.
It is hoped that senior and clearheaded Republicans would in the days ahead persuade Trump to choose another course. Who knows? The Republicans could give him another chance in 2024 to fly the GOP flag. If that happens, then this nunc dimittis is premature.
I’m not a prophet; but it is safe for me to assert that Donald Trump has risen and fallen and that there are no indications that his brand of politics would be useful after four years. A lot depends on Biden and the kind of leadership that the Democrats will provide in the next four years! Adieu the Great ‘Agaba’ of the White House from 2016 to 2020! May we also have the courage and means to vote out all ‘Agabas’ who hold us hostage in our national life!
-Professor Eghagha writes from the University of Lagos