Monday, July 15

Donald J. Trump is at the centre of a criminal hush money trial. A trial that revolves around payments made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with him. The central issue is not the payments themselves but how they were recorded in financial documents and whether they were intended to influence the 2016 election outcome.

This significant trial marks the first time a U.S. president has faced such charges. As a typical African, I am as equally gripped as America by the courtroom drama.  A performance that continues to unfold like a Hollywood screenplay, a sex scandal, a porn star, a cast of colourful characters and the convicted criminal Michael Cohen.  But unlike every American, I don’t have a dog in this fight. My intrigue is the sheer media maelstrom of the highly intense political thriller keeping American voters at the edge of their seats. Will Trump be sentenced to prison, or are we witnessing the prelude to a fiery election come November?

American Made

Donald Trump has loomed large in the American consciousness for decades. His rise to prominence, from real estate mogul to reality TV star to the White House, is a testament to the enduring power of the American dream. Yet Trump’s journey also embodies the darker aspects of American society—aspects I have only been exposed to through America’s cinematography and literature. I therefore declare that Trump is a mirror held up to America, reflecting its highest ambitions and profound flaws.

To fully comprehend Trump, I will delve into three core American traits that have shaped his persona and fueled his public appeal.

I. The American Dream Entrepreneurial Spirit and Self-Promotion – The Good

You have to be a new born not to have heard of the American Dream. At the heart of that American myth lies the idea of the self-made man—the daring entrepreneur who, through sheer grit, determination, and a little luck, can rise from humble beginnings to the heights of success.

From his early days as a brash young real estate mogul to his later reinvention as a reality TV star and personal branding guru. Trump is the personification of the American Dream.

The power of self-promotion

In Donald Trump’s world, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Throughout his career, Trump has proven this adage. He consistently keeps himself at the centre of the national conversation through high-profile feuds, inflammatory statements, and Twitter controversies.

Trump’s business empire spans around 250 affiliates and subsidiaries using the Trump name. He amassed an estimated net worth of $7.4 billion by leveraging media attention. His cameo in the blockbuster movie Home Alone 2 exemplifies his knack for self-promotion, turning a brief appearance into an unforgettable moment.

II. Populist Appeal and Anti-Establishment Sentiment – The Bad

Throughout American history, populist movements have risen from discontent, tapping into the frustrations of those left behind by progress. With his slogan “Make America Great Again” and promise to “drain the swamp,” Trump positioned himself as the outsider champion of the common man against the elites. His Reagan-esque charm was born out of understanding his base’s anxieties.

Connecting with the disaffected base

Trump’s connection with his base was forged through controversy and divisive rhetoric. From provocative statements about immigrants to attacks on the media and political establishment, Trump tapped into the ugly underbelly of American populism.

Trump’s 2016 election victory was propelled by the support of 62 million Americans, many of whom felt alienated by the establishment.

III. Polarization and Division – The Ugly

The American story has been constantly tense and conflicting since the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.  Trump’s inflammatory statements and divisive policies reflected and exacerbated these enduring tensions.

Reflecting and exacerbating divisions in American society

Trump’s political success mirrors the deep divisions that plague American society. His ability to thrive in a polarised environment, using race, culture, and ideology as political weapons, speaks to his mastery of manipulation.

Although Trump’s supporters view him as a champion of conservative values, his critics argue that his rhetoric and actions have often been detrimental to social progress. Some see his presidency as a setback for efforts to address systemic racism, promote gender equality, and protect marginalised communities.

As if to prove that, the January 6th, 2021 events exemplify the division that characterised his presidency. A Trump-led rally devolved into a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol, an unparalleled assault on American democracy. Trump’s words, which included allegations of election fraud and calls to action, were viewed as a spark for the mayhem that followed. This date will be etched in history as a climax of the polarisation that marked Trump’s tenure.

The populist appeal and deep divisions in the United States

Imagine a movie theatre where half the audience loves the film, and the other half hates it – that’s how divided America was during Donald Trump’s presidency. The gap in approval ratings between Republicans and Democrats was a record-breaking 82 points. This means most Republicans cheered for Trump while most Democrats booed. This polarisation made it challenging for the country to find common ground and move forward together, like trying to mix oil and water.

But think like this: Trump’s support base is diverse, and their reasons for backing him are multifaceted. Some supporters appreciated his focus on American manufacturing and promise to bring back jobs to America. Others resonated with his stance on immigration and commitment to national security. One Trump supporter, a small business owner from the Midwest, explained, “I felt like Trump was the only candidate who truly understood the struggles of everyday Americans. He promised to put America first and fight for this country’s forgotten men and women.”

International Implications of Trump’s Presidency

On the international front, it was no different. Trump’s “America First” policy led to the U.S. withdrawing from several international agreements. This impacted global politics and contributed to a shift towards nationalism in other countries. His use of Twitter revolutionised the communication protocols of the leader of the free world, allowing him to bypass traditional media channels and directly engage with the public.

Some saw Trump’s unconventional approach to foreign policy, including his direct engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as a bold departure from traditional diplomacy. In contrast, others criticised it as erratic and potentially destabilising. Although appealing to some, his “America First” philosophy was viewed as a retreat from global leadership and a source of strain on long-standing alliances.

Supporters argued that Trump’s “America First” policy prioritised American interests and economic independence. A Trump supporter and foreign policy expert noted, “Trump’s foreign policy was about renegotiating the terms of America’s engagement, believing that the U.S. had been taken advantage of in trade deals and alliances, and seeking to correct those imbalances.”

Tigers Roar

As we’ve seen, Donald Trump’s rise to power has profoundly impacted American society. However, his influence extends far beyond the borders of the United States. To understand the global perspective on Trump, let’s turn our attention to the voices of non-American admirers.

On the night CNN projected Trump’s Iowa Caucus win, my 92-year-old grandfather reclined on the sofa and mumbled, unapologetic, “It’s about time great America has a man to lead it.”

1. Populist Style

My grandfather, like millions of people worldwide, feels disenfranchised by their political establishment. Trump’s ability to tap into the discontent of the “forgotten” many has garnered him a global following. From the streets of Mumbai to the pubs of Accra, Trump’s name has become synonymous with a new era of political disruption where marginalised voices are finally heard.

2. Media Mastery

Donald Trump has mastered the media landscape in the era of 24/7 news cycles. One of my in-laws, 21-year-old Nana Yaa, is illuminated whenever she explains that a single tweet from Trump can set the agenda for days, leaving opponents scrambling. His media savvy has allowed him to bypass traditional gatekeepers, communicate directly with supporters, and become a global phenomenon.

3. Leadership Style

In a meeting, when he referred to African nations as “shithole countries. The world was perplexed. However, many ordinary Africans were confused about the uproar when Trump stated controversial facts. Have you experienced what some African leaders have turned their countries into? ‘Shithole’ in most cases is an underestimate.

Yet despite the controversy, Trump enjoys African admiration – 58% of Nigerians expressed confidence in him (Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2017).

Is Trump racist? I don’t know but can you pinpoint which of the Western leaders is NOT?

The truth is we Africans prefer the devil that comes with his horns in glare view to many of these Western leaders who sing open praises to our Narcoqueens and Godfathers, aka corrupt political elites, while they loot us together.

Therefore, Donald Trump’s assertive leadership style and direct communication have been refreshing for many in a world often characterised by political correctness and carefully crafted statements of deception.

Many non-American Trump admirers I have encountered see his unfiltered and controversial remarks as authentic and robust, contrasting with career politicians and their scripted lies. Trump’s willingness to speak his mind and challenge the status quo has earned him a devoted following abroad.

A chink in the armour

His presidency saw several successes, such as the passage of tax reforms that lowered the corporate tax rate and aimed to stimulate economic growth. His administration also brokered peace agreements in the Middle East, which were viewed positively by many.

In conclusion, Donald Trump emerges as a quintessentially American invention—a figure who embodies the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trump has become a symbol of the complexities and contradictions of the American dream. His rise to power reveals the enduring appeal of the self-made man, the power of populist rhetoric, and the deep divisions that plague American society.

As the criminal hush money trial unfolds, it serves as a stark reminder of the darker aspects of Trump’s legacy. As an African, I admire America’s fight to hold those in power accountable in the ongoing struggle to uphold justice and equality. Ultimately, the story of Donald Trump is the story of America itself—a nation grappling with its own identity, hopes and fears, triumphs and failures. As the world watches this latest chapter in the Trump saga, it is a reminder that the American invention, Trump, is both a product and a reflection of the country that created him.

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