Hate speech and dirty politics can sometimes win elections even in advanced democracies. That is the voice coming out of Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton in the United States (US).
In Malawi, we are used to dirty politics. During his dictatorial second term, Bingu wa Mutharika called his opponents ‘chickens’. Before him, Muluzi called his ministers ‘madeya’. When Muluzi was queried about a promise during campaign to buy shoes for poor citizens, he joked: “Anthu openga inu mwapanga bwanji”. I grew up believing that its only Malawian politicians who use foul language. This idea was reinforced by my political science lecturers who painted a rosy picture of Western institutions and its politicians, mocking Malawian politicians and its structures. I thought the whole Africa is a collection of countries with rotten politicians lacking in ideologies.
However, the 2016 US presidential campaign has changed all that. The half-truths, hate language, insults, violence, racism and deceit have been abundant. During the debates, I was puzzled watching Clinton and Trump struggling like pupils fighting over a desk to sit on. These are the same people we believed to be decent and civilised.
Contrary to popular belief, the US campaign trail was riddled with uncovering past and private affairs of the presidential candidates and exposing them and very little about ideologies.
From nowhere a Trump recording of a decade ago talking bad of women materialised and the immigration-legal status of his wife was questioned. Hillary Clinton husband’s sex incidents when he was the US president and her e-mail scandals all became the tool of campaign for the other camp. All of which had little relevance to becoming the next president. Yet, this is the country that boasts of freedoms and rights, one of which is right to privacy.
I wonder if such scrutiny of private life would have happened to our politicians whether we would even have a president. Stories of illegimate children and numerous concubines would surface. Surely, some of our politicians who grabbed other people’s husbands or wives would be shamed beyond redemption.
But our politicians are lucky. Malawians really do not care much about their private life. What matters is whether they are from the Northern, Central or Southern Region and to which party they belong to.
The surprise of all to the 2016 US presidential election is the spread of Trumpism with its hate language and violence associated with it. At one time Trump had called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, and promised to build a wall along US-Mexico border to keep them away. He also said he would deport millions of Latino immigrants; and ban Muslim immigrants, and even kill the families of Islamic terrorists. He had no kind words for black Americans either. They have to be deported back to Africa.
Although, Western commentators have argued that Trump ideas are confined to few people. But the fact that he became the presidential candidate for the Republican Party, let alone win the elections shows the popularity of his ideas. His ideas have resonated not only with white Americans only but with most of the European countries as well as witnessed by the rise of extreme right wing political parties.
Politicians everywhere whether black, white, Arabs or Asians have only one aim in their mind: to gain power. They would use any dirty trick in the book just to get that power, and dislodge the current if possible. And they care less the impact their actions leave behind. People’s welfare is a distant objective to them. The idea that Western countries play their politics clean is an illusion that has to be erased from our mind. With Trump as the president of USA the world is entering into unchartered and uncertain period. n