One of the five cardinal objectives of the United States foreign policy is ‘’promoting and supporting’’ democracy. The US has fought wars and spent billions of dollars ‘’promoting and supporting’’ its own genre of democracy in other countries – especially in the developing world. The country touted itself to be the emancipator of the world – against communism — during the Cold War. And after the containment of this ‘’threat’’, the US began an aggressive ‘’democracy proselytising’’.
Unlike, during the Cold War when the US pursued its containment policy by consorting with dictators, it sermonised and preached ‘’democracy’’ demonising some of the dictators it whisked to power at the end of the one-upmanship.
The US regards itself as the land of the free and the greatest democracy on the planet, but the rise of Donald Trump as accented the fact that democracy as evangelised by the US does not preclude a dictatorship. The ‘’rise and rise’’ of Trump has endorsed my thinking that democracy is just an ideal, and that tyranny can rise from the world’s greatest democracy.
Coming from a country, Nigeria, in the throes of tyranny itself, I believe I can identify all its lineaments in another country. The US has unravelled uncharacteristically under Trump. It has been a sustained plunge down the Orwellian hole for the US.
Really, Trump takes the semblance of the African strongman – lacking prodigiously in civility, decency, temperance, grit, but sufficiently endowed in crassitude and imperiousness. Whatever he does not understand he bullies his way through it, prevaricating. Trump is set in his ignorance and will even force it down critical throats with an insufferable aspect. He also assumes he is god coursing through a Valhalla of mortals. This is not the form of a president – but a dictator.
On Tuesday, Trump threatened to shut down social media platforms after Twitter put a fact-check label on some of his tweets.
Social media platforms have courted reproval regarding the lack of reins on individuals with large following who use the means to make unsubstantiated claims. Trump had tweeted that mail-in ballots were fraudulent. This was fact checked by Twitter — an action which peeved the US president.
Twitter put a warning on Trump’s tweet: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” and redirected users to news articles about the president’s unproven claim. In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump said social media was silencing the voices of conservatives, and that the platforms will be regulated or closed down before they totally silence conservatives.
”Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again,” he tweeted.
And true to his words, on Thursday, Trump signed an executive order to regulate social media companies. According to him, ‘’a small handful of social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States. They have had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter, virtually any form of communication between private citizens and large public audiences.’’
Naturally, this is what an African strongman will do. What is left is for Trump to ‘’shut down’’ social media as some African strongmen had done in their countries – like in Cameroon, Burundi, Sudan, etc.
On Thursday, the US president threatened violence on citizens protesting against the murder of George Floyd, an African-American, by a white policeman. And he called them thugs.
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he wrote on Twitter.
But his tweet was flagged for obviously baying for blood. The line: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” emanates from a white Miami police chief, Walter Headley who attacked black people in 1967 ahead of the Republican convention. This is the president of ‘’the land of the free and the greatest democracy in the world’’. What could be more farcical?
Really, with Trump, the US is just another country ruled by a strongman. The country has lost its bragging right in the league of democratic nations. It is a steep nose-dive. I must say, what is happening in the US has far reaching consequences for countries enduring dictatorship. America which was the blueprint of a well-governed society is now an example of how not to govern a people. Dictators in Africa will readily find their endorsement in Trump’s actions.
But can Americans salvage this wrecking ship in November, 2020? It is their die to cast. The world does not need more strong men.
*Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.