As a student of world politics with bias for American and British politics, I have been drawn to the iconic American democratic brand for quite some time. A brand that has become enviable to all lovers of democracy and democratic rule for more two centuries. I, indeed, ended up teaching Advanced Level students American politics for three years.
And when I joined the journalism profession, my disposition and more than casual interest in American democracy and its great institutions became more profound that in less than five years in the media I won a fellowship course sponsored by the United States government, to visit the country and observe how the various democratic institutions work.
The itinerary of my three months visit included the Supreme Court, Congress (House of Representatives and Senate), Washington Post, The Assembly of the state of Maryland, visit to the office of the Sheriff in Annapolis, a visit to the biggest government office built by the former governor of New York, Rockefeller, at the Capitol in Albany, State Department, a month stint at the Times Union in Albany, New York, amongst others.
At the end of my short visit, it was not difficult to decipher why the American democratic system has become so enduring and why it kept reinventing itself despite the pitfalls of past decades. It was evident that no individual can be stronger than institutions; you could see why the country is governed by laws and why the rule of law is supreme. Yet, it was easy to see why the investigative work of two journalists at the Washington Post, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, led to the fall of the Richard Nixon presidency.
More importantly, there was checks and balances between the arms of government. The constitution defined the functions of the various institutions and makes it easier for there to be independence and interdependence. That was why the country became the envy of the world and after the Second World War, the U.S President emerged as the undisputed leader of the free world and the most powerful man on earth.
In truth, the American promise and opportunity became more pronounced in 2008 when a black man, Barack Obama, was elected as the United States President. The world and watchers of global events were electrified and the American democratic brand became more endearing to both friends and foes.
The emergence of Obama validates the fact that the proverbial American dream was not a fluke. That it was indeed alive and has again been animated by what was before now seen as an impossible feat. However, with the emergence of Donald Trump the America’s democratic experiment has been facing its biggest challenge since the founding fathers assembled in Philadelphia in 1776 to write what has become the most notable working document in modern history.
No modern American president has debased democratic institutions as the current occupant of the White House has done; Trump has defied all conventional norms and practices in both his actions and utterances; the system of checks and balances put in place has been under repeated threat since Trump took over and it would only get worse if he is given the opportunity of another four years. That is why pundits are saying democracy and American values are under threat.
The world is watching as the supposedly symbol of democracy has been casting aspersions on the credibility of the democratic process; Trump has through his utterances been diving the country along race and religion and in his attempt to galvanize his base, been using incendiary words and rhetoric to describe his opponents and the media.
This is perhaps the first time in living memory that you have a divider in chief as the occupant of the Oval office. Trump is less bothered about the consequences of his words and actions and how they affect the democratic process, he’s more concerned about his reelection. The irony of the American system is how could such a morally bankrupt individual still be competitive in a presidential race? It would have been unthinkable for such a candidate to still be in the race in other western democratic countries.
Hence, as the attention of the world is again focused on the United States and voters go to the polls tomorrow, to elect the next president, it is the wish of this writer for the electorate to dump Trump for his Democratic challenger, former Vice President, Joe Biden. This is the most important election in a generation and many things are at stake. From climate change to Health Care; from foreign policy to taxes; from abortion to pro-life; from appointing conservative judges to reforming the Supreme Court and so on.
Biden was right when he said the soul of America is on the ballot in this election, which then presupposes that the world and America will be a better place without this autocratic, erratic and demagogic leader. The world needs an American president who is stable, decent, morally upright, honest and a good man who is not an enemy of truth. A man who, from the word go, will be ready to provide leadership for the many challenges facing the world.
As the Economist rightly noted last week while endorsing Biden for the plum job: “America faces a fateful choice. At stake is the nature of its democracy. One path leads to a fractious, personalized rule, dominated by a head of state who scorns decency and truth. The other leads to something better-something truer to the values that originally made America an inspiration around the world.”
Therefore, to save democracy, free speech, a world that takes climate change seriously, then Trump should be voted out. Biden might not be the messiah but we can be sure of a steady man at the White House and the world will be a better place. America, the choice is yours!
Aruna, a journalist, is based in Lagos, Nigeria.