Why Trump is more ‘Kenyan’ than Obama
By Babere Chacha and John Wahome | December 10th 2020
By the year 2011, Donald Trump, who was then a media personality and businessman, had become the most visible proponent of the ‘birtherism’. Loaded with pejorative overtones, ‘birtherism’ was the sensational conspiracy theory that Barrack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore ineligible to serve as the President of the United States of America.
This xenophobic belief – which was soon to be elevated to near-ideology - found fertile traction with white Americans and especially far-right Republicans- and is credited by Obama himself in his memoir ‘A promised Land’ with kick-starting Trump’s surprisingly successful political career. Trump’s own presidential campaigns, which climaxed in the upset 2016 presidency, drew heavily from this false mantra.
One writer succinctly captures the dramatic success Trump had in leveraging the ‘birther’ propaganda, noting that as a first among many rumour-mongering equals, ‘’Trump proved best at tapping the vengeful and paranoid sentiments that were ready to erupt beneath the surface of American political life, riding them all the way to the White House’’.
During his unforgettable term in office, Trump overturned all the lofty norms associated with the hallowed POTUS office.
His circus-like litigious crusade against legitimate election results has hauled America’s vaunted democracy the closest it has ever come to a precipice. A natural bully, he did not have the relational sensitivities that previous presidents demonstrated in their international engagements. His initial handling of the countries once branded as the ‘Axis of Evil’, for example, demonstrated his lethal ignorance of the fact that America’s longstanding influence in the world owed more to its power of example rather than the example of its power. North Korea, Iran and Syria engagements for instance, were veritable fiascos.
As a direct consequence of Trump’s reign, the United States is right now experiencing unbelievable social fragmentation. Its mainstream political lexicon is for the first time in our lifetimes packed with expressions long reserved for developing nations – such as ‘election fraud’, ‘stolen elections’, ‘civil war’, ‘ballot-stuffed suitcases’ and ‘refusing to hand over power’.
It was indeed gasp-inducing to watch the state’s voting systems manager for Georgia, Gabriel Sterling calling out Trump over election violence threats. In a line that could have been plagiarised from Kenya’s own militant political arena, Sterling admonished Trump in stern words: “be the bigger man here, and stop, step in, tell your supporters, don’t be violent, don’t intimidate… someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get killed, and it’s not right.”
The contrasts between Donald Trump and Barrack Obama have been a subject of much discussion. One has been consistently highly scored as a rank outsider- a Black man with a Muslim name - who had to be extraordinarily gifted to outstrip default racial and religious prejudices and ascend to the exclusive sanctum of the most powerful Presidency in the world- not for one but two terms. His calm and congenial demeanor is hard to dislike. His gift of garb and literary flourish rank alongside those of America’s fabled founding fathers who authored the first constitution.
Obama has however received some criticism for taking the Democratic Party down the road of excessive liberalism. It was during his watch that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry, with him quipping for good measure that “today we have made our union a little more perfect.” Such utterances may not have been received with jubilation in Africa where old-fashioned religious orthodoxy still holds sway. Despite his quintessentially Kenyan first name and ancestry, Obama the president was arguably more American than most of his white compatriots. His mold is definitely not that of a Kenyan abroad!
Trump has also authored some best-sellers with the copious help of ghost-writers. His most famous book is ‘Trump: The Art of the Deal’ co-authored with Tony Schwartz (who later lamented that by casting the future president in a positive light, he had ‘put lipstick on a pig’). Trump’s true appeal and success seem to have had most effect among the diehard hordes who subscribe to the ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) brand, and who revel in his many racist dog-whistles which they correctly interpret as couched calls to revert to the ‘bliss’ of the America white supremacism.
Even for his blood relatives, it is a challenge – read niece Mary Trump’s book ‘Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man’ - to find anything to emulate in Trump’s irascible and greedy personal traits. He trashes, and crushes, all acceptable rules of human civility to a level long-perfected in his lifelong must-win rush - you guessed it right - by most Kenyan politicians.
A prodigious and cunning tweeter, Trump amassed a substantial and devoted core Republican following which delivered him over 73 million votes against winner Biden’s 80 million. The fact that now, weeks to handover, many of his bamboozled voters still hold a delusional belief that the election will still somehow be overturned in favour of their man is a testament of the surprising effectiveness of his ostentatious leadership style built on lies, hubris and malfeasance.
This creates fertile ground for a new conspiracy theory. Could any native-born American so efficiently invert democratic customs as Trump has done in four short years? Is it his ‘Kenyan’ genes that propelled Trump to cultivate America’s international stature decline with such elaborate deliberateness? Could Trump himself be secretly Kenyan-born? Why does he consistently play by the same rules-of-the game which we are used to in this country? It was Trump, during his political campaign rally for Georgia Repulican Senate candidates on Saturday last week, who made the quintessentially Kenyan allegation that ballots had been stuffed in suitcases by Democrats to steal the election!
Could it be that Trump’s ‘birther’ assault on Obama was a psychological projection calculated to divert attention from his own dubious and secret origin?
Maybe Kenyans should just bear with Trump’s irritating characterological foibles. Between him and Obama, Trump seems to be our true man in the American diaspora.
Dr Chacha and Dr John Wahome teach at Laikipia University, Kenya
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