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‘If democracy were a poison, many are excited to see America swallow it’: The view from Kenya

Uncle Sam's bitter pill © Glez

The election that pits Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump is not only dirty, it is perverse and pregnant with uncanny irony. Opinion is divided on what it means for Africa – A warlike Clinton government? A racist Trump regime? – but there is a consensus that it has exposed the rotten underbelly of American society. Like Britons who voted Brexit largely because of prejudice against the ‘other’, Americans too are mainstreaming hate and prejudice as an ideology of power.

And they are callously ethnic, perhaps even more so than us. Just listen to the rhetoric. It’s “pitchforks and torches time”, according to conservative Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, who previously called the #BlackLivesMatter crowd “the enemy”. But there’s a positive side to this upheaval. America may be awakening to itself. People can see its endemic corrosion. At the very least, having some self-awareness is better than not having any.

Each time I have woken up to watch the presidential debates, I have been disappointed. Not because of Trump – he is mad. His mental illness has been left untreated. His diehard supporters will maintain their support to the end. I am disappointed because of this idea that it is the poor and disadvantaged who have backed Trump’s message. It is as if he is only picking up the angry, impoverished vote and that this somehow validates his ideas through the sanctity of poverty. This is nonsense. You know that actually on average his supporters are fairly well-off, especially compared with those of failed Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Lower in educational attainment perhaps… but well-off.

So these economic arguments are for the birds. It’s about values. As Trump battles his many hungers like a rhino in riot gear, I am tempted to send the Republican grandees a copy of Ahmadou Kourouma’s satirical novel Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote. This is the story of Koyaga, the president of fictional Gulf Coast in West Africa, who through violence, treachery and sorcery destroys his country and starts to believe in his own infallibility. A master of the absurd and a slave of the occult, Koyaga rides wave upon wave of crisis and crushes real and imagined enemies by pulling off the most macabre of stunts, including chopping off the genitals of opponents and stuffing them into their mouths, ostensibly to ward off evil spirits. Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote would be a great read for Republicans, not least because Koyaga epitomises the leadership deficit that’s the bane of the world today. His ideology is also not unlike Trump’s.

Read the rest of this article on The Africa Report, a publication of Groupe Jeune Afrique

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