Thought provoking lessons from the US presidential election

grace

I have been trying to process all that just happened on Tuesday, November 8th and Wednesday, November 9th.

I often said it wasn’t impossible for Trump to be elected, especially ‘cos we’re dealing with a nation that gave G. Dubya a second term, but I didn’t expect myself to be this shocked.

I am. Well, the deal is done and we must all wince, force a smile and figure out what we can learn from this bizarre event, and pray for the best.

Bizarre to some, yes, but once you start picking at the context, it gets clearer how this could have happened.

I have decided to look at how this can help us draw lessons in our own local, Ghanaian context, especially with elections looming and being caught up in some murky pre-election court battles.

So … what can we learn from America? A lot.

1. CYNICISM/APATHY WHICH BECOME EVIDENT IN LOW VOTER TURNOUT SHOULD NOT BE AN OPTION.

If you want to retain or change the incumbent, get out there and vote. In my Leadership class, we discussed the danger of sitting too long on the fence. One day, that fence will break, and in the American election, the fence surely broke.

In July this year, I met Americans who were too cynical and caught up in Trump’s vendetta against Clinton that they were convinced she was no better, and so decided not to vote. I certainly hope that those people are not protesting the outcomes, given that they CHOSE to neglect their civic responsibility (regardless of whom they would have voted for).

We fail to realize that whether we vote or not, there WILL be an election, and somebody, whether we like the person or not, will be given the mandate to make decisions that affect us for good or for ill. If that’s the case, then sitting back is not an option… at least, go and elect the lesser of the 2 ‘evils’.

Yes, some may want to abstain on the grounds of conscience and principles – that they can’t elect someone they don’t believe in. … understood, but do remember that if you create a vacuum, another person, some ghost voters, stolen ballot sheets, foreign extracts and other undesirable elements will fill it.

I would daresay that there will be some anomalies, as we find in every election, and so we have to use the numbers we have well – get actively involved so that the “anomalies” are not exploited by any entity, whether regulatory or otherwise. Vacuums can be filled. Leave no vacuum.

2. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT STOKE TRIBAL FIRES.

There have been images of some misguided, pro-Trump Americans displaying the confederate flag and swastikas, and there are a few equally-misguided Americans on the streets calling for mayhem with #NotMyPresident signs … they are all making their points. In this US campaign, we saw the stoking of racial and other fires.

We have few people to ‘thank’ for this, especially the President-elect. Trump’s past association with shady characters and organizations have certainly not helped. His blatantly skewed claims and dirty politicking got him where he is today. I pray that he can enjoy his ‘reign’ in peace, while my heart bleeds for the world that must ‘endure’ him. For those of us in Ogyakrom, charley, we can’t take chances at all oh.

We hear politicians telling people to vote for a Northerner because the Southerners have had their turn, and more… ermm… what of competence, track record, potential etc? … We should just vote for people of our tribe? Even if they’re crooks? Or idiots? Or thieves? or… whatever. You get the point.

What must we do then? WE THE PEOPLE must reject the nonsense they spew, knowing that we are just being used as pawns, and in the event that there is chaos, these politicians will disappear and leave us in the dust.

Race, ethnicity, tribal issues are all so hypersensitive, and we need to find a fine balance between speaking openly about it and exploiting it for political gain. … let me digress for a bit.

I recently read a neat article on political correctness in classroom discussions, and I think political correctness can be easily overrated. In fact, it IS overrated.

Yes, I said it. If we don’t encourage open conversation and disagreement, we silence some people, then we all tiptoe around issues and stop being real, and then end up covering issues up, being fake, and the stress and tension of that starts gathering beneath the surface, some people with dissenting voices lose their voices and then we end up with an artificial peace, while animosity and acrimony festers beneath the surface, only to erupt in ways we could not have predicted.

I am all for showing mutual respect, and I value the truth. I guess the most important thing is to train people on how to dish out and receive the truth constructively, so we can have open, honest conversations.

Back to the topic… do NOT stoke sensitive fires, because when the flames start roaring, it’ll be too late to fix things. Some people are callous, reckless and are willing to do anything to have their way – to retain power or secure power. Let’s be very, very careful.

3. LISTEN TO THE INVISIBLES AND TO THE SILENCE!

The invisible Americans won this election. The working class poor of all colors, who have been neglected or sacrificed on the altars of political correctness and shared guilt decided that they had been left behind, and so had found a champion who was bold enough to speak not necessarily for them, but against people they saw/see as enemies. This surprise factor could show up in other contexts as well.

While the cynics and apathetics decide to stay home and sulk rather than go and vote, these masses will turn up, and that will make the difference. The suffering in Ghana has caused some demographic groups to tune out of the goings-on because they are hyper-frustrated. Well, we cannot ignore them. Elections are won ‘on the ground’ – not just via social media, literary platforms, and plush convenings. On THE GROUND! When the lying thieves and scoundrels have robbed the nation blind, there’ll be nothing else for them to do but show their ‘power.’ This brings me to another issue.

Listen! Listen! Listen! There are many marginalized groups, who have felt the pain of living in our contemporary ‘wahalacious’ circumstances. Who is talking to them? Those who peddle lies and false promises on all sides of the political divide? Nobody? … perhaps we should not be shocked if they speak up. … assuming that someone is talking to them and more importantly, listening to them.

4. WE NEED INSTITUTIONS WE CAN TRUST. TRUST. THAT’S THE KEYWORD.

Donald Trump questioning the electoral system was unconscionable to many Americans. In fact, his gross disrespect of due process (he’ll (ab)use his executive power to throw an opponent in jail, and his stark ignorance about governance was mortifying.

However, the difference here is that while he could ‘touch’ people in the ‘establishment’ everyone was taken aback at his assertions of a rigged election.

In a post-hanging-chads world, we can presume that no electoral system is perfect, but there is an extent to which we perceive transparency and accuracy. Can we say that of our institutions in Ghana? of the Electoral Commission? What is the level of public trust in our government institutions? … the Afrobarometer research will give us insights on the rapid depletion of trust in government over the last few years… When the people feel the institutions do not have their best interest at heart, or there is no transparency, they take matters into their own hands. In this election season, CERTAIN KEY INSTITUTIONS (the EC, Ghana Police and all our security agencies) NEED TO BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT ENSURING PEACE AND ASSURING THE PUBLIC that they will do their work without fear or favor, and will keep the best interest of GHANA at the forefront of their minds and work to ensure that Ghana is the winner in the fairest and most accurate election they can oversee. Keyword here is INTENTIONAL and I guess it’s prudent to add ‘CONSISTENCY’ in the work they do.

5. We need all aspirants to PUT GHANA FIRST before, during and after the election.

Putting Ghana first must necessarily result in a commensurate posture, Attitude, Behavior, Communication, and Decisions. We need aspirants who will be quick to clamp down on their OWN supporters when they misbehave and even hand them over to the relevant authorities. No shielding of anyone. This requires some serious commitment from the aspirants, who need to be circumspect in their comments and not exaggerate, as I heard one of them do on Citi 97.3 fm this morning.

Okay. So… here’s what the American election did for me – I had been dangling between two options when it comes to voting…. It snapped me out of the pendulum box and made me realize that (1), we cannot take it for granted that we will go in to vote, and it will be a simple one-round contest.

Everything points to such desperation to stay in power (when former ministers beg for their party to be retained so they are not prosecuted), and the use of tribal vitriol etc. is on the ascendancy, then I know it would be dangerous for this nation to push the election into a 2nd round. IDEALLY, THIS IS THE TIME FOR ALL… ALL, ALL OPPOSITION PARTIES TO CONSOLIDATE THEIR AGENDAS AND PRESENT A BLOC THAT MAKES IT PAINFULLY DIFFICULT AND NEAR IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE INCUMBENTS TO STAY IN OFFICE. A united front is the most powerful response to the mess we’ve experienced as a nation thus far. Can we still hope for this? Hmm…. Make we no take dis election play oh. No point going in as whatever number of separate parties. Band together … get your followers to recognize the urgency and need to do so… that’s your surest way of not dissipating votes into vapor that will rise and disappear quickly, while your incumbent opponents sit and point and laugh at you, enjoying their loot.

Anyway, post-Trump, all I know is that God is sovereign. He can throw curveballs, and we can never tell what’s coming around the corner. Bizarre. Bizarre. Bizarre, but … Isaiah 55 says we simply can’t put God in a box. Well, as we say… when your neighbor’s beard catches fire, find water to put next to your own beard.

 

By: Ogya Esi