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It would be a mistake to expect too much from the US, r...

Defend Truth


It would be a mistake to expect too much from the US, regardless of who is in the Oval Office


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

Donald Trump may represent the worst of the American empire. But for South Africans, it’s much of a muchness as to who wins the elections because ideologically, there is little difference between the Democrats and Republicans.

Only Donald Trump can get the whole world in a frenzy as it pertains to the general elections currently taking place in the US. We recall the alleged Russian involvement in the manipulation of the votes in 2016, how the pollsters got it completely wrong and how a chauvinist, misogynist dinosaur from a bygone era got elected as the most powerful president in the world. And boy, did he show us the middle finger. “Make America Great Again” remains the slogan of the Trump campaign this time around and that is his singular mission for the American people. How?

Well, first, you apply some business acumen or put another way, you cut back, rightsize and ensure savings at every corner so you may post positive results in the short term. How did he do that?. Well, he withdrew from the Paris climate accord, on the one hand, to get out of the stringent commitments which would have a negative effect on some of the businesses and workers in the US. But also because the US was expected to put huge sums of money towards such a deal. Trump wasn’t prepared to part with the money and wanted to put it to good use back home.

The withdrawal of funding for the World Health Organisation is another example. Basically, Trump is asking why should the US be the major funder for most of these global initiatives and multilateral institutions at the expense of his own people back home?

Again, with the proposal of the so-called wall to be built between the US and Mexico, it was about protecting the jobs of ordinary Americans. To hell with the North American Free Trade Agreement, it’s again about renegotiating the terms and to save money for some industries in the US.

Interestingly, Trump is also the only US president who has not sent troops out of America in his first term. No boots on the ground anywhere, if memory serves me right. That must count for something, his supporters are saying. Again, wars and conflicts cost money.

Second, Trump is true to his word as far as some Americans are concerned. He said he would put tax money back in the hands of the super-rich and the upper-middle class, and he did this through massive tax cuts and tax reliefs. They love him for it. With all his racist warts and all. Similarly, most big businesses benefited from Trump’s tax relief.

Now, the question that is uppermost on our minds as South Africans is, what is to us which candidate wins, does it matter? Well, some may argue that a Biden win – since he has historically been anti-apartheid – may indeed stand us in good stead. A Trump victory may be more of the same, meaning, in his first term in office, Africa in general and South Africa, in particular, was not even on his administration’s radar at all.

However, it’s really much of a muchness who wins because ideologically, there exists very little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. They are cut from the same cloth.

A cursory look at former President Barack Obama’s chequered two terms will indicate that expecting too much from the US, regardless of who is in the Oval Office, would be a mistake. Under his leadership, Libya was bombed back to the Stone Age and regime change was installed there, with the murder of its leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi.  

The war in Syria continued unabated with hundreds of thousands losing their lives – women and children included. The continuous bombing by means of unmanned drones was at a record high, unlike many presidents before him.

And the pressure he placed on South Africa in the negotiations to renew our bilateral trade agreement, Agoa, also spoke volumes.

As Dr Cornel West remarked, “the magical powers of Trump, if we can just get rid of Trump, we can get back to business as usual and we are in good shape, now all you all get off the crack pipe”.

“He represents the worst of the American empire. The misogyny, the white supremacy, the hatred or at least the devaluation of the immigrant, the connection to big money, the connection to big military, he talks about the working class but has no connection with them whatsoever. There’s a long tradition of that in the US, he just happens to be the sign and the symptom of what is taking place today in terms of the spiritual blackout in our imperial meltdown.”

And it is this “imperial meltdown” that makes Trump pit the US against China as well. The old foe, Russia, is no longer a credible threat to US hegemony, but the awakening of the dragon in the east, China, is – and hence they must be undermined, intimidated and vilified at every turn. The trade war between these two countries is indicative of such power plays.

The jostling to broker a peace deal with North Korea, the disputes in the South China Sea and other territories are all indicative of this imperial meltdown. Blaming China for the coronavirus and refusing to allow 5G technology into the US market including putting pressure on their European partners to follow suit, all tells us that Trump knows exactly why he is taking on the Chinese. Left unchecked, according to Trump, I’m sure China will overtake the US pretty soon. What Trump and his cohorts haven’t realised yet, is that this is already an inevitable reality.

As for this election, Trump is doing what Trump does best, playing the populism card, meaning, he tells you exactly what you want to hear. We observe this best in some of the swing states going into this election.

In Pennsylvania, the question of fracking and oil-related jobs is high in the minds of the ordinary worker, and though Pennsylvania is Joe Biden’s home state, he is not convincing them that he stands for them in this regard. After all, to preserve such outdated air polluting jobs, one cannot be talking about having too much concern for the environment and climate change matters, which is what Biden advocates for. On such issues, Trump doesn’t give a hoot.

Similarly, in Florida (29 electoral votes) Trump has endeared himself there by doing two things in the main: one, because of the huge number of Jewish communities in that state, Trump has backed the conservative Israeli government of Netanyahu to the hilt, going so far as declaring the disputed Jerusalem the capital of Israel and physically moving the US embassy to that city. The construction of it is underway as we speak. He also endorsed a very problematic plan that will see the Palestinians losing even more of their birthright land in that part of the world, which will ensure more illegal Jewish settlements being built. Two, the large number of Cuban immigrants who are anti-Castro/Raul’s regime also bodes well for Trump since he practically reversed Obama’s soft stance on the island.

So if you ask me to call the elections, as I did in 2016, I think that we probably won’t see a repeat of “the Bradley effect” this time around. However, having said that, the numbers are too close to call it. What we can rest assured of is that there will be violence following this election and there will be legal disputes in various states throughout the country. And though most people globally are looking to Biden/Harris taking this election and with it the White House, I’m a bit more reticent given the undecided voters in many of the states.

So, let’s see if America agrees to be great again or not. DM




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All Comments 3

  • A cogent analysis, which failed to mention how Trump has given the ICC in the Hague, his middle finger also, via pompous Pompeo. Meaning… America is not and will not be accountable to any organization which it does nor or cannot control !

  • If the majority want a pigheaded dumbo as Prez then they deserve him and America will never be great again. Neither was Zim, Tanzania, DRC, Uganda, and any member of states who chose to be defined by brain dead pig heads. Get with the programme. US demise is SA’s advantage.

  • Maybe it has changed in rural America , if it happens in another state , it could be on another planet !
    Has no one seen how bad their knowledge of geography is ?
    Same as here , you get the govt. the masses vote for (in general) .
    Even as you say , there is little to choose from ! And really not affect us !
    What I am concerned about is the comments about China !
    It is them that has 17 ‘border disputes ‘ at the moment !
    Ignoring declarations on the SCS , the PLA is militarizing it !
    China /CCP is to blame for the virus !
    The USA is not blithely banning 5G as you seem to infer !
    They are quite aware that all Chinese companies owe allegiance to the CCP .
    Why hand over your Telecoms to a country that wants do bring you down !
    Lest we forget , the CCP is still playing ‘the long game ‘ , the end of which is the world run by the CCP !
    In their manifesto !
    Until and unless the USA and the rest of the world take a stand against Chinese imperialism .
    The CCP will continue to bully those they feel are inferior !
    As for funding the WHO , the USA was the major donor , only to see it bow to the CCP on the virus and still does !

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