The coup by Donald Trump is a momentous moment in modern US political history. His alarming statements and tactics did little to dissuade voters from siding with him. He was the radical alternative who appears to have tapped into perceived grievances and disenfranchisement amongst mainly the white American population. There are some grievances it appears that have validity. However, as far as we know the rust belt has never been carpet bombed or invaded by foreign armies causing the destruction of infrastructure or the deaths of thousands of its citizens.
Minorities were treated as politically expendable commodities, giving credence to racist sentiments and empowering white supremacists views. Trump’s campaign featured showmanship with sporadic emotional outbursts and unapologetic language. The naked racism and misogyny was shocking and deliberate. This is the next leader of the free world and the exemplar model that the uncivilised must aspire to.
Whilst there are many who assert that it is the military industrial complex and not the President that runs the United States, the office of President carries with it the legitimacy of a democratic elected official. He may provide a cover for the policies of the real power brokers, but on this occasion the façade has been obliterated in spectacular fashion by a billionaire celebrity who epitomises the American dream, from tall buildings, immense riches to the glamour of beauty pageants.
His election rode on the back of hate against Muslims in particular and will embolden Islamophobes around the world to mirror his ability to tap into the visceral hatred of a civilisation. Other countries have a template to emulate and replicate electoral success with overt discrimination and abuse of Muslims. The War on Terror can only be taken to a higher level in the form of aggressive foreign policy and invasive Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programmes.
It is not surprising that Trump won. The War on Terror has strong racist underpinnings (nobody can deny the racial hatred that inspired the torture at Abu Ghraib, or Guantanamo Bay). It seeks to maintain a ‘white’ Western dominance over the world. Trump dovetailed latent white supremacy with the Islamophobia of the War on Terror to produce a rhetoric that appealed to the fearful ‘white’ masses, and he used this hatred to win.
Joseph P. Overton opined that there was a window of discourse that represents the ideas acceptable to the public. Politicians of the fringes especially, attempt to shift the the discourse to popularise their views and realign the ‘Overton window’. Trump has taken a sledgehammer to this window, through the harnessing of fear and anger amongst white voters, and has completely reshaped the political landscape. The media and so-called think tanks have shaped the public mood in relation to immigration and minorities, which is evidenced by a sharp increase in racial attacks and racist rhetoric. Fox News and others have campaigned relentlessly to poison public discourse on these issues and Trump exploited the fear mongering to win power. He offered simplistic solutions that will unleash a sustained war of terror against those seen as a threat to white supremacy.
The personification of the US government
Trump was not born out of a vacuum. The state itself has entrenched structural racism through discriminatory policies towards minorities, especially the most vulnerable groups.
Successive US administrations have tolerated discrimination against minorities, thorough stop and frisk, alarming rates of incarceration and more recently CVE programmes. All have acted with impunity across the globe, culminating in a Presidential kill list of its own citizens. Obama was successful only in rhetoric and witnessed an increase of racial unease, unprecedented since the civil rights movement in the middle of last century.
A vote for Trump is therefore not as anti-establishment as is claimed. Trump will no doubt impact the perception of America, one that has been polished by years of Hollywood and slick propaganda, but for victims of its wars, police brutality and islamophobic CVE policies it will undoubtedly be, business as usual.
His rise to power is a result of the failure to defend the Rule of Law and the complicity of the media, academia and judiciary in allowing injustice at home and abroad. And the truth remains that only once we can come to terms with the reality and recognise our roles in what has occurred, can we then begin to remedy it.
For now, however, the election confirmed the close co-operation that exists between white racists not only in the US but around the world: a co-operation that signifies an unwritten acknowledgement of multiple ‘white’ Hollywood lies: that black people are either comical or criminals, Muslims are a threat that need to be dealt with in any manner possible, Hispanic people should be corralled like cattle, and women are exploitable. This close co-operation has devastating consequences for global unity and societal advancement.
A call to activism
There could be increased legislation against Muslims and a definite increase in militarisation at home and abroad. The mind-set of the War on Terror will now bring the values of the war home and to others besides Muslims: targets will be Black Lives Matter activists, even more Muslim civil society groups, and environmental activists.
Such likelihoods are a call to activism and an urgent sign that we must reach out to each other across affiliated organisations and communities. A straight-talking US President should embolden us to talk straight too. Now is the time for civil society to connect with the mainstream. No more dithering – we need clarity, simplicity and honesty above all.
Organisations like CAGE have continuously highlighted the dangers of an ever expanding military and surveillance system, the development of a dual legal system for Muslims and the disastrous impact of foreign interventions and drone warfare. This is without delving into the graphic details of the CIA torture programme, some of which Trump has said he will bring back. We have highlighted the dangers of these policies to all of society and not just Muslims.
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Now is the moment for all those concerned with justice to stand together in unity and continue to speak out against oppression, discrimination and militarisation. We must continue to seek alternatives rooted in justice for all, and dismantle the system of white supremacy that Trump represents. We must reject hate and embrace tolerance so that we can create a world that is shaped by the values of fairness and justice. Those who have failed to stand now must ask who are the extremists – those who seek accountability through words and dialogue or those who hold the levers to weapons of mass destruction. The time of truth is upon us and we call on all fair-minded folk to reject the politics of fear and be robust in defending the fundamental rights of all.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)