US Presidential Elections-01

American voters racing towards controversial elections

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US Presidential Elections-01The self-professed image constructed by the US of itself as a global leader stands tarnished beyond recognition as the devastation caused by the coronavirus still continues unabated, with no sign that the political system is able to contain the damage. This crisis has exposed the weak underbelly of the US as the country’s weak welfare state and shambolic policy response have only exacerbated the current crisis.

Nazarul Islam

American voters seem to be racing towards one of history’s most controversial presidential elections in November of 2020. There is an obvious sense of foreboding that nothing is going right for a nation that has taken its global leadership position seriously for more than a century now. For a purported example of liberal democracy, there are questions if the election verdict delivered in November would even be respected. There is fear of violence which is charging up an already intense polarization.

Washington’s response to Covid-19 pandemic has been so haphazard that no one is even looking at the US for answers. Early reports in January of an outbreak of an unfamiliar virus in Wuhan morphed into a full-blown global pandemic by the end of February. In the absence of an effective medical response, the only available option was to shut down the entire economy. As a consequence, today the US is reeling under an unemployment crisis with numbers that match those of the Great Depression.

There are now concerns that as many as 100,000 small US businesses are likely to go bust. The US-China trade and technology conflict is fast becoming the fundamental fault-line in global politics, with no real prospect of reconciliation.

The self-professed image constructed by the US of itself as a global leader stands tarnished beyond recognition as the devastation caused by the coronavirus still continues unabated, with no sign that the political system is able to contain the damage. This crisis has exposed the weak underbelly of the US as the country’s weak welfare state and shambolic policy response have only exacerbated the current crisis.

Around 43% of people live in the US without any type of health insurance or with minimal protection from the government’s Medicare or Medicaid programs and this crisis has been wreaking havoc on them.

And even as this crisis was brewing, racial tensions got ignited in America by an ugly incident of police brutality. The killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, at the hands of the Minneapolis police in May, sparked a furious backlash from all sections of American society, leading to protests, violence, rioting and police crackdowns.

For a nation that has often lectured the rest of the world on governance and human rights, America has been found wanting at a time of grave national crisis. The protests in the US, which continue even today, have further polarized America as violent reprisals against the police have increased.

Political leadership in America has been sending confusing signals, time and again. Is the US President (genuinely) interested in healing, in unifying and in bringing a demoralized country together? These are election times and pandering to their respective vote banks has meant that US President Donald Trump is trying to project it as a law and order issue even as his own rhetoric towards his political opponents has been incendiary, like saying: “the only good democrat is a dead democrat.”

In the eyes of critics, perhaps the legitimacy of American institutions has reached an all-time low. Protests in the US are fueled by anger at other recent deaths of minorities due to police brutality and at the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus pandemic on African-Americans.

The issue of race sits at the very heart of American society and polity, and for a nation that has often been contemptuous of other nations, such as India, when it comes to how they manage their internal dissonance today America finds that its internal lack of cohesion has no real short-term quick fix.

The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, catalyzing the nation’s socio-economic disparities, surging nationalism and racial tensions firm together a potent mix, that will shape the trajectory of the US in ways that few can comprehend today – America watchers who are openly talking about the end of American supremacy, in global affairs (?)

Again, this may or may not be true. The US has immense internal capacity to regenerate itself, as it has shown in the past. Unbelievable as it may seem, the present moment in American politics has shattered the idea that America is is a superior nation—particularly when it comes to managing its internal turmoil.

In the same context, India today, with its population of 1.3 billion souls is a democracy that has managed to survive despite internal contradictions and fault-lines. Yet, Western elites have never been shy of bemoaning the challenges India faces as it seeks to construct a modern nation-state.

More recently, whether it is the Citizenship Amendment Act or the issue of minorities, there has been a tendency to influence India to follow what is believed to be a superior Western model. Today, as that superiority myth gets shattered, India can provide an alternative model, one which is more organic and rooted in Indian values.

America is likely to become even more polarized and its polity even more contested in the short to medium term. It is time perhaps for India to provide the US a piece of advice or two on how to manage its internal dysfunctionalities.

Criticism of India’s internal matters by the US, and other (hostile) nations is a sign that it is India now that needs to change track. An opinion page article in a Western media outlet is taken as a sign that something is definitely wrong in the way India manages its business.

Is it time now to be assertive, and even more self-confident about India’s achievements? Should the largest democracy ignore gratuitous interference in its domestic matters, with the contempt it deserves?

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Nazarul IslamThe Bengal-born writer is a senior educationist settled in USA. He writes regularly for Sindh Courier and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America.  

 

 

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