US President-elect Donald Trump greets members of the Azalea Trail Maids as he arrives in Mobile, Alabama, for a 'Thank You Tour 2016' rally on Dec. 17.
Photo by AFP
Apparently, blind Bulgarian clairvoyant Baba Vanga, who died in 1996, prophesied not only that America would one day have a black president but that he would also be the last American president. It is one of those prophesies that rival the Delphic Oracle’s prediction of Elvis’s death and Nostradamus’s forecast of the Denver Broncos’ victory in Super Bowl L. Nevertheless, we do have an African American president and, by the look of it, he will be the last US president – at least the last legitimate one.
Barack Obama is a legitimate president – even though the Republicans in Congress have spent most of the past eight years trying to delegitimize him. They didn’t allow him to govern, refused to cooperate with him on crucial matters of national interest, impeded his policies at every turn and even prevented him from carrying out his constitutional duty to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. In fact, it can be argued that they delegitimized the US political system by obstructing the executive branch and interfering with the judicial branch.
Donald J. Trump tried to delegitimize Obama directly – by coming up with his trademark BS about Obama’s birth certificate. That trick didn’t succeed in unseating Obama but attracted to him thousands of lunatic supporters who became his electoral base.
Ironically, Trump, who will succeed a legitimate president, will have no legitimacy. This has been widely noted recently in light of Russia’s interference in the US elections on Trump’s behalf – by means of fake news and internet trolling, if not a direct hack. In fact, Trump has been an illegitimate president-elect since November 9 – and he personally had done much to undermine his own legitimacy. Throughout his campaign, he kept repeating that the election was rigged, and he was right: the Republicans in state capitals had been systematically gerrymandering and suppressing votes, creating a situation in which Trump could “win” with a losing margin of popular vote that was the largest in history. He ran a campaign permeated by lies and false promises, including his supposed intentions to release his taxes or to divest his business interests.
As a result, there has been a nationwide chorus declaring Trump “not my president.” Half the country hopes that the Electoral College will take an unprecedented step on Dec. 19 and actually not elect him. This won’t happen, but the confirmation of his victory by the Electors won’t make him any more legitimate in the eyes of a sizeable majority of the nation.
But in the unlikely case of the electors voting for Hillary Clinton, she would be just as illegitimate as Trump. The loss of legitimacy of the presidency of the United States has been the most damaging outcome of the unprecedented 2016 election. After the campaign of the past 18 months, there was absolutely no result that could have restored that legitimacy. This is the reason why weak and ineffectual Obama has had such high popularity ratings at the end of his term: Americans are not so much celebrating his flawed presidency as sitting shiva for the legitimacy of their government.
In a monarchy, legitimacy is based on the divine right of the king to rule. In a democracy, it is based on the ballot box. When belief in god fades – or at least in his involvement in human politics – monarchs lose their power. When trust in free and fair elections dissipates, democratic governments lose their legitimacy.
Ironically, the first illegitimate U.S. president will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, almost exactly one 100 years after the government in Russia lost its legitimacy. Back then, it happened in three steps.
First, Czar Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional government declared Russia a republic.
Then, after the Bolshevik takeover, an election was held to the Constitutional Assembly to affirm the new government’s legitimacy by the ballot box.
However, Vladimir Lenin didn’t like the result – the Socialist Revolutionaries won an absolute majority of seats while the Bolsheviks came in distant second – and he simply suppressed that elected body. The Bolsheviks thus began to rule as a single party, claiming legitimacy from what they called “the objective forces of history” – i.e., Karl Marx’s prediction that communism is the inevitable future of humanity and that rule by the communist party is required to build it.
This proved a flimsy basis for governing and Lenin and Stalin, like any illegitimate rulers, governed by terror, relying on a massive repressive machine they built for that purpose.
For the past century, first Soviet and then Russian leaders have continued to grapple with the issue of legitimacy. When power is illegitimate, it can’t be easily transferred. There is no continuity and there can be no successor. On the contrary, every new leader asserts himself by actively repudiating his predecessor and his policies.
Thus Nikita Khrushchev took down Joseph Stalin’s monuments and renamed numerous cities, boats and collective farms named after him. Leonid Brezhnev criticized Khrushchev as a volatile adventurer. Mikhail Gorbachev attacked Brezhnev as a corrupt geriarch. Finally, Putin even now, seventeen years into his own unchallenged autocratic rule, talks about the lawless 1999s.
Significantly, only Boris Yeltsin, who was legitimately elected at least for his first term, was able to transfer power peacefully to a successor. It is unlike to happen under Vladimir Putin – and in fact, his attempts to do so in 2008 failed completely.
Trump political modus operandi owes a lot to the Soviet and Russian experience. His campaign used the same propaganda tricks, the same lies and the same disrespect for his audience. Much like Putin, he’s found of trolling his opponents. You might sometimes think that he and Putin went to the same KGB Academy in Greater Kiselny Lane in my old Moscow neighborhood.
This is more than a mere coincidence. It stems from the fact that Trump is an instinctive fascist and all fascistic regimes resemble each other in many intangible ways.
It is almost inevitable that, faced with a very real legitimacy problem Trump will behave like a Russian, not like an American: He will turn on his political opponents. You have already got an early sense of what is to come by reading his Twitter, which I maintain is his programmatic tool, akin to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He has accused the Democrats of rigging the election, of getting millions of undocumented aliens to vote, of organizing paid protests against his election and of engineering accusations of Russian interference in the US elections through intelligence agencies. The fact that he told his followers during one of his recent rallies that he isn’t going to jail Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be taken at face value. It’s a lie and a bit of Putin-style trolling. I’m absolutely convinced that a year from now Hillary will be if not in jail, at least in the dock.
But Trump’s real target will be Obama and Obama’s legacy. John Bolton has thrown a dark hint about a false flag hack of the Democratic National Committee by Obama’s security services. This is an opening salvo in a war on Trump’s predecessor.
And if you hope that the issue of Obama’s birth certificate is dead and buried – think again. Like all authoritarians of his ilk, Trump is a thin-skinned and vengeful troll: just look at the way he’s been getting back at Mitt Romney and at his Republican rivals in the presidential race. He’ll certainly try to take revenge on Obama for making him look like a moron on that birth certificate issue.
America’s first black and last legitimate president, in his characteristic style, is bending over backwards to make sure Trump’s transition to the White House is smooth and easy. It’s par for the course: tyranny rides in on the shoulders of weak defenders of democracy. But rather than playing ball with Trump, Obama’s time would be more usefully employed by getting himself good lawyers and saving his pennies: he’ll find that fighting Trump’s Justice Department will be expensive
"Aristotle the Hun" was the name given to me more than 30 years ago when a friend noticed that in spite of my intellect I was still an Iowa farm boy.
Rev. Sam Sewell, is Director of Best Self USA, a Pastoral Psychotherapist, serves on the faculty of Naples Community Hospital as an instructor for Clinical Pastoral Education, President of the Theological Center in Naples, a member of Mensa where he serves as Gifted Youth Coordinator, a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a Member of the Association For Intelligence Officers. He is a frequent commentator on mental health and religious issues.His award winning research on family issues is published in several languages. Member of Sigma Delta Chi Honor Society
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