Trump has humbled a nation he vowed to make great

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020 00:00 |
US President Donald Trump. Photo/AFP

Frida Ghitis  

President Donald Trump vowed to make America respected around the world. For years, starting long before he ran for president with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” he complained, “the world is laughing at us.”

Now, in the ugly, waning days of his presidency, nobody’s laughing. Trump took a country that was, according to Pew Research, mostly admired, and turned it into an object of pity and alarm.

The US faces grave, simultaneous crises; one an exploding pandemic, the other an attack on the country’s democracy by a sitting president. It’s hardly a scene that inspires awe. 

The effort of incoming President-elect Joe Biden and his administration—and of the American people—to undo the damage Trump caused and push back against his most recent outrages will go a long way in determining whether the US can regain the global stature Trump squandered.

Step one requires showing decisively that voters have chosen Biden. That despite Trump’s lies, he won the election.

That’s a job for all Americans who must continue to demand an end to Trump’s machinations and reassert their faith in democracy. It was the work of American citizens that ended Trump presidency.

Their continued engagement would help the healing. Then, Biden must start showing that America still supports strengthening democracies around the world and intends to speak out on human rights.

The new administration must return competence and truth to governance, beginning with the pandemic.

The US, home to many of the world’s top public health experts, institutions and resources, is in the midst of a what CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and others have called humanitarian disaster, with Covid-19 spiraling out of control.

The medical aid organisation, Doctors Without Borders, better known for its work in remote war zones and natural disasters, has deployed to help Americans survive this calamity.

The pandemic itself is not Trump’s fault, but his refusal to acknowledge its magnitude and urgency and respond accordingly, and his incessant lies and obfuscations that undercut public health effort, are arguably the primary reason why this country, which was in a position to tackle it at least as effectively as any other, never managed to end the first wave before the second one started slamming like a merciless tsunami.

Today, the rate of new infections is soaring, now approaching a barely-believable million new cases per week; more than one every second, with worse to come, according to experts.

As if the pandemic weren’t enough of a national emergency, and America’s abject failure to deal with it enough of a national embarrassment, Trump has gone to war against America’s democracy before the eyes of an astonished world.

He has taken the globe’s iconic democracy, the one whose declaration of independence was brandished and studied by democracy activists the world over, and sullied its political system by groundlessly attacking legitimate election results.

A world that used to laugh at Trump is now deeply alarmed by what he is doing struggling to understand quite what happened .

The organisation known as The Elders, a group of senior independent global political figures founded by Nelson Mandela, is now urging American leaders to stand up for the country’s democracy, as it has done in developing nations with shallow democratic roots and deeply unstable political systems.

It expressed concern about Trump’s refusal to adhere to normal democratic standards, “putting at risk the functioning of American democracy.” Its chairwoman, former Irish President Mary Robinson, said, “It is shocking to have to raise concerns about US democracy processes as The Elders have previously commented in volatile and undemocratic situations such as Kenya, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.”

America’s democracy will survive Trump’s assault. He will leave office one way or another. But the damage he has done to US’s standing in the world will linger, and the consequences will be felt by people far beyond US shores.

Tragically, the impact will also hurt all people who have grown to count on help from the US.

— The writer is a former CNN producer and correspondent and world affairs columnist

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