THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION in the United States was extraordinary in many respects. People who do not normally show any open interest in partisan politics certainly did on this occasion.
The election was nasty by any standard with both the Democrats and the Republicans taking all kinds of jabs at each other. Donald Trump’s comments were outrageous to put it mildly, but he won in the electoral college over Hillary Clinton. President Obama did not mince words when it came to how he felt about the GOP’s standard-bearer.
But in less than 48 hours after the polls closed and the victor known, it was amazing to see the public display of civility by Trump, Clinton and Obama.
On Wednesday Clinton graciously conceded defeat in public, but this was not before she had called Trump who had worked up the crowd all across the US suggesting that she should be locked up. The patience of many of Trump’s opponents must have been tested. Trump in turn lauded Clinton and her contribution to public life.
Not only was Clinton prepared to retreat with her head held high, she wanted the people of the United States, including the many Democrats who supported her, to give full support to the incoming Trump administration. It would after all be the government of the American people.
What transpired in New York was not much different to what we have witnessed in Britain whose system of government we have copied, even if we have corrupted it to suit our purposes.
The loser invariably congratulates the winner following the outcome of the vote and in most instances the leader of the defeated party does the honourable thing and steps aside. This is something which we in Barbados and the Caribbean have not copied from those who practise the Westminster system.
Our politicians love to cling to office and to power.
Civility seems to be the biggest loser in our society. Politicians in Caribbean Community seem to find it difficult to step aside with dignity. Unfortunately the majority of followers of political parties, like sheep, not only copy the bad behaviour exhibited but often tend to only make matters worse.
The one sour note about the US elections was Trump’s acrid language throughout the campaign. Indeed his vile and incendiary comments will be hard to let go. He was the promoter of the birther movement long before he was on the campaign trail, he was a man who had nothing good to say about Obama and he lampooned the Black Lives Matter movement, the disabled and Latinos. But, he is president-elect of a great nation. His greatest wish now must be that all those negatives don’t come back to haunt him. Not from the Clintons nor the Obamas, but the average Americans, especially the millennials who in this digital world will share the facts – good and bad.
This is why those words of encouragement from Obama and the public promise to ensure that all goes well in the transition of power were awesome. The firm handshake sealed it.
Yes, our politicians need to learn a lesson.
As Barbados prepares for an election, possibly within another year, it would be wise for politicians, political aspirants, political hangers-on and even those who operate in the backrooms to recognise the need to argue with and against each other, but at the same time the importance of promoting civility in politics. After all, there’s the day after and communities must be built rather than destroyed.