No parallels between ‘Resist’ and anti-Trump push

Sunday January 14 2018

Anti-Donald Trump protesters march in the street on Fifth Avenue, November 11, 2016 in New York City. The election of Trump as president has sparked protests in cities across the country. PHOTO | AFP

Anti-Donald Trump protesters march in the street on Fifth Avenue, November 11, 2016 in New York City. The election of Trump as president has sparked protests in cities across the country. PHOTO | AFP 

By TOM WOLF
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While making use of comparative examples to illuminate realities in one or more situations is a fruitful tool in social science, Peter Kawanja’s comparison of the “anti-Trump resistance” in the US with that of Kenya’s National Super Alliance unfortunately gives a distorted picture (Sunday Nation, January 7).

An examination, in particular, of what Clinton supporters or the Democrats did not do following Donald Trump’s election makes this all too clear.

For example, up to now they have not: Called for a boycott of any consumer products; sought to establish any ‘people’s assemblies’ as an alternative to the incumbent government; demanded a repeat election; ever contemplated a “swearing-in” of Clinton as an alternative president (even if she won nearly three million more votes than Trump); demanded any “dialogue” with Trump/the Republicans about electoral reforms (let alone about the larger, constitutional architecture – especially as regards the powers of the Executive); encouraged any talk of ‘secession’ by states where Clinton won overwhelmingly).

Indeed, it was Trump – the winner – who appointed a commission to investigate ‘fraud’ in the election, based on his denial of Clinton’s popular-vote margin (though he has just disbanded it).

INJUSTICE

As such, the actions taken (as well as others promised) by Nasa are anything but a “cut-and-paste” exercise as Kagwanja avers.  Again, his assertion that Clinton is seeking “election justice” is totally false. He also does an injustice to Clinton’s supporters, the Democrats, as well as to his readers, in his silence about: The verification by 11 US intelligence agencies that the Russians sought to influence the election in Trump’s favour— which is under investigation by a special counsel Robert Mueller; the re-opening of the FBI investigation into Clinton security violations regarding her E-Mail communication as Secretary of State just ten days to the election; Trump’s historic-low national public opinion approval rating ever since he was inaugurated.

Moreover, in describing anti-Trump protests as emanating from hostility to “everything Trump”, Kagwanja notes it stems from the President’s agenda, that is, his policies. By contrast, the foundation of Nasa’s opposition to Jubilee’s re-election is the assertion of a legitimacy-deficit, based on claims about electoral flaws.

VIOLENCE

Further, comparison of the violence that accompanied Nasa protests in connection with the two elections with that which has accompanied some anti-Trump rallies is a travesty. 

As the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights has confirmed, at least 40 Kenyans, including people in their residences, were killed by police following the August 8 election and at least another dozen killed at the time of the repeat election, followed by more deaths when Raila Odinga returned from an overseas trip on November 16. 

However, even if the comparison Kagwanja attempts to make were more accurate, it is puzzling as to why such “barefaced copycatting” turns his stomach.  By far, the “resistance” methods seen in the US have been within the law, with most of the violence coming from Trump supporters. Likewise, Kagwanja presents no evidence that Nasa’s “resistance” owes anything to anti-Trump elements in the US, let alone that without such actions the Nasa leadership would have submissively accepted the results of the August 8 and October 26 elections, and simply “moved on”.

DEMOCRACY

In this context, it is important to point out that, the real threats to democracy in the US are two: (1) for the Democrats, Trump’s targeted appeals to the most divisive impulses among the wider public; (2) for the Republicans, the potential ‘robbing’ of Trump’s (Electoral College) victory voters by the Mueller investigation that could produce enough serious evidence of constitutional violations (i.e. “high crimes and misdemeanours”) to warrant Trump’s impeachment. 

In short, Kagwanja may offer all the criticism he wants about Nasa and their supporters, but bringing in irrelevant anti-Trump protests from the US adds nothing to his cause. 

On the contrary, his mistaken comparative-characterisation of recent US events simply distorts the local realities. 

As such, to the extent that Kenya’s democracy is currently “imperilled” (in his words, and which I doubt), he would serve it far better by addressing it directly.  In other words, the fate of Kenya’s democracy will be determined by Kenyans themselves, acting in what they perceive are their own best interests, and in those of Kenya, without any reference to the situation in the US, or elsewhere.

Dr Wolf, a Nairobi resident, is a registered member of the Democratic Party in the state of Michigan.