HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsGoodbye, Obama, consummate politician!

Goodbye, Obama, consummate politician!


A few hours from now, Donald John Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America, but even before the event, he has not wasted any time going out of his way in making enemies here, there and everywhere, at home and abroad.


Trump is behaving like those jingoistic types, who are always looking for problems where there are no problems, or who worsen the situation where there are problems.

He should heed this advice to him from his predecessor, Barack Obama: “This a job you cannot do by yourself.” He should avoid going it alone like the regime we are saddled with in Zimbabwe, which has been in the habit of picking fights with all and sundry overstretching itself and over-estimating its clout with disastrous results for the ordinary people.

Trump looks decidedly a threat to world peace, giving credence to the remarks by the sobre-minded Obama that “he is uniquely unqualified” to be US President.

For one, he has vowed to abandon the US’s long-standing, sensible “one-China” policy. Two, he has said Israel can move its capital to Jerusalem, which is certain to totally destroy peace efforts in the most volatile region on the globe, whose ramifications are too ghastly to contemplate.

On the domestic front, millions of Americans have declared that Trump is not their President because of, among other things, the regressive values he espouses with racist, sexist, xenophobic and Islamophobic undertones against the letter and spirit of the US Constitution. No wonder Trump steps into office with the lowest approval rating compared to all his predecessors. Talking of starting on a wrong foot!

One of these frightening and regressive developments is that Trump’s administration, as it takes shape, is looking more and more like an albocracy – that is, governance by chauvinistic white men – with only a sprinkling of token blacks like Ben Carson and women. I am sure if he had his way, there would not be a single black in his Cabinet.

It’s not a coincidence that white supremacists identify with him and he has hired one of their own to be among his chief aides. But there was no way that Obama’s election would solve racism overnight. One, the US is a democracy with three branches of government with the attendant restraints like separation of powers.

Two, the US is also a federation with some States more racially-inclined and even overtly and unabashedly racist as in the South. The resurgent killings of blacks during his term can be seen as a reaction like a “whitelash” against a black President. Obama did not only fight racism, but other -isms like classism, sexism, and vices such as corruption, which, by the way, has become a byword for the Zanu PF regime.

But Trump cannot ignore the fact that although he won on a State-by-State basis, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by three million votes. That cannot be brushed away.

Furthermore, Trump should not over-estimate himself or read too much into his victory because he could largely be a beneficiary of a phenomenon that is unique to US politics: the “natural inclination” of the American public to switch direction after one party has been in the White House for eight years.

This makes Trump’s victory more cyclical – like things that move in cycles or occur at regular intervals – than a rejection of Clinton per se and, by extension, Obama’s legacy. It could serve as a hiatus. So, he should not get the wrong idea that it was him and him alone who won.

In view of that, one would have thought that Trump would have sobered up and tempered his language. This severe political handicap of being a virtual minority government has reduced his political legitimacy – that political authority or authoritativeness – to speak on behalf of the nation. But in spite of that, Trump has promised radical shifts in policy as if he has been given carte blanche to do that. This has echoes in Zimbabwe in 2000, when the regime went on to seize farms despite the fact that people, in a referendum, rejected the draft Constitution with specific clauses allowing such land appropriation.

Similarly, Trump’s promise of 25 million jobs is likely to fail because it defies economic logic, as much as President Robert Mugabe’s promise to create 2,2 million jobs ahead of the 2013 general election has failed.

This also has not-so-distant echoes here in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe has had the legitimacy albatross around his neck since 2008 after he contrived to withhold election results for all of five weeks after he lost the popular vote to MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Since that time, in the eyes of many people, Mugabe is not their leader because that tainted him forever and forever. Unpopular regimes, like we have here, survive mainly because they are legitimate only in the eyes of a small, powerful and influential elite.

That said, the opposition in Zimbabwe can learn valuable lessons from Obama’s political legacy.

Obama managed to fashion out an unlikely voting bloc of whites, blacks, Hispanics, women etc because he ran his campaign as a President for all Americans, not only winning the popular vote, but defeating a white female candidate in the primaries and a white male candidate in the presidential election. He did not confuse contest for political power with misplaced notions of affirmative action. He addressed all the constituent parts of the voting bloc simultaneously and inclusively.

Speaking this week on a possible successor to South African President Jacob Zuma, African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, essentially illustrated what Obama set out to achieve and achieved in 2008 with his historical win as the first black US President: “We don’t want a woman president, we want a president of the ANC.”

Gwede’s point was that, one, people should rise on the basis of political skills and stamina. If someone does not have it, they don’t have it. It’s not as if any other black candidate would have won the US election in 2008, but that it was specifically Obama and his political machinery who pulled it off.

Another Democratic Party candidate was not guaranteed to win by mere virtue of being black. You can lead a horse to the river, but you can’t make it drink. You can present someone with an opportunity, but you cannot force him/her to take full advantage of it. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is among the front-runners to succeed Zuma, has risen despite and in spite of being a woman. She has never ever used the feminist card – in the same way Obama did not use the race card. In Obama’s case, that would have been foolishly and suicidally self-defeating because blacks only make up 15% of the US population.

Continued Gwede: “We need to elect leadership that’s fitting and completely ready to deal with the challenges of the time.”

And Obama proved that by leaving America in better shape by making the country more socio-economically inclusive and reducing the unemployment rate to its lowest after first laying the political foundation to get into power.

We need that clarity of mind and to get on with it if the Zanu PF regime is to be electorally defeated – not these now-tedious top-down notions of politics like MDC MP, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s fixation about a creature called “male narrative”.

Let’s learn from Obama, a consummate politician, and do away with this self-defeating delusion prevalent among many groups of people – women and minorities included – that they are uniquely and eternally excluded.
Fare thee well, Obama!

Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: nkumbuzo@gmail.com

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