Americans wait for Trump and weigh options

Americans wait for Trump and weigh options

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan

By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan

On our visit to California, many Americans asked us for information on how to migrate to Canada. They were shocked by Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. Most Americans we met are not leaving yet, but are waiting for events to unfold.

The election highlights the reality of American democracy. The candidates debated vigorously, watched by millions on TV. The election was peaceful and showed the power of a dynamic people. The US, after all, is a country of just 330 million people. Yet its gross domestic product is a whopping $19 trillion annually and it has dominated the world for decades.

But this election makes one wonder whether the US can be considered a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In a democracy, victory goes to the people’s choice. In this election three million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than did for Trump. But the US electoral college system reversed the people’s choice, making the loser the winner.

This also happened in 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. But never has a candidate lost the popular vote by close to three million and still won the presidency.

Also troubling is US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s charge that FBI Director James Comey engineered Trump’s victory. The FBI and other agencies are mandated to be nonpartisan. But Comey ignored the allegations about Russian efforts to influence the US election. He then wrote to lawmakers, a fortnight before the election, saying that the FBI had discovered e-mails potentially relevant to its investigation of Clinton’s e-mails. The FBI had already probed Clinton’s e-mails and found no criminal activity. It then investigated e-mails of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The FBI announced much later that it found nothing against Clinton, but the damage had been done. Clinton obviously had nothing to do with Weiner’s e-mails, but she was potentially maligned at the very time when voters were making up their minds on whom to support.

However, we saw that the Trump campaign reflected the average American’s concerns more than Clinton’s did. Clinton boasted that America was great and was poised for even better times. Trump insisted that America was broken, that jobs were being lost; blacks faced death when they ventured out and that some Americans were desperately poor.

In California, we witnessed gated communities and people enjoying opulence. But we also saw homeless people living on streets and others pleading for money saying that they had no income. This happened in the heart of Hollywood. Greater Los Angeles has some 17 million people out of California’s population of 39 million. It is known as the gang capital of the United States. It has no subway. Its roads are clogged by millions of cars, motorcycles and trucks and people spend hours trying to get to work, or to return home. We learned that 47,000 people live on streets and in shelters. We saw families dwelling on the streets in shacks made of soiled bed sheets. That’s their home on sunny, rainy and cold days.

My wife said she had never seen such poverty. I saw it after the partition of British India. Refugees from Pakistan fled to India and Muslims from India trekked to Pakistan. Some lived in jute huts on streets adjacent to posh hotels, shops or elegant homes. But this was only true on the main streets of Karachi in the 1950s and the 1960s. Now you are still mobbed by beggars, but you no longer find people living in jute huts on the main streets.

We did not find many Trump supporters in California. The state supported Clinton. But we did see abject poverty and a wide disparity of income between the rich and the poor. We went to San Francisco and were told that the same situation prevails there and in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and other major cities.

Blacks are no longer in slavery and are not lynched or burned by white supremacists. But racism, though retreating, is still a fact of everyday life for black people. Asians are well off and suffer little or no racism. But blacks are often targeted in the US, as they are in Canada to a lesser degree, simply because of their race. Many youth, seeing no hope, turn to drugs, crime, alcohol, violence or suicide.

Trump described their plight more accurately than Clinton did. Trump’s claim that he will make America great again has not convinced knowledgeable people that he can transform America or solve most of its problems. But what we saw in the US after the election gave us a better understanding of why Trump received as many votes as he did.