The Surreal Audacity of Donald Trump

Do you recall what you were doing this same time eight years ago? I do. Vividly.

I was sick as a dog from eating tainted food the night before, lying in some hotel room on the outskirts of town, thinking my end was nigh. I drifted in and out of sleep, and on occasion heard my mum scolding the receptionist for changing the channel from CNN to Movie Magic. For some strange reason, the receptionist had control over guests’ TVs.

I remember somewhere between 3 and 4 am, feeling much better and then bam! He won! He won! Barack Obama, a dark-skinned biracial man with unmistakably African names, a relatively unknown senator from Chicago, a man who grew up with an absent father was president of the United States of America. Almost immediately, my phone began beeping from text messages from friends and families, thrilled at what was a historical moment. Later that day, I would update my Facebook status, slightly altering a line from Tupac’s Changes from ‘We ain’t ready to see a black president’ to ‘America is ready to see a black president.’

In 2012, I remember finishing a blog post titled Four More Years, the popular refrain to Obama’s re-election bid. I couldn’t watch the debate because I had to go to work the next day. Ok, I lie. Actually, I couldn’t bear to see him lose to Mitt Romney, that’s the main reason I chose to go to bed. The pain of having to witness Obama become a one-term president was too much to handle, so I turned out the lights.

Yet, it was the first thing I wanted to know the minute I woke up. Quickly, I went online and once again, he had won.

Fast-forward to 2016, and I’m here, sitting on the floor, willing my heart to be still. The impending mood almost seems like a replica of the 2012 race, where Romney gave Obama a run for his money. But unlike election night in 2012, the stakes today are tremendously high.

On the one hand is an impetuous vulgarian in the shape of a businessman promising to Make America Great Again by building a wall along the US-Mexican border, implementing extreme vetting for Muslim visitors/immigrants and bringing back manufacturing jobs that are certainly gone for good. On the other is a tough, level-headed, policy wonk and former Secretary of State who knows her onions but risks losing the election, thanks to the wholly avoidable email debacle she wrought on herself.

For an hour yesterday, I was on the phone trying to convince my Nigerian-America friend to make history by voting Hillary. She’s one of the undecideds who thinks ‘Hillary is visibly corrupt’ and therefore unfit to be president. Thankfully, she confirmed she won’t be voting Trump… anymore. “Maybe Stein or Gary Johnson,” she purred, half-serious. At the mention of the name of the man who was ridiculed for asking ‘What is Aleppo?’ in an interview, I did a proverbial face palm, mocking her for even considering him. Ultimately, she agreed to read more on Stein and then vote by elimination. It wasn’t the answer I had hoped for, but at least she’s voting which is a better option than staying glued to the fence as some undecideds might do.

It’s 2.45 am, Nigerian time. The anxiousness of following the election coverage on TV makes has me hovering between the New York Times and social media on my phone for live updates. A friend’s Facebook post stating the election all comes down to swing states does little to calm my nerves as Florida, a swing state, is too close to call. Plus Trump is leading by 12 electoral votes.

I decide it’s time for a soothing cup of tea.

It’s 4.37 am here in Nigeria, and battleground states are truly living up to their names, with Trump winning swing state Ohio and now leading Clinton by 58 electoral votes. The suspense is killing me. A Hillary win would make people see ambitious women are not a threat to humankind. It would not only inspire many women around the world to see themselves as men’s equals but also be a lesson to every misogynist that the world’s superpower can also be run by a woman. Regardless of one’s politics, a Clinton win carries more positives than negatives. A Trump win, on the other hand, could only mean one thing, which is that it’s acceptable to be a bully, speak vilely about women and still hold the highest office in the most powerful country on earth. A Trump win would only reinforce toxic masculinity and meanness.

I go to sleep for a few hours and wake up to this: With 279 electoral votes, Trump wins the election. Reason, no doubt, took flight of a majority of American voters.

Could this be the beginning of the end of the American empire? As a woman, Hillary’s loss is a sad disappointment. But viewing the election through the cold, hard eye of a realist, I doubt her win would not have meant much for Africa any more than Trump’s since any American president, Republican or Democrat, is going to look out for America’s interests first before Africa’s. America wasn’t going to suddenly act with the moral authority it thinks it has and stop crooked African leaders from laundering their own country’s money in American banks and real estate as Africa’s loot helps America’s economy.

Trump’s presidency may actually be a boon for Africa. Imagine if he decides to, say, cut aid to the continent, there’s a chance such an act would end Africa’s perpetual debt cycle and perhaps allow true representation and accountability take root through taxation. And if he refuses to honour trade agreements, that might spur the dismantling of trade barriers among Africa nations and consequently improve their economies.

For me, the take-home lesson from this election is this: Being the most qualified candidate can only take you so far when people choose to lose their marbles and defy logic. Hillary prepared hard, doing everything within her power to win, but somehow, lunacy still prevailed. On a bright note, even though it may be little consolation to her at this moment, she will go down in history as the first female presidential candidate.

By the way, my Nigerian-American friend ended up voting for Hillary. She is devastated by Trump’s win and didn’t stay up to see him declared winner.

Surreal.

Lead Photo: Shayera Dark

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