The much awaited American political conventions’ season is upon us. After following the Republican (GOP) convention over the last few days, I must admit it is nothing short of excruciating and disturbing. Visiting presently the heartland of Trump potential support of the Old West makes these impressions way more vivid.
Observers of US politics have been warning for a while now that they are becoming increasingly divisive and ineffective and dragging down with it the entire society. Much of the early headlines from the GOP convention dealt mainly with the rather bizarre case of Melania Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, endorsing the candidacy of her husband. It was more pathetic and clumsy than malicious, pointing to some very lazy speechwriters.
What was to follow has all the warning signs of what might happen if presidential candidate Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. Speaker after speaker took to the stage in Cleveland with one thing in mind – the spreading of hate and fear and without offering any direction or hope. This is where the party believes it can win the forthcoming elections.
Much of the hate was directed, in the vilest possible way, towards the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. One might have been left with the wrong impression that the former first lady has been running the country and the rest of the world for quite a while, as she is pointed to by them as being responsible for the entire world’s ills. Directing abuse and accusations at Hillary Clinton became a false unifier of the Republican Party in an unconvincing attempt to conceal a very divided party.
For the neutral observer, what the United States necessitates at this moment in time is a leader who is capable of healing rifts instead of deepening themYossi Mekelberg
These divisions are apparent from the notable list of the party’s grandees who were absent from the party’s convention, such as two former Republican presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush and two former presidential nominees Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney, and who refused to even endorse their party’s presidential candidate.
Even John Kasich, Governor of Ohio and a former presidential candidate, passed up the opportunity to take part in the most important party gathering, despite Ohio being the location of the convention. A coup-like attempt, by those who oppose Donald Trump, to allow for a roll-call was quashed, but ended in an angry walkout by a number of delegates in front of rolling cameras from around the world.
The parties’ conventions take place in a time that there is a desperate need for a sense of purpose, direction and of coherence in American society. In the space of ten days eight policemen were targeted and shot dead in two separate incidents in Dallas and Baton Rouge. In both cases the gunmen were African-Americans, who expressed in the worst deadly possible way, their anger against police violence. Statistics show that in 2015 more than 100 unarmed black people were shot dead by policemen in the US, and that young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police.
While this indiscriminate killing of policemen deserves nothing but condemnation, the speeches by leading Republican leaders in their convention is sheer incitement against liberal America and is tainted by racism. For the neutral observer, what the United States necessitates at this moment in time is a leader who is capable of healing rifts instead of deepening them, Trump style, for personal political gains.
No one is more of a figure of hate to the delegates of the GOP conference, especially the die-hard Trump supporters, than Hillary Clinton. By now she has even surpassed President Obama. Ben Carson, who was not that long ago on the receiving end of Trump’s acidic language, linked Clinton in a inexplicable way to Lucifer, falling just short of calling her a witch, which would have matched the general misogynistic atmosphere in the convention hall and the Trump camp.
Chris Christie’s speech was nothing short of theatre of the absurd placing Clinton on what resembled a mob trial, or as it was accurately described by one of the commentators a Kangaroo court. Watching many hundreds of delegates punching in the air chanting ‘“Lock her up! Lock her up!” and “Guilty” to every accusation leveled by Christie was chilling and not at all suitable for a democracy. It didn’t feel like a party ready to get back to power but a mob, who lost its way and was thirsty to draw the opponent’s political blood – maybe not only political.
The Democratic convention is still ahead of us and Hillary Clinton has a long and hazardous journey to gain the trust of the American people. However, what we witnessed this week in Cleveland epitomizes the low that American politics has sunk to. In the complex challenging, and at times extremely dangerous, world we live in the Republican party is short not only of answers but even of an intelligent debate. It blames the leader of the opposite party for the entire ills of their country and the world—from violence in Libya and Syria to the Boko Haram in Nigeria, and every other problem in between –the Republicans place the blame on the person who served four years as Secretary of State.
If people around the world were looking for some inspiration, or at least reflection from the most powerful country in the world, they should not waste their time on the GOP convention in Ohio. In a time where mounting social, political and economic challenges that harbor the dangers of fragmentation, despair and violence, there is a need for a creative, attentive, capable and uniting leadership. Instead the world is exposed to a continuous hollow rhetoric that echoes around the Quicken Loans Arena. Not not only is the party failing to identify solutions to these challenges, but it completely misunderstands their root causes.
Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues and you can find him on Twitter @YMekelberg.