I think it was Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961, who said that the democratic vote in the hands of illiterate masses can be more explosive than the atomic bomb. I had for many years debated this view, thinking as I did, that the diplomat was sarcastically referring to emerging colonies in Africa and elsewhere seeking political independence. These former colonies had not yet developed a culture of peaceful democratic change of governments, hence the cynical reference to the democratic vote.
That vote in the hands of people who feel marginalized and forgotten can be just as explosive and unpredictable as was proven on November 8, in the US. White, poor, and marginalized men and women proved as powerful a weapon of change as Dag Hammarskjold envisioned for the third world. Unfortunately, the power of the vote can also be used by a racist demagogue to arouse feelings of fear (and hatred?), by whites against blacks and minorities. Anyone who followed the US elections objectively must have concluded that Donald Trump pressed the right buttons to arouse an angry majority white vote against the Washington establishment. The question is, can Trump bring back lost jobs to coal miners and marginalized rural white folks in the USA? Can he build a great wall?
As I contemplated this letter I received the following message from a friend, who had himself borrowed from the American journalism icon H. L. Mencken: “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”
Then consider the following, allegedly spoken in 1998 by Donald Trump to People magazine. “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They are the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific!” In the US elections campaign just ended everyone heard Trump speak of building a wall, deporting millions who overstayed their visas and banning Muslims entering the USA. They also heard him say he could walk down Fifth Avenue and shoot someone in broad daylight and get away with it. They also saw him run as a Republican! Abruptly I am thinking about the saying that “the people get the government they deserve.”