Fifth column: Lessons from America

We must hope that once he becomes President, a wiser, more serious man will emerge to enable him to tackle grim international problems that are complex and terrifying.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:November 13, 2016 12:53 am
US presidential elections, US elections results, US family relationships, Donald Trump, Trump, Hillary Clinton, Clinton, US news, world news, latest news, indian express President-elect Donald Trump in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Two things fascinated me most about the American election. The first was that, as with India in 2014, media pundits, pollsters and the educated class in general proved that they were completely disconnected from ordinary voters. The second was the grace with which President Obama promised to help the president-elect with the transition to the White House. This for a man who during a bitter, vicious campaign had questioned not just everything Barack Obama has done but even his right to be President of the United States.

Before writing another word, I want to make clear that if I were an American voter I would not have voted for Donald Trump. I did not like the tone of his campaign and I share the view that he exhibits definite signs of being a demagogue, a bigot and of having a myopic vision that may make the world a more dangerous place than it already is. We must hope that once he becomes President, a wiser, more serious man will emerge to enable him to tackle grim international problems that are complex and terrifying.

So what was it about Trump that appealed so much to ordinary Americans that he succeeded in defeating an opponent who was infinitely better prepared for the most powerful job in the world? I thought about this many times as I sat glued to CNN watching the results last week, and concluded that he had touched a painful chord that escaped the notice of America’s political class and all its media pundits. They dismissed him as a buffoon from day one. As with Narendra Modi in 2014, media pundits failed to see what was completely clear to millions of voters. This was that they wanted to vote for someone who was not offering the usual solutions to their problems. Modi did that with his slogan of ‘parivartan’ and ‘vikas’, and Trump did that with his promise to ‘make America great again’. Ordinary people saw what pundits missed.

Now let’s talk about the importance of a healthy transfer of power in a democracy, even if it is doubtful that Trump would have accepted defeat as graciously as Hillary Clinton did. During the last debate between them, he warned that he would only accept the election results if he won. So let’s hope that he has been humbled by the grace with which President Obama has promised to instruct his staff to make every effort to help him in the transition period. This kind of dignified transfer of power is something we certainly did not see in India in 2014. Remember the sulky looks on the faces of the Gandhis as they accepted defeat without once congratulating Narendra Modi?

To this day it seems as if they have not fully accepted that what they appear to consider their birthright to rule India has been snatched from them. This could be because when a single family is elected over and over again to the highest office, it gets used to the idea of ruling and not governing. So we have a situation today when Rahul Gandhi rarely misses a chance to insult the Prime Minister and his handful of MPs never miss a chance to turn debates in Parliament into rancorous shouting matches.

Does this continue to happen because of the hope that relentless acrimony will make it impossible for the government to survive a full term? Or the equally forlorn hope that the Prime Minister will be distracted from delivering on his promises? One way or another, it serves to distract the media from concentrating its energies on real issues instead of noise and fury. So another lesson that we in India can learn from America is the importance of giving a newly elected leader a full chance. Prime Minister Modi has lately taken to talking about the need for general elections and elections to state Assemblies to be held together, on a preordained date instead of any old time. This is something the Election Commission should start working on seriously so that future prime ministers can spend more time on governance than on electioneering. Unless this happens, India will continue to stagger along instead of moving at full speed towards the middle of a century that everyone, including Modi, prophesied would belong to us.

Meanwhile, for the sake of America and for the sake of the world, we must hope that the American media was as wrong about Trump as the Indian media was about Modi. Darkness and horrible communal divisions were supposed to have torn India apart in the first months of Modi becoming Prime Minister and this did not happen. Darkness and doom continue to be prophesied now that Donald Trump has become leader of the free world. May these prophesies be proved as wrong as those ones have proved to be.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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  1. H
    Hindu rashtra
    Nov 13, 2016 at 3:41 pm
    Why would you not vote for trump if you were american. He is such a great man and would rescue the world. People like you are certainly a danger for hindus and humanity.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Go and sit with barkha and rajdeep on ndtv. Insane.
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    1. b
      brahmins.American.Foundation
      Nov 13, 2016 at 2:33 pm
      @ V Blt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;"Donald Trump has so far not appeared to be guided and governed by the dictates of logic, reasoning and weighing of the pros and cons. "lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;That is why we Brahmins love him.
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      1. K
        Karupannan
        Nov 13, 2016 at 2:31 pm
        Strongly condemn the article comparing A SAINT(no butcher) Modi's first three months of BLISS and that the author expects in other countries to be followed.
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        1. S
          SubbuI
          Nov 13, 2016 at 6:52 am
          YES MADAM. YOUR WEEKLY BAKWAS IS ON EXPECTED LINES. THOUGH WE AGREE TRUMP AND NALAYAK NMODI ARE ALMOST OF SAME QUALITY EXCEPT THAT THAT AMERICAN FUTURE MAD DICTATOR IS A OPEN womanizer NOT OUR TUGHLAQ.AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL IMPEACH HIM IF CROSS N LIMIT FOR SURE lt;br/gt;BUT HERE THAT IS OUT OF QUESTION.HE WILL BE DEFEATED IN 2019
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          1. I
            IslamForFoools
            Nov 13, 2016 at 2:38 pm
            Beech tavlin
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            1. Z
              zizek
              Nov 13, 2016 at 2:38 am
              Madame Tavleen, first of all, stop watching CNN. LOL! Secondly, I disagree with your decision of not voting Trump if you were an American. Hillary Clinton is an evil bit*h. She just wanted to go down in history as first woman President. Too good people did not let her become.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Now, about media. These media people are so biased that the day is not far when people will rise and demand decentralization. Why I have to listen to Burqa Datta, Arnab Gobarswami, Rubbish Kumar. And mostly, they want to further their own agendas.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Finally, please be coherent madame. You cover Trump to his to simultaneous elections and what not in one single post. Not done. Just saying.
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              1. A
                Arun Sanker
                Nov 13, 2016 at 9:56 am
                "Remember the sulky looks on the faces of the his as they accepted defeat without once congratulating Narendra Modi? " - Tavleen Singh does what she does best. Bash the his for no reason. I remember vividly how Sonia hi had, on the day the election results were out, congratulated the BJP and extended her warm wishes to the new government. Tavleen is pathetic. Seems she writes articles only to blame the his.
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                1. N
                  Nabarun
                  Nov 13, 2016 at 2:51 am
                  Cool breeze of far right concept is blowing across continents. There is very little the media can do, leave alone predict and sermon.
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                  1. D
                    dmwn
                    Nov 13, 2016 at 6:12 am
                    Tavleen, in her second paragraph of the article mentions, Trump " exhibits definite signs of being a demagogue, a bigot and of having a myopic vision that may make the world a more dangerous place than it already is". But is the definition not applicable for our own Mr Modi ? In fact Mr Modi is worse, and is proving to be on a day to day basis.
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                    1. G
                      gc
                      Nov 13, 2016 at 9:18 am
                      I was thinking you would be jumping, that finally the the Congress and other crooks have lost their POWER (money is power).
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                      1. D
                        Dinesh Kumar
                        Nov 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm
                        Bad article. Communal divisions have already been sowed in India. In which country can you be murdered for keeping meat in your fridge?
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                        1. I
                          indian
                          Nov 14, 2016 at 3:51 am
                          The author has got her facts incorrect - lt;br/gt;1. the his congratulated the BJP on winning 2014. The power transition was smooth - from MMS to NM. Even after NM's taking over, MMS met him in a few other meetings, there is no sign of rancour. In fact, it was Sushma Swaraj who threatened to shave her head if SG became PM. lt;br/gt;2. the his are no 'dynasty' - Nehru designed Shastri to be his successor, Indira was made PM by the syndicate; the dynastic move was by Indira - bringing Sanjay/Rajiv into politics. Even SG came into politics, many years after Rajiv's demise.
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                          1. I
                            Indianajones
                            Nov 13, 2016 at 7:41 am
                            Stupid bigoted lady what do you mean by "This kind of dignified transfer of power is something we certainly did not see in India in 2014".
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                            1. R
                              rak g
                              Nov 13, 2016 at 6:27 am
                              perhaps tavleen singh could have analysed political culture in india and reflected upon 2004 results when prominent BJP members threatened to shave f their hair, or resorted to other dramas. Madam all iam saying is this is not congress fault or BJP its just culture of india. In any case do you not remember rahul g smiling at post election press conference?? IT seems your eagerness to malign congress has taken over your analytical mind has made you forgotten the way BJP behaved during UPA 2 by not letting single bill p! so has happened in USA, congress and senate had blocked every bill favoured by obama in past 8 years and guess what, just like modi did subsequently, trump too would eventually follow obamas policy, a small trailor has already become apparent in him claiming to keep major portion of obamacare after having gone to town opposing it in election...GST, adahar, mining bill insurance bill, rings the bell??!! perhaps not, too much to expect from a bhakt i suppose.
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                              1. J
                                Jamaal Waasti
                                Nov 13, 2016 at 8:32 am
                                Tavleen is herself is so blind that she cant see anything beyond her bigoted boundaries. Her pathological hatred for congress seems more personal that's what loses the objectivity in her articles. She forgets that none of the sangh fellows or their ilk were part of freedom movement instead were siding with British. It doesn't imply that congress are holy cow their UPA 2 was a disaster giving the way legibly to opposition. Tavleen please apply some sense while writing as a senior journalist, I read your articles to see how far you denigrate the article. As correctly mentioned in some comments that you have forgotten all the ruckus created by BJP when parliament didn't function and what not our PM called the ex PM.
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                                1. V
                                  Vensuslaus Jesudason
                                  Nov 14, 2016 at 1:48 pm
                                  The striking similarity between Modi and Trump is that both bragged and generously proffered bogus promises during their respective election campaigns. The main difference is that while Modi remains a champion of globalization, Trump gives the sense that he is for a closed economy to make the US great again. I wonder how is that going to be possible. Meanwhile, Trump cannot carry out any of his pre-election threats as the checks and balances put in place in the US will thwart him. If he tries to undercut liberty, he will be impeached and removed from office.
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                                  1. A
                                    Ananth
                                    Nov 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm
                                    Ms. Tavleen, excellent summing up. But if our Nation is not torn apart it is because the Hindu majority are a tolerant lot and adapt the policy of live and let live. It is to be seen whether the Anglo Saxons of USA will behave the same way.
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                                    1. M
                                      Murthy
                                      Nov 13, 2016 at 8:16 pm
                                      Media in the USA and in India are the only window through which the people get a) Information and b) get educated on issues vital to the country. I am not sure that in either country, the Media have performed well on these two grounds. More so than their US counterparts, Indian Media focuses only on 'hot air', that is controversy, whipping up the emotions of minorities.
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                                      1. M
                                        Murthy
                                        Nov 13, 2016 at 8:12 pm
                                        Yes, there were, still are, some similarities. One major difference was Modi remained gracious, unlike Trump. Modi said, "There are no enemies in democratic elections. There are only compeors" But Congress and the Indian Media treated Modi as an enemy. "Priyanka Vodra is like my daughter", said Modi. She replied, "No, no you are not my father". Grace and gentility, where to find you?
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                                        1. M
                                          Madhup Rathi
                                          Nov 13, 2016 at 6:35 am
                                          American media like CNN, NY Times, Washington Post are not better than NDTV. They live in their own leftist utopian dream world. Donald Trump will achieve success the same way Modi has achieved.
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                                            DILIP
                                            Nov 13, 2016 at 10:19 am
                                            DONALD J TRUMP IS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR TO USA AFTER EIGHT OF SOCIALIST SH11TE AND FAILED ECONOMIC POLICIES THAT HAD ENGULFED THE USA'S ECONOMY AND CIVIL SOCIETY. SOON WILL SHAKE OFF THE SOCIALIST YOKE THAT HAD IMPOVERISHED MAJORITY OF AMERICANS, CREATING SOCIAL DYSFUNCTIONS STRIFE RUPTURES AND HATRED. UNDER TRUMP'S PRESIDENCY AT LAST USA WILL GET BACK TO ITS HIGH ECONOMIC GROWTH RATE ERA, THIS WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN WHICH WILL BE GOOD OMEN AND NEWS FOR INDIA AS TRUMP WILL STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH MODI IN ASIA. OTHERS BE WARE.
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