Watching the latest Trump weirdness after Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his VP running mate, I suddenly had a disturbing flash of insight. Trump is going to win.
Here is how I arrived at this disturbing thought:
As a Palestinian I am aware of a bizarre political reality in and about Palestine/Israel that many often comment upon as if it were a normal state of affairs. As an American, I am witnessing today an absolutely unhinged reality that many commentators in the media are normalizing simply by discussing it.
“We should be disgusted,” Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, commented in reference to Trump raising bogus and racist questions about Harris’s eligibility to serve in the US government. “It’s unmitigated, racist, ignorant stupidity … the kind of stuff that this campaign, this time, cannot tolerate.” He goes on to address the American people: “America, if you are going to get punked on this, then you deserve what you get.”
What makes an American eligible to run for office? The qualifications are reasonable and uncomplicated — things like being a natural born citizen (for president), age, U.S. citizenship and residency.
Compare those with what makes a Palestinian eligible to run for high office if and when elections are allowed by foreign bodies. Well, the Palestinian nominee must possess a visa to the USA and a permit to enter Israel — lack of these two items would make him or her ineligible (according to negotiations between the US and the Palestinian Authority for the 9 January 2005 presidential elections; no elections have been held since).
Discussing the latter bizarre situation would raise no ire or even an eyebrow among mainstream commentators.
Trump has thrown doubt on basic tenets regarding the upcoming American presidential elections. I have heard newscasters repeatedly ask various guests this question seriously: What if Trump refuses to accept the election results? Another jaw-dropper is how Trump is trying to limit who votes.
Despite Steele’s plea above, we have today a big swatch of Americans listening to and believing in Trump’s allegations about the upcoming presidential elections, because the debunking of his lies in the media, the drum roll of “he says, they say” only serve to normalize the morally reprehensible fabrications he makes as plausible counter-narratives — a very familiar story for us Palestinians.
Who would have thought American elections would be discussed in the news in the same way Palestinians are discussing elections in Palestine regarding their credibility — whether to postpone them, whether to suppress them, whether they can be tampered with, whether the results can be accepted by the opposition.
Hani Al Masri, Director of Masarat — The Palestinian Center for Policy Research & Strategic Studies in Ramallah, says that to conduct elections in Palestine, we need three fundamental conditions, which we don’t have. These are the freedom to conduct elections, the ability to guarantee the integrity of election results and respect for (acceptance of) the results. He expressed this thought during a workshop in preparation for Masarat’s Ninth Annual Conference on the topic: “Palestine After Trump’s and Netanyahu’s Vision: What is to be done?”, which will open on Saturday 22 August 2020.
During the Ramallah workshop on the feasibility and desirability of Palestinian elections at this time, there were some comments in the discussion segment that began like this: “Even in the US it is not possible for elections to be conducted fairly electronically or by mail …”
Since Trump is repeating the racist playbook which helped catapult him to the national stage in the campaign that he launched against Obama, it is not farfetched to assume that the unthinkable can happen a second time, pandemic or not.
So, what do we have to assume in order to make the election work in favor of the Democratic ticket in the US? The first thing to assume is that government does not shape what kind of people we are and that Trump has not done lasting damage.
Indeed, we have to assume that all the U.S. governments before Trump in recent memory, both Democratic and Republican, have not already done irreparable damage to the kind of people the American majority now is. I thought our country had reached rock bottom when George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, and I was wrong about that.
I think Trump is going to win the Presidential elections for the same reason Israel continues to win diplomatically over Palestinians. Both Trump and Israel are selling self-preserving “narratives” that are morally reprehensible — openly so. And yet they have managed to reach millions.
While Palestinians are unanimous in regarding the deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as detrimental to the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people, Trump is taking credit for brokering “a historic peace deal.”
Last night, listening to the news and today listening to the Masarat workshop, I couldn’t make these assumptions. If American elections and Palestinian elections can be discussed at the same level of discourse, the American people have long been punked.
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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.