On Nov. 8, 2016, nearly 100 million eligible US voters did not vote in the US presidential election, 240 years after the Declaration of Independence. The following morning, American billionaire businessman Donald Trump became the 45th US president-elect.
With inversion the order of the day, the world now analyses how conventional wisdom was defied, every major guardrail breached and common decency overlooked for this anointment to occur.
It is no enigma to decipher who Trump is: He is the newly-crowned Emperor of the Alt-Right, an American neo-fascist movement, which has allies of a similar ilk globally. Deciphering how this became the status quo in the US is more difficult, but there are ancient, historic and contemporary theses of governance which can assist.
Two and a half millennia ago, Greek philosopher Plato in “The Republic” described five types of governance models, from best to worst: An aristocracy (“influencers”) led by a philosopher king; timocracy, governance by warriors (“military”); oligarchy, governance by the rich over the poor; democracy, governance by the mass; and tyranny, governance by a tyrant. According to this thesis, seconded by outgoing US President Barack Obama, Trump’s ascent as a demagogue was an example of how America was on the precipice of tyranny, and with his election, tipped over.
Half a century ago, US Professor Harry Eckstein began developing his “congruence theory” of governance, which stated that the style of governance of societal units such as home, school and workplace is reflected in their government. In essence, justice in the home mirrors the justice dispensed by the White House. The question then becomes how incarnate is the litany of Trump’s bigotry across parts of American society and how can that be rectified.
A contemporary thesis of governance states that world events, as major types of transformative change, can broadly be placed into one of three categories: Divergence, which are rare, one-off, negative events; disruption, which are more recurrent events, with both positive and negative elements; and convergence, which actually represents the overall theme of a positive direction for people and planet.
Trump’s presidency is, undoubtedly, the world’s most significant divergence, where the proverbial keys to the Oval Office are to be handed to a president endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. Divergences will continue to ensue, multiply and scale, and therefore, the ability to identify, prepare and counter for them with innovative, genuine and sustainable forms of strategic intervention is warranted.
Nevertheless, the world is in The Age of Convergence, as witnessed through two major events in the US in 2016 with global impact. The funeral of the American legendary boxer, activist and former racial supremacist Muhammad Ali on June 9 allowed for the celebration of the life of a man whose appeal transcended gender, race, faith and class the world over. The second was the surprising, quick and unanimous decision on Oct. 5 by the 15-member United Nations Security Council to elect Portuguese statesman António Guterres as the new UN secretary-general from Jan. 1, 2017.
Then, according to Plato, Trump is a neophyte tyrant; to Eckstein, Trump’s bigotry is institutionalized within parts of American society; and the world’s most significant divergence is Trump. Subscribing to these three theses of governance, triangulated to become an epiphany, helps to explain the existential cause, nature and threat of a Trump presidency. But it can also do more: Help many to move beyond confusion to certainty, despair to optimism, from inert to driven.
If one subscribes to the trilateral epiphany on governance, it becomes easier to embrace three principles, which personally and collectively can help to summon strength in contending with the Trump presidency.
The first principle is protectiveness. This means not only expressing solidarity with the most vulnerable groups in American society, who have been at the brunt of the bigotry espoused by Trump, but also actively protecting them, with the heart, tongue and limbs.
The second principle is preparedness. The mantra here is to prepare for the worst, work for the best — and start now. Trump is set to become an autocrat, with the Republican Party beholden to him for helping them, despite themselves, secure virtual control of the three branches of the US government.
The third principle is pro-activism, where to triumph during Trump’s presidency will require diligence, delivery and foresight, as work done today will contribute to both American and global convergence. As President Obama has explained, demographics in the US are on the side of the downtrodden, so patience, also, is revealed to be a virtue.
As evident in the transformative journeys of ideologically racial extremists at polar opposites in films such as “Malcolm X” and “American History X,” the Trump presidency then represents a nation at a crossroads, and the choice it has to make to transform for the better: “American Future X.”
• Talal Malik is the chairman and CEO of Alpha1Corp International and a trusted adviser to some of the world’s top government, business and humanitarian leaders.