By October 2020, President Trump was sending dangerous signals of an angry, deranged, unhinged and out of control presidential candidate careening toward self-destruction at a roller coaster speed. Analysts warned of an imminent collapse of American democracy and wanton destruction of institutions that had taken centuries to build.
For four years (2016-2020), President Trump was a corky, in your face, dismissive, corrupt and a chest thumping disrespectful bully who menacingly displayed grandiose narcissism. In October 2020, Politico, an authoritative Washington publication screamed ‘Trump is Suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome’. The article captured Trump’s erratic behaviour, even by his own standards after sensing the looming shellacking by Joe Biden in the elections. His behaviour had supporters and surrogates alike worried about his mental stability and the danger he posed to America.
Those fears were not far-fetched. Trump would go on to lose badly to Biden (74.2 to 81.2 million votes). Trump immediately embarked on a dangerous campaign to delegitimise Biden’s win, an odyssey that culminated in the infamous, albeit unsuccessful bloody “coup” to overthrow the US constitution by inciting his supporters to violently storm the US Capital building and attempt to kill his Vice President, Speaker, and congressmen. The aftershocks of January 6 left an indelible imprint on world democracy.
Next week, Kenyans will go to the polls to choose their next president. As a political observer, I have noticed striking similarities of the Trump-Ruto campaigns and leadership styles. Trumpism is so obvious in the Ruto campaign. It’s fair to say Ruto draws inspiration from Trump and other snake oil salesmen.
First, both campaigns were built on outright lies, misinformation and disinformation. Trump, a Manhattan billionaire, exploited the suffering of poor Americans and projected himself as the “only one” who can rescue the poor, “forgotten people.” Poor rural folks blindly fell for the buzz words without questioning how a feisty NYC billionaire would alleviate their suffering. It got Trump elected but that was it for the people.
Following Trump’s triumph, Ruto, a shadowy Kenyan billionaire exploited the suffering of poor Kenyans by coining empty slogans like “hustler” nation, mama mboga etc. Will Kenyan “hustlers” fall for the same trap next week?
Secondly, Trump disrespected and insulted his opponents, women, and heroes. He openly undermined and abused President Obama and his wife Michelle, nicknamed Biden “sleepy Joe”, used vulgar language against women, including Hillary Clinton and US ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman. Further, Trump ridiculed a decorated American hero John McCain over injuries sustained while fighting for America.
On his part, Ruto has taken Trump’s misogyny a notch higher. He has threatened to slap President Kenyatta, used his surrogates to hurl unprintables at former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta and nicknamed Raila Odinga Mzee wa Kitendawili.
Timothy Kaberia, Nairobi