Saturday, 10 November 2012 22:40(Opinion) – How did Africans feel watching Republican candidate Mitt Romney walk up to the mike at his subdued campaign headquarters on the night of November 6, 2012 and graciously conceding defeat in the 2012 presidential elections?
Perhaps some sense of relief that America, in spite of its great mass of ugliness, does have some extremely beautiful aspects that cannot but be the envy of the world, especially those parts of the world where conceding electoral defeat is almost unheard of and where political grace is displayed only in its patronizing, bullish manifestation, as if it were a favor to be conferred and not a virtue to be cultivated and shared.
It was at once humbling and gratifying to watch a man who had spent so much energy and resources of all kind walk right up to the mike, in front of TV cameras and congratulate another man who, only a few hours earlier, was his most bitter political opponent. And Romney conceded defeat graciously, even praying for Obama to succeed in his renewed role as President of the United States. This is what putting country before self looks and feels like. And this is a huge part of why America works.
It would be simplistic, however, to suggest that Romney conceded defeat merely because he is a gracious man, or merely because he puts country before self. These, of course, are to some extent true. But there is a bigger force than Romney or any single American that dictated Romney’s decision to graciously concede defeat in these elections: That force is the American people – a people who are politically literate and who will hold their leaders accountable for whatever they do or fail to do.
The American state is one that was built by the people and that continues to be sustained by the people. This is quite the opposite of what obtains in Africa where the state was put in place by a small group of people serving imperial interests and where the state continues to be made up of a small group of people mostly serving their own interests.
The 2012 elections in America were certainly the most fiercely contested in a long time. Right wing hatred of America’s Black president became personified and vocalized through the agency of men like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Donald Trump, and through institutions like the Tea Party and Fox News, among many others, some visible, most invisible.
America’s crop of wealthy racists sponsored Super PACs that invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the GOP campaign machinery while less wealthy racists swelled the ranks of the Tea Party and formed all manner of racist organizations devoted to “taking our country back” as if they were the only ones who could claim ownership of the United States. In the U.S. Congress, racist members swore to make sure that their dear America will not be ruled for a further four years by Barack Obama, not because Obama is a bad president, in spite of protestations to the contrary, but because Obama is a Black President and the idea of a Black President of the United States is just intolerable to America’s racists.
Republican members of Congress grew so obstructionist as to be almost subversive of the country they so profess to love. They did and said everything they could to make sure that the first Obama administration failed and therefore rendered ineligible for a second term. And during the months and weeks leading up to the elections, they did everything they could to drive the Black President out of the White House.
Happily, racist America remains in the minority in almost all of the states that most matter – those states with the highest number of electoral votes. And so Obama gets re-elected with at least a margin of 100 electoral votes as of election night. For a brief moment after CNN projected that Obama has been re-elected, it seemed as if Romney would refuse to concede defeat.
His campaign actually said he was not ready to concede, that they were crunching the Ohio numbers. But with Colorado declared for Obama moments later, Romney knew he had to throw the towel in or risk facing the wrath of the American people. One feels pretty certain that if Obama lost the election as clearly as Romney did, he would have readily conceded defeat rather than risk the wrath of the American people.
Both Jimmy Carter and George Bush senior were incumbents when they lost the election, and they had to vacate the White House without any particular prompting other than the scary prospect of incurring the wrath of the American people.
Contrast this scenario to what obtains in Africa, where in a country like The Gambia for instance, the incumbent president declares that the ballot could never take him out of office even before the vote is cast. African presidents are able to make such insulting statements because they, and not the people, are the repositories of power and thus the objects of fear.
The balance of power between state and nation, between government and people is so terribly skewed that it is generally taken for granted that states are all-powerful and people are all-powerless. The possibility that people could even object to the words and actions of the state is diminished to near oblivion. The state appropriates to itself the right to erase the agency of the people as political actors by forcefully identifying its own interests completely with the interests of the nation and daring anyone to question the validity of that fallacious assumption.
The entire nation is held hostage to the barrel of the gun and the malicious whims of a state that has no conception of itself as beholden to anything but its own selfish interests. When Gambian tyrant Yahya Jammeh declares that he is afraid of no one but God, he is precisely saying that all power in the country is vested in him, and that the people, the true repositories of political power, are in fact completely without political power.
This lie is given a semblance of truth by the deployment of merciless state repression against all perceived or real critics and opponents, and by the practice of hiring and firing people as frequently as he deems fit to serve his interests. In Africa, a president can fire any one from their government position, have anyone arrested and locked up, ban any media house, or seize any business or private property without as much as the blink of an eye because the people have been so thoroughly emasculated of political power as to believe that they have absolutely no claim or right to political power and no say in the conduct of their own national affairs.
Africa’s salvation lies in the empowerment of the African people precisely in the manner that the American people are empowered. It is not a question of emulating America or any other nation on earth. It is the reality that within the context of the nation state system that prevails in America as in Africa, political power belongs rightfully to the people. But the people can only wield this power if they are aware in the first place that they own this power.
African governments are well aware of this, although in pursuit of their selfish interests and their insatiable greed for self-aggrandizement and their sweet tooth for power, they force themselves to live under a self-imposed ignorance regarding this fact. The tragedy of the African condition is that the modern state is not one built by the people but one imposed on the people by the colonizing project of imperial Europe.
This tragedy is worsened because the state that took over from the imperial project did not see fit to bring into being an empowered and politically enlightened people. Rather, the state has consistently been happy to pull the political blinders over the eyes of the people and to perpetuate the myth of the absolute power of the state and the absolute powerlessness of the people. Elections are projected and seen as a practice in the expression of political gratitude to the rich and powerful, not as a practice in the exercise of the people’s political power.
America works because the people of America are conscious of their power and no actors in the American state – whether it’s a Romney or an Obama – is so foolhardy as to contemplate the mere possibility of testing the reality of that power. Africa will not work until the African people become conscious of their power and make it impossible for political actors to pretend or act otherwise. The revolution that will set Africa free is therefore above everything else, a Mind revolution that will place political power firmly in the hands of the people to exercise and defend as they deem fit.
Written by Baba Galleh Jallow
Who's OnlineWe have 165 guests and 3 members online
Should Death Penalty Be Abolished In The Gambia?
Follow us on Twitter
- Amnesty International Indicts Gambia Gov't
- Senegal's Prosecution Of Habre 'Illegal'
- Obama To Take First Major Africa Trip In Late June
- Top Gambian Sports Executive Officer Dies
- G/Bissau Declares Mourning For Ex-Interim President
- Book Review: Standing Up Against Injustice – Dr. Amadou S Janneh
- Gambia's Jammeh In LGBT 'Hall Of Shame'
- Ex-Gambian Minister Publishes Memoirs
- Gambia Supports UN Resolution On Syria
- Two Gambians In Court For 'Gay Sex'
- Iranian Azim Aghajani Convicted Over Nigeria Arms
- Amnesty Int’l Denounces Gambia’s Harsh Criminal Law
- Michael Scales Gives To JollofNews
- Jollof News Online Appeals For Help
- Twelve Bomb Disposal Experts Abducted In Senegal