Monday, 14 November 2016

Trump: Survival of the Fathers

by Rhiannon Jenkins

Like a founding father - but not in a good way 
In the second week of November, America elected the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, as their president. For many this came as a shock. The majority of the polls prior to election day had shown Hillary Clinton as the clear winner, Trump has been labelled as ‘unpresidential’: he was facing a trial for child rape in December, a trial regarding his fraudulent "Trump University", he has filed for bankruptcy six times, Republican congresspersons have declared that they will not support him, he has made openly derogatory comments towards women, people of colour and disabled people, he has even implied a sexual attraction towards his daughter, he has never held political office - and yet earned 279 electoral college votes and in January will be inaugurated as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States. Considering the supposedly ‘progressive’ culture of the West, his opinions and manner seem archaic; they belong in a time one would hope we passed decades ago.

Whether or not Trump will truly make as horrendous a President as some people expect remains to be seen, but is he really as "unpresidential" as the claims imply? America’s Founding Fathers were slave-owners, adulterers and elitist but, they gave America freedom, sit proudly on the nation’s banknotes, are carved sixty-feet high in stone; America idolises these imperfect men to the point that they seem more like gods than mortals, demonstrating the fact that it really is not so inexplicable that America also voted for Trump to be their President.

Obviously, the state of society in 1776 differed greatly from society in 2016, although there are similarities. America in 1776 had just finished fighting the War of Independence, fighting the British for their freedom, and now many Americans believe they are fighting for their freedom from extremists. African Americans were enslaved and the slave trade was rife and now people of colour still face strong discrimination and oppression, actualised in US police killing over 100 unarmed black people in 2015 alone. It was felt in 1776 that women belonged at home, educating the next generation and supporting their husband, but not by breadwinning; over 200 years later, America has still not voted a female into the White House. It is these similarities in society’s attitude which markedly reduce the surprise of Trump’s election.

Especially when you take into account the ‘heroes’ who America herald. The seven men most commonly cited as Founding Fathers are: George Washington, the first President; Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury; John Adams, first Chief Justice; Thomas Jefferson, third President and principal author of the Declaration of Independence; James Madison, fourth President; John Adams, first Vice President and second President; and, Benjamin Franklin, campaigner for colonial unity (and a distinguished inventor).

These men fathered eight illegitimate children and four had at least one mistress.  James Madison married a woman half his age, George Washington’s first mistress was a slave aged 15 and Alexander Hamilton’s mistress was almost a decade younger than him. As the old adage goes, history often repeats itself - Trump has faced accusations of raping a thirteen year old girl (although two weeks ago, his accuser withdrew her lawsuit - for reasons unexplained); not only did his second marriage start as an affair but the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year has made claims that she and Trump had a long-term relationship during his current marriage to his third wife. Not only has Trump disrespected his wives, as the Founding Fathers who were adulterers did, he has also disrespected women (giving only one example) through his recorded comments about sexual advances in 2005, which he dismissed as ‘locker room talk’.

Furthermore, the President-Elect is publicly endorsed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and there have also been reports that his family (in particular, his father) had personal involvement in it. Since George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (to name only two) were slaveowners and did not later become abolitionists - as Benjamin Franklin did, although this is not an excuse - again, it is easier to see the ease with which people have accepted and supported Trump’s racist comments and threats against those who do not share his skin colour (white, not orange) when the revered Founding Fathers who sought for freedom, also only sought freedom and happiness for people who looked the same as them.

Overall, it would be difficult to class the Founding Fathers as completely evil men when they did so much for their country, but it is also impossible to ignore the massive flaws and imperfections which are often forgotten. However, it is their redeeming qualities and what they did for their country which make, and allow, people to forget. Donald Trump does not have that advantage. Arguably his only achievement thus far is tricking himself into believing he has any chance of actually ‘making America great again’ when his entire being presents the fact that America has not progressed in 200 hundred years, from having middle-aged, white men who come from the wealthiest 1%, cheat on their wives and abuse those who are different, in charge.

The lack of progression therefore shows how Donald Trump has become President-Elect; his roots lie with the Founding Fathers and their imperfections. He has developed to represent what America represented in 1776, and he is not entirely to blame. It is the society around him which has allowed behaviour acceptable two centuries ago to perpetuate itself now and still win an election. It is the idolisation of men who were more than imperfect and whose actions should be discredited today, but aren’t. Donald Trump is what remains of the Founding Father’s hatred and inhumane actions, and therefore his election should not be greeted with shock, but with shame. 

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