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Raffique Shah


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Who will lock up the President?

By Raffique Shah
November 10, 2020

It was a critical juncture in the history of the United States of America, when its outgoing president, having lied his way to sitting in a position of close-to-supreme power back in 2016, was poised to steal the keys to the Oval office for the second time, in plain view of hundreds of millions of Americans who had just exercised their right to elect a president and other high government officials, a momentous occasion that the rest of the world monitored with a mixture of disbelief and trepidation.

Billions of people across the world watched this saga unfold, in my case through the behemoth cable news network, CNN, which covered the event from every angle possible, and whose vastness took us into the corridors, office-suites, and even bunker-like accommodations from which power was controlled and often manipulated, as its army of reporters, analysts, announcers and anchors tried to make sense of the nonsense we were witnessing.

The sheer number of voters who had exercised their rights last Tuesday was staggering—close to 145 million. Almost half of them had voted before polling day, a sensible option they enjoy that allows greater efficiency, although the voting system came under continuous fire from Donald Trump and his team. Indeed, Trump filed a few legal actions in his bid to shake people's confidence, but largely, he was ignored. After all, from early Wednesday morning, CNN ran live footage from several such facilities. We saw large numbers of workers processing huge stacks of ballots, so not even the Republican party faithful were about to join Trump in any kind of protest.

What set me thinking of the grim possibilities that could arise out of the warped mind of someone as devious as Trump was when, relatively early Tuesday night, CNN staff members and their studio guests began speculating about the incumbent refusing to concede that he had lost, should that turn out to be the case. Alarm bells started ringing in my head about the scenario they were painting—a defiant, probably even deranged president, refusing to accept defeat, whatever that meant for the USA and the world.

In fact, as early results poured into the studios signaling a closer-than-anticipated fight and finish, Trump did the unthinkable: he proclaimed victory, thanked his team for taking him into a second term, which met with loud applause from those gathered at the White House.

What the hell was going on here, I mused. It was one thing for Keith Rowley to declare victory in this two-by-two country early election night, on August 10. I knew that his party machinery at the various polling stations will have telephoned the control centre with the numbers, so he was aware that they had lost one seat (Moruga/Tableland), but they had retained power.

But Trump will have required some super-natural force, a cross between a genie and a tech-wizard, to have furnished him with results from hundreds of thousands of polling stations spread across three time zones, many of which had only just closed their doors when he claimed victory. Clearly, this man was up to no good.

Normally-staid and sober reporters who had, in the course of their professional careers, covered wars, revolutions, the seemingly spontaneous eruption a few months ago of hundreds of "Black Lives Matter" protest marches across the world, seemed stumped for words, unsure what to say or do in the face of Trump's challenge to the status quo. Names of senior Republican party officials were thrown out as they discussed the looming stand-off. But they were quickly discarded since they were deemed as being too tame to shake Trump into the reality that he stood a more-than-even chance of being voted out of office.

Someone needed to tell him that he should prepare a concession speech that he might need to deliver the following day or soon thereafter. They could have had him listen to Senator John McCain's classic in 2008 when he lost the election to Barack Obama.

But none of that was going to happen. Trump was intent on staying in the White House, and no one had the guts to tell him like it is, or get him to do the decent thing. My mind went into the military mode, as it always does, when faced with such critical situations: surely, I thought, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, professional army, air force and naval officers of the highest ranks among serving officers, could do it.

After all, he was their commander-in-chief, which is titular. But he was plunging their country down a precipice of shame, and they needed to pull him up, get him to listen and act accordingly, as only the military could. Failing that, they quietly lock him up in his underclothes, and have him thrown into a military-controlled mental institution where he will remain until he regains his sanity.

Your move, generals.

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