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Mondli Makhanya: A very rough ride ahead with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in charge

2019-07-15 01:07

On Thursday last week the president of the US embarked on one of his famed Twitter tirades that went on for three hours.

The man has always been unhinged but with every passing day and week the lunacy rises to new levels.

Fresh from a public spat with the UK government, in which he called Theresa May “foolish” and disastrous, he went to war with his real and imagined enemies.

Out of the blue he tweeted this: “The White House will be hosting a very big and very important Social Media Summit today. Would I have become President without Social Media? Yes (probably)! At its conclusion, we will all go to the beautiful Rose Garden for a News Conference on the Census and Citizenship.

“A big subject today at the White House Social Media Summit will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practised by certain companies. We will not let them get away with it much longer. The Fake News Media will also be there, but for a limited period.

“The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six ...... years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That’s why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden ...”

And so he went on and on and on, attacking the Democrats, mocking Deutsche Bank’s woes and praising himself as “great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius”.

It seemed a crazy prospect when Donald Trump announced his presidency that Republicans would eschew their mainstream conservative candidates and choose an unbalanced man to be their party’s candidate.

They did, and the rest is history. A second term might even be on the cards.

Trump has been in the company of similar crazies in other parts of the world, who have been beneficiaries of the rise of right-wing populism.

In most cases it seemed improbable, especially in Brazil, a progressive nation that has fallen into the hands of a racist bigot who celebrates vigilantism as a credible way of fighting crime.

Another improbability is about to become a reality.

Before the end of July this despicable WhatsApp group is likely to be joined by Boris Johnson who, as things stand, will succeed May as the UK prime minister.

Described by one of the doyens of UK journalism, Max Hastings, as a “cavorting charlatan” and a “tasteless joke”, Johnson is a mini Trump in his boorishness, narcissism and disregard for order and decency.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson. Picture: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

In a Guardian opinion piece, Hastings – who was once the boss of former journalist Johnson – wrote that the future prime minister has a “willingness to tell any audience, whatever he thinks most likely to please, heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction an hour later”.

Trump right there.

On Johnson’s character Hastings said “there is room for debate about whether he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth”.

He was clear that a Johnson premiership would not be pretty and would bear the hallmarks of a Trump presidency.

“We can’t predict what a Johnson government will do, because its prospective leader has not got around to thinking about this. But his premiership will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability,” warned Hastings bitingly.

What is very clear is that humanity is headed for a very bumpy ride in the next few years.

It was enough to have a Trump who had no regard for rules running amok on the western side of the Atlantic and constantly having to be checked by the courts and the Democratic side of Congress.

Now you will have two rogues on either side of the Atlantic running the most powerful nations in the democratic world.

Johnson is unlikely to have as much of a free rein as Trump because UK society will stage a more spirited fightback against his wayward ways, as Tony Blair found out when he lied to the nation to justify going to war in Iraq.

The biggest fear that those outside the UK should have is that he is Trumpian in his ways.

The impact of his stamp on foreign policy will be detrimental to multilateral organs and the UK’s relationships with the developing world.

Whereas Trump thinks of Africa as a shithole, Johnson’s views of the continent are very much stuck in the 18th century.

Ahead of a tour of Africa by Blair, Johnson teased that the then prime minister would be welcomed by “cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” and “tribal warriors” would “break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief”.

The one cause for relief for Africa and the developing world is that UK foreign policy is more long term, more developed and not always subject to the whims of the incumbent.

A racist and colonially minded Johnson will find it a lot harder to stamp his views.

That is the hopeful perspective. The other may just be that, like Trump and other retrogrades, his sentiments find fertile ground and entrench the kind of close-minded nationalism that bred Brexit.


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August 18 2019