King Trump

King Trump

There are so many African dictators in part because of America. Today is America’s Presidents’ Day Holiday. It celebrates the office as much as the individuals who held it. It celebrates the closest thing a democracy can be to remaining a monarchy.

America was one of the very first democracies but its problem is that it hasn’t shed or sufficiently amended its original constitution so it’s not as democratic as most modern societies. It concentrates enormous power in the president, and by extension today, with minorities and special interests as well.

So while it was a revolutionary idea in the late 1700s and together with the French revolutions upended a world political sysytem built on monarchies, today the enormous power of the U.S. president is wrong and dangerous, and most importantly, anti-democratic.

Most of the European countries’ democracies came after America’s. Few have a powerful chief executive like America; most are parliamentary systems which are far more democratic.

America held no African colonies. (The Liberian situation is unique.) Africa was colonized mostly by Britain and France, although virtually all the European powers had some colonial interests on the continent at some point.

But the period of decolonization occurred just after World War II as the Cold War developed and the world became precariously balanced between two powerful adversaries, each with powerful chief executives.

So while the European countries tried to foment completely parliamentary systems on their colonies at independence, the colonies resisted.

There is, today, no African country entirely parliamentarian. (The least of the powerful of the African chief executives is found South Africa, but its initial independence came well before the world wars and its revised Mandela constitution preserved many of the restrictions on the executive.)

America actively lobbied for powerful African chief executives as the struggle for creating independent African governments began in the early 1960s. America’s theory at the time was that there was too much anticipation of freedom and liberation – democracy – that young countries would feel their oats and show their independence on a world stage that America felt required abject loyalty to one side or the other.

By the way, this was also the Soviet Union’s position.

The result was an amalgam of government that continues today in most African countries. The basic systems are parliamentary, but placed on top is a chief executive, a president, who wields as much or more power than America’s.

Recently Kenya even scrapped that amalgam for a straight-out American system.

Democracy is messy, often ineffective in troubling times. We’re in troubling times. I believe that’s a natural cycle just like good health and bad health. Many diseases can be avoided with proper prevention, but some just can’t. You just have to suffer through them, hopefully learning better prevention for the next time around.

Democracy addled by impossible ideals that every moment should be one of guaranteed freedom for everybody everywhere crashes resoundingly when it refuses to accept a bad period as inevitable.

That’s what’s happening in America, today, if not the whole word. As I think through our list of 44 presidents, many are easily identified as louses, inept and corrupt. But once as President Americans gave all of them wide latitude to do whatever they wanted, just as our Constitution prescribes.

Better to fantasize there is no climate change than suffer what must be done to address it.

Better to impede Latinos from voting than risk higher taxes, or black strain on our lily white private secondary schools.

We knew this was coming. We knew the world’s population would increase exponentially, that resources would be strained, that the environment was being destroyed … all while we also knew that technology and education would ensure that more and more people knew all this and would be upset.

But “we” haven’t yet accepted “we”. Instead, we celebrate a maniac oaf as an ultimate decider for all of us. No matter what.

Happy President’s Day.