When I took a flight to the United States of America from Kathmandu's Tribhuwan International Airport on October 3, there was little debate in Nepal about the US presidential election. On my return home in 35 days, following the victory of Republican candidate Donald J. Trump as the president of the USA, I met a number of people, including officials at customs, immigration desks, security checkpoints and even within the airlines, anxiously asking questions about the future of America and that of the world for that matter. Influenced by reactions and comments in the social media, particularly in the Face Book, most of these people shared their views as if the results meant the end of the world. The suspicions of Nepali people were fueled by their own experiences, in which their political leaders would take time to reconcile with one another in the hangover of created by the heated election campaign and partisan media.
Of course, Americans were divided on the party line, too, with Democratic Party candidate and secretary of state Hillary Clinton and president-elect Republican nominee Donald Trump. The election campaign divided America so deeply that it touched all elements of American society, including gender, race, ethnicity, class, color and region. Even the media took this or that side. It was interesting, however, to see the process of reconciliation starting soon after the announcement of the results. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conceded defeat and congratulated president-elect Donald Trump. Trump addressed the nation expressing commitment to lead America by accommodating all the voices.
Within a week, all the campaign rhetoric died and president-elect Trump turned to talking about the reality. As the loser conceded the defeat politely and winner agreed to respect the dissenting voice, the beauty of democracy came to the fore. Media came to the real ground, working to bring the society and country together, placing itself in the role of the watchdog.
Having over two centuries of tradition and practice of democracy and with strong state and political institutions, president-elect Donald Trump and rival Hillary Clinton exchanged conciliatory remarks through phone and public media. As a country founded by European immigrants, USA has a long legacy of Jefferson, Lincoln and George Washington and so many others who laid the foundation of democratic America. Having seen many tumults in their own native countries in Europe, framers of American Constitution had placed checks and balances to maintain the harmony of diverse immigrants from Europe. When the foundation of the nation was laid on reconciliation, respect of right of man and liberal democratic values, it is hard that one result of election would tear down the nation’s entire history. No leader in the United States can act as a leader of authoritarian state on personal whims. Given the current a neck-to-neck competition, the deep division was natural.
Although many critical reactions are appearing over the fate of liberal democracy following the US election results, there will be no way other than to follow reconciliation in the end to make the nation great. Liberal ideals, values and institutions in America are not made over a day, a week, a month or a decade. American democratic institutions have almost over two hundred fifty years' long evolutionary history. The US has passed many crisis times but the country thrived with these in leading all the wars against authoritarian ideologies in the world. The lesson for a country like Nepal is the respect to institutions and respect to the verdict of people.
Returning to Normalcy
A week after the elections, everything was coming to normalcy slowly. Even president-elect Donald Trump's tough-sounding plans to rein in illegal immigration, and other agenda showed signs of cracking with the president-elect seemingly backing off his vow to build a solid wall along the southern U.S. border and the top House Republican rejecting any "deportation force" targeting people in the country illegally.
In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes,” president-elect Trump said he would accept a fence in some places along the U.S. southern border where he had promised to build a wall.
During his campaign, he insisted he would deport 11 million people living in the country illegally, with exceptions. But he distanced himself from that position as time went on, and in his first television interview since winning the presidential election, Trump said he's willing to deport or incarcerate 2 million to 3 million people living in the country illegally who "are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers."
Setting aside the strident tone of his campaign, the 70-year-old assumed a gentler manner in his first television interview since his shock election, saying he was "saddened" by reports of harassment of Muslims and Hispanics, and telling the perpetrators: "Stop It."
The interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," taped Friday and aired in full Sunday, offered Trump an opportunity to reintroduce himself after an ugly, name-calling campaign and surprise victory that sparked protests in cities across the United States.
"I just don't think they know me," the billionaire real estate mogul said at one point of the thousands of protesters who massed in streets below his Trump Tower headquarters with signs that read "Not our president." Told that many Americans are scared of his presidency, Trump said: "Don't be afraid. We are going to bring our country back."
Millions were expected to tune in to Trump's interview for clues on how the billionaire will govern, and how far he intends to convert his slogans into policy.
On the issues, however, Trump made it clear he intends to aggressively push a right-wing agenda, pledging to name justices to the Supreme Court who are against abortion and for gun rights.
"The judges will be pro-life," Trump told CBS. "In terms of the whole gun situation," he added, "they're going to be very pro-Second Amendment." He will have an immediate opportunity to fill a vacancy on the court left by the death of arch conservative justice Antonin Scalia.
"What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers," he said. He left the door open, however, on the fate of the millions of other immigrants in the country illegally.
There were other conciliatory notes as well. He signaled that he would not seek to overturn the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. "It's law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it's done," Trump said when asked if he supports marriage equality. "And I'm -- I'm fine with that," he added.
He also confirmed he would forgo the $400,000 salary that comes with the office of US president. "I'm not going to take the salary. I'm not taking it," he said. "I think I have to by law take $1, so I'll take $1 a year," he added.
It is highly likely within the first 100 days of his presidency, Trump will issue an executive order prohibiting U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that perform abortions. This would have an effect on women around the world who depend on services that come from US aid. Similarly, his statement to pull back from Paris Climate deal will also cost daring. With Donald Trump and Republican Control of the two senates, republicans will curtail the budget given to clean energy. Nepal will also suffer from any decline in the US Aid.
Whatever president-elect Trump may have said during the elections, he is now tempered by pragmatism. This is all about democracy. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. As I meet my own people in Nepal, I feel like I am waiting to learn and see how social media are going to impact our coming elections.
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. As Winston Churchill said democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.