Has everyone noticed how gracious Hillary Clinton was in defeat?
She did not complain that the system was rigged against her because the Electoral College majority is what counts and not the national vote tally. She did not even point out that she received more votes than did Donald Trump.
In the old, less gender sensitive days, one might have said that she took her defeat on the chin, like a man. Because she is a true democrat, she said that the US should give Trump a chance. “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” Wow, and wow again. A lesson for the world if there ever was one.
And what of President Barack Obama? He campaigned for Clinton against Trump. He made it clear that he felt Trump was a whiner who was “uniquely unqualified” to be president of the United States. But when the voters had spoken, President Obama invited President-Elect Trump to meet him in the Oval Office. What could have been a chilly formal meeting for the form of it only turned into a ninety-minute conversation described in The Star as an excellent meeting and a “cordial beginning to their transfer of power.”
Obama went so far as to say that he would do everything he could to help Trump succeed because “if you succeed, the country succeeds.”
President-Elect Trump was not to be outdone. He behaved like a gentleman, describing Hillary Clinton in his first speech as someone who had given decades of service to the country and who deserved the thanks of the people for that. He also said that Obama was a very good man and that it had been an honour to meet him.
I would not have voted for Donald Trump. Some of the things he has said and done are detestable and the jury is definitely out on whether he will behave himself as the leader of the democratic world. That notwithstanding, over fifty eight million American voters supported him and his policies, perhaps despite some of the things he said, rather than because of them.
And when it came to the crunch, he and his opponents behaved impeccably, setting an example for everyone of how politicians should conduct themselves in victory and in defeat. One hopes that this cordiality and example of unity will continue throughout the transition period from now until the inauguration on 20th January.
The demonstrators in cities across America who complain about Trump’s election and those wanting to change the system so that the Electoral College votes for Clinton instead of Trump, are misguided. They are not a credit to democracy and their efforts will fail. You don’t change the rules in the middle of the game because you do not like what is happening.
It is not only the rest of the world that should note the example set by the USA; our own South African politicians ought also to take note. The ANC is on the road to defeat in 2019 and it is becoming more likely by the day that a new coalition government will replace the ANC. The blaring headlines announcing that “Zuma is going nowhere” and the parliamentary vote of confidence by many MPs who were coerced into supporting him when they clearly do not has weakened the governing party further.
My strong belief is that the ANC will split; one wing will go off and play dangerous race politics with the Economic Freedom Fighters while the other wing will make common cause with the Democratic Alliance, which has become the heir to the Nelson Mandela tradition. Most other opposition parties will feel comfortable within such an alliance and there is every prospect of a new coalition government taking over.
The DA is the product of several political mergers, going right back to the time of Colin Eglin, van Zyl Slabbert, Zach de Beer, Tony Leon and Helen Zille. Each one of those alliances strengthened the party and Mmusi Maimane, the gifted leader of the DA today, will no doubt seek alliances and perhaps even mergers, paving the way for a new government with liberal/social democratic policies.
When the transition happens, one hopes for the sake of South Africa that it will be peaceful and gracious. The recent local government elections, where the DA took over power in local authorities and metro councils, gave an interesting indication of the future. The ANC, to its credit, vacated the seats of power, more or less willingly, even though shocked and disbelieving at the election outcome.
The subsequent hooliganism organised and co-ordinated simultaneously in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg provided lessons for all of us. The ANC is not very good at hooliganism. It is also not great at being in opposition because it feels it has a God-given right to rule, although not many people in that party still believe that the ANC will rule until Jesus comes again. Perhaps more importantly, the governing coalitions in the three Metros emerged from the fracas looking better, not worse because of the ANC tactics.
South African voters are decent people and they really do not approve of bloodshed in council chambers and people being viciously assaulted with water jugs. Of course, there is a group of voters, a small group, who seem to admire violence and thuggery, but a new small party cornered that market and their voters are unlikely to find the tired old ANC in a new guise very attractive. As the corruption of the previous ANC administrations becomes ever more evident, the chances of the ANC being restored to power dim further.
The signs are good that when change comes to South Africa, as it will, we too will set an example for the democratic world.
A former Opposition Chief Whip and former ambassador to Thailand, Douglas Gibson is now a writer and a keynote speaker. Follow him @dhmgibson