Growing up in the Islamist autocracy that is Sudan, all I ever wanted was to experience and participate in a fair, democratic election— to see the masses lined up to elect whoever wins the hearts and minds of the majority, to know we will all be ok afterwards regardless of who will win, to have a constitution to protect the basic rights and freedoms of everyone, to have basic codes of decency embraced by political players and the masses. So far, the closest I’ve gotten to that is watching the Egyptian people shoot themselves in the foot twice after the Arab Spring: first when they elected a known radical fundamentalist group to start their story of democracy, and the second time by attempting to correct the rookie’s mistakes by turning the new democracy into a military state.
Since election season was never part of Sudan’s natural climate, at least not since I was born, I developed a habit of paying close attention to U.S elections instead growing up. Yeah, I was that weird kid who would rather watch presidential debates of another country instead of soccer matches or WWE. I found them more interesting and entertaining, sue me!
The first American election I observed closely was 2000, when Bush was brought into the White House. I then understood that it’s not necessarily the best candidate that wins. Not that I rooted for any of them in particular, but I found Al Gore to be more compelling, less awkward, and actually able to answer the questions he was asked. Yet Bush had the posture of a winner, not to mention the benefit of campaigning as a Republican after a Democratic administration; and not just any Democrat, but one with a sex scandal that was still sweeping the very same internet that he helped protect from government oversight. Gore had no chance, especially with the Democratic establishment still burying its head in shame and blue voters barely interested in voting at all at that time, let alone rallying to get the undecided to elect their candidate. Or at least that was what the eleven year old me concluded after weeks of following the elections, thanks to our satellite TV. And while the controversy over the successive vote recount was beyond my ability to comprehend at that time, after that election cycle, like the World Cup for my friends, I anticipated the return of next round of U.S elections with utter excitement, and religiously observed the rituals of the holy season.
When I moved to Washington D.C. in March, I thought perhaps my childhood dream was about to come true, minus the participation part— that I would get to see the American people elect a candidate that had won their hearts and minds.
On the Republican side, the sheer number of candidates in the race was inspiring. I thought by the end of the primaries, I would finally get to see something very rare— a contested Republican convention. I had no clear preference on either side, as I disagreed on fundamental issues with every single one of them. Though, despite his lack of charisma, John Kasich was the least objectionable. I did, however, have an obvious least favorite— the orange man who wants to ban me and subject me to “extreme vetting,” whatever that means.
On the Democratic side, it was a bit calmer. I knew I liked Bernie Sanders from the get-go, but I also knew he stood no chance. I could see his genuine persona that strived with the best of intentions, but I also knew he had no means to accomplish any of what he promised. It’s a miracle that Obama has accomplished what he has with the current gridlock in House and on the hill, and I sure didn’t foresee a scenario where Sanders would manage to convince even of few of the sitting Democrats to support his ideas, let alone for any Republicans to join in. I knew he would lose to the center-left guru, Hilary Clinton. Though to a large extent, Sanders did exceed my expectations and even put up a good fight in the process when he managed to pull Clinton to the left, which I believe will prove to be a very good thing if she does win in November, given the state of the world now and her interventionist tendencies.
Yet the Republican race for nomination took a very wrong and very undemocratic turn as Donald Trump began eliminating candidates one by one via middle-school-style bullying, defamation, and outright nastiness. In my opinion, he has managed to activate the worst elements of the right-wing voting-base, as well as the worst of America; and by betting on the poorly educated, economically-frustrated, white man, rather than the traditional conservative, Trump has proved to be better at placing bets than at running casinos.
He successfully ousted conservatives from the GOP as well as changed what the Republican Party stands for now and possibly forever. No matter how this election goes, the party will never be the same. This new awareness of what the party majority stands for will, without a doubt, drive those who are members for the conservative values out. The illusion of shared values that unified the Nazi-identifiers with the traditional-Conservatives has been brutally slaughtered, and I fear it can’t be revived. The exodus has already begun, and I don’t see an end to it no matter who wins, especially if Trump wins. No matter what, the GOP will never be the same again.
Now with a few weeks away from election day, a few weeks away from the day I dreamt of seeing for so long, I’m everything and anything but happy. A little anxious, yes, but not happy. I’m mostly nervous, disgusted and a bit cynical, but definitely not jubilant. I’m nervous about what it will mean to live in Trump’s America as a black Mohamed. I’m anxious to find out if the majority of voters in the general election are the same majority as the GOP primary voters. I’m disgusted by the extra loud sexist, racist and extremely partisan voices, and I’m cynical about the democratic process in light of extreme polarization and partisanship.
This election, unlike any other in U.S history, offers the ultimate way to test the health of democracy in America as well as the morality of Americans. The thing about ultimate tests is, whatever they reveal, it cannot be unseen. Much like how the GOP will never be the same, America will also never be the same. Placing the checkmark on that ballot box is not simply making a choice between two candidates with contesting agendas, nor is it making a choice between a Liberal or a Conservative, nor a Democrat or a Republican. No, in this election its making a choice between a candidate betting on what America claims to stand for or the candidate betting on the exact opposite… Who will win, and more importantly, by how much?
If you’re not scared to know the answer, you don’t fully understand the question…