Schadenfreude, a word from German, refers to the pleasure that one derives from the accident of another. The word is suitable for many Africans look at the U.S. election in 2020, ranging from the president’s claims of massive fraud in the vote to the slow process of counting.
Successive presidential administrations, American NGOs, think tanks, and Western commentators in general have long taught Africans about the inadequacy of their election. In October, Foreign Minister Michael Pompeo a general statement issued about African elections that most of its predecessors were able to make, including the characteristic lack of specificity. He reaffirmed the US commitment to “free, fair and inclusive” elections.
He said the “conduct of elections is important not only for Africa but also for the defenders of democracy around the world.” He said the United States would “closely monitor” Africa’s upcoming election and “impose sanctions” on those who interfered with it – apparently claiming the government was the arbitrator of a political process in Africa.
At least some Africans are indignant at Western (especially American) lectures and criticisms of government, democracy, and elections that usually reflect American cultural assumptions. With the ubiquity of the internet and social media, Africans who want to are fully informed about the progress of the US election – even in areas that are largely hungry for more conventional media. For many Africans, the 2020 presidential election is under way expose the hypocrisy of American criticism of their own government.
Some human rights activists have already expressed concern that President Trump’s accusation of voter fraud – without apparent evidence – will help the authoritarian wave that appears to be sweeping the continent. For others, the chaotic American election process diminishes American political, cultural, and social prestige.
This in turn could lead to greater interest in alternatives, such as China. Attitudes to social change are difficult to document and quantify, but like obscenity, “you know it when you see it.”
Blog posts represent the views of CFR associates and staff and not those of CFR, who do not hold any institutional positions.