Jeremy Gordin writes on the US President's apparent defeat at the hands of mail-in voters
It’s 13h00 or 1pm on November 5, 2020, in the unacknowledged Republic of Parkview (or Porky Porkview, as I call it), Johannesburg, South Africa, and at this point (I stress) it looks as though the incumbent president of the US, Donald John Trump, 74, is on his way out of the White House and Sleepy Joe Biden, 77, is plodding towards it .
Of course, before Trump vacates 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he might cause all kinds of kxk – he already has – but that’s just the nature of his game. So far Trump has behaved exactly as Bernie Saunders predicted with remarkable precision. I.e., Trump would say he won based on the walk-in polls, then say he was being robbed by the mail-in votes.
While we wait for a more-or-less definite conclusion to the election, a friend just WhatsApped a column by the New Yorker’s Masha Gessen in which she invokes Russian poet Osip Mandelstam’s famous “Stalin’s Epigram” as something that kept “flashing and burrowing” in her mind as the “best way of describing the state of disorientation and disbelief that marked Tuesday night [as Gessen watched the US election results]” .
I’ll get back to Gessen but for the moment I must mention that when I was managing director of Exclusive Books in the 1980s (in Hillbrow) we had a wonderful telephonist by the name of Mrs Hancock (wherever she is, I trust she’s well).
Inter alia Mrs H wore a tea cosey on her head in winter. More to the point, though, those were the days before cell phones etc. and, if I needed to call, say, a publisher overseas, I had to ask Mrs H to place the call for me. Sometimes, however, she couldn’t do this quickly (I was younger and more impatient then) because the switchboard was a remarkably busy one – and she would shout somewhat plaintively: “Mr Gordin, the board is flashing and blinking, flashing and blinking, you’ll have to wait ...”
In short, “flashing and blinking (or burrowing)” doesn’t for me evoke serious matters or Mandelstam. The text I consider far more apposite regarding the last couple of days is also, however, from yesterday’s New Yorker. It’s by Andy Borowitz and it’s headlined “Trump Asks Supreme Court to Rule That Wisconsin Is Not a State”.
The first few pars read: “Hinting darkly that ‘there’s something going on,’ Donald J. Trump has asked the United States Supreme Court to rule that Wisconsin is not a state. ‘I’ve been hearing strange things coming out of Wisconsin, which is a rigged hoax claiming to be a state,’ Trump told reporters. ‘I think it’s disgraceful.’ When asked by a reporter to explain Wisconsin’s admission to the Union, in 1848, Trump said, ‘Show me one person who saw that happen. You can’t, because they’re all dead. That’s very convenient and very cute.’” 
At any rate, I do find DJT’s forthcoming exit from the White House – if it happens – a bit perplexing. It’s always seemed to me that Trump has had oodles of native (albeit white) cunning. This being the case – and bearing in mind a saying attributed (probably incorrectly) to another Russian (the one who put Mandelstam in the GULAG, Stalin), “It's not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes” – what was Trump thinking?
He of all people should know how white-bread and officious most American civil servants are; they ain’t gonna fiddle with the system. This being the case, Trump should have considered things carefully and never have allowed an election to take place.
If Trump must go, I’d find it all a bit sad – the end of an era. Or more correctly, the end of an error, to borrow the words of Brendan Seery when chief operating officer Nazeem Howa left Independent Newspapers.
There’ll be no more creative solutions from Trump for curing Covid-19 (UV light or injections of disinfectant); no more talking truth to PC power (places in inter alia Africa are “shxthole countries”); no more touting of the idea of grabbing females by their feline parts; no more demonstrations of the phenomenon that if you repeat something often enough it becomes factually correct; no more high-level meetings with sage folk such as North Korea’s Fat Boy; no more good friend in the White House for Israel’s Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, a ganef of note; and so on.
From now on, if Biden comes in, it’s all going to be lovey-dovey and PC at and from the White House. Boring and coated with ersatz chocolate. What are we Seffricans going to do for fun and entertainment? Focus on the local clowns? Trouble is that they don’t have DJT’s panache.
Former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni had a shot at reaching Trumpian heights today when she told deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo that if she were white and had the name “Madame Venter” she would not be “presumed guilty in order for me to prove my innocence”. She doesn’t have Trump’s style though, does she?
Yes, yes, I know; there are people who’ll say good riddance to a narcissistic, crass, aggressive, bull-dusting, fast food-gobbling, and unattractive creature. (I’m referring to Trump, not Myeni.)
But I say to such people: Look inside yourself – as I have repeatedly done in the dark reaches of the night (with a UV light) – and admit that you too could justly accuse yourself of having identical character traits and habits. Though I do concede that neither you nor I have been, or will ever be, the president of the US.
Not that the last few days of watching the TV set has been huge fun. As my brother Joel, a former sub-editor and inveterate collector of journalistic clichés, wrote: “’Nail-biter’ is the new ‘dramatic’. ‘Hangs in the balance’ as the world ‘sits on the edge of its collective chairs’ while ‘glued to their TV sets’. ... ‘All eyes are on the greatest show in town which is a cliff hanger.’ ... At last somebody on CNN said it: ‘America at the crossroads.’ I can die happy. Waited all day for it.”
But, getting back to Masha Gessen, the most painful thing for many was, as she went on to write, that: “Too much of the country wasn’t what any of us thought or hoped it was, whether ‘we’ were my friends and family and me, the mainstream media, the pollsters, or almost anyone I’d heard speak about the election”.
Morning, Masha. Looks as though almost half of those voting in the US like Trump and what he stands for (whatever that is – good ol’ American orneriness?) or care for the Republican party – or simply don’t like those grouped under “Democratic”.
Your country is, as the cliché-mongers would have it, sharply divided. Presumably, there are a myriad of reasons, which the pundits will in due course explain to us.
Bottom line, though, Ms Gessen, is that the veritable tsunami of votes from folk who were supposed to have had enough of the palpably unpleasant Trump and his shenanigans and whom, it stood to reason, wanted to get rid of him – that tsunami simply hasn’t materialised and this is, at least for you and me, deeply perplexing.
Well, imagine if you were a leader or a member of an opposition political party in this country. There’s no apparent or good reason that I can think of why the ANC alliance should receive more than, say, 85 votes in our next general election. And yet.
 Why, by the way, Biden has insisted on jogging onto podiums at his various recent appearances is a bit mystifying to me. I suppose he wants to demonstrate that he’s full of energy. But it seems (what my daughter would call) “a bit creepy”.
At the best of times, for reasons with which I shall not bore you, Mandelstam is difficult to translate and Gessen has appended a number of the translations of the November 1933 poem, said to have resulted in Mandelstam being sent into exile and then later to the GULAG where he perished from cold and hunger. Gessen doesn’t however include Robert Lowell’s version, which for me is still the best. The final four lines of the Lowell version are: “One after another, his [Stalin’s] sentences hit like horseshoes! He // pounds them out. He always hits the nail, the balls. // After each death, he is like a Georgian tribesman, // putting a raspberry in his mouth.” (Collected Poems, Robert Lowell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 2003, p. 915.)
Should I mention that this piece is billed as “satire”? I suppose I’d better.