President Trump: Will America Always Do "the Right Thing" Now?
an impulsive egocentric with a short attention span
I was working as a British diplomat when George W. Bush won the US Presidency. I remember hoping (somewhat naively for a foreign policy professional) that the world might escape his term in office without anything too disastrous happening. That did not work out too well. And Bush was not even remotely as ill-equipped for the Oval Office as the new President-elect, Donald Trump.
From a foreign policy perspective, America’s election of an impulsive egocentric with a short attention span and disturbing views is deeply worrying.
Topping a long list of concerns is the realisation that the two countries with by far the largest nuclear weapons arsenals, Russia and the USA, will soon both be run by Presidents who have made very cavalier statements about pushing the button.
Trump has repeatedly made proposals that would weaken NATO. In fact, by saying that he might not abide by its core commitment to defend a fellow member state that came under attack, he risks fatally undermining the Alliance entirely. Which is terrifying at a time when Russian military aggression is at its worst since, at least, the peak years of the Cold War in the 1960s.
During the campaign, Trump also said that he would renege on the nuclear deal with Iran. This intricate agreement was a decade in the making. It prevented a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and conflict between a nearly nuclear Iran and already atomically tooled up Israel.
Beyond these fundamental and acute issues of global security, it would take a much longer article than this one to highlight all of the foreign policy horrors proposed by Trump. To name just a few, these include barely discriminate military assaults on the Middle East, ripping up global climate change agreements and launching a trade war with China.
It is claimed that Winston Churchill once said that “Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else." That maxim might be tested to the limit over the next four years.
The world has been exposed as a darker place
A xenophobic, misogynistic demagogue who has zero qualifications and ran a campaign based on hate has made it to the White House. How’s that for an American Dream?
Donald Trump has spent 18 months spewing unsubstantiated claims that he’ll put the world right by sheer force of will, but let’s be clear: he’s a brand, not a politician. He is a bullshitter extraordinaire, who reached a position of eminence through braggadocio rather than skill or leadership (fun fact: Paris Hilton accrued more with her inherited wealth than the multi-bankrupted Trump). The only way he was able to fire his ego-trip all the way to Washington D.C. was by tapping into the same right-wing populism that gifted us Brexit and the National Front, with some good old ’murican white nationalism thrown in to boot. As is happening all too often, hope and unity took on fear and division at the ballot box and lost.
As much as Trump has in common with Putin, Mugabe or Kim Jong-Un, however, the presidency is not a dictatorship. He won’t have free rein in perpetuity, and it remains to be seen how well he’ll work with his sceptical party. Senior Republicans could become unlikely allies to the Democrats in blocking his more destructive plans. Or maybe Trump - a man who’d struggle to recognise a congressional clause if it hit him in his perma-tanned face - simply won’t have the nous to make America whatever it is he’s promised it’ll be.
And yet, after having to ally himself with climate change deniers, the National Rifle Association, gay conversion proponents, anti-abortionists and more, Trump is bound to some alarming ideologies. Even without firing on all cylinders, the damage wrought by a Trump presidency - upon the economy, race relations, the environment, the Middle East, immigration, LGBT rights and so much more - may well be impossible to rectify in our lifetimes.
Perhaps worse, America has denied itself of what would have been one of its most competent Presidents. Conspiracy theories and likeability qualms be damned - Hillary Clinton was a steely, principled candidate who knew exactly what to do in office. For my money, I couldn’t think of anybody better positioned to lead the free world. Yet in a contest between an under-qualified man and an over-qualified woman, 48% of Americans opted for the man.
It feels appropriate to quote Gone with the Wind, a classic piece of American art that’s shot through with racial tension and questions over the country’s soul. So here goes: tomorrow is another day. The world has been exposed as being a darker place than many of us liked to admit. Tough times lie ahead. But this isn’t the end. Resilience will ensure that today goes down as a day that progress was stifled, but not suffocated.
the Democrats now face the fight of their lives
The US president-elect proclaims that he is going to Make America Great Again. The optimistic retort of his opponent was that America is already great. But the shock of Trump’s victory forces America to confront the social unrest and political disillusionment that he has depended on to win.
It might seem paradoxical that such a polarising candidate could have a broad appeal, and that a billionaire could pitch himself as anti-elite populist. But even the Clinton machine could not match the effectiveness of Trump’s message against the decades of “failure” and “corruption” of Washington.
As the impact of the Great Recession lingers, the left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore predicted that Trump would win, with his popularity in the rustbelt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan paralleling to the Brexit victory through a Leave vote in working class communities across England and Wales. Trump is the first Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan to win all of those states.
Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders suggested that he would have performed stronger as the Democrat nominee against Trump. Trump would have struggled to attack Sanders, unlike Clinton, as an “establishment” figurehead, and the radical platform of Sanders may have won over enough of the voters who have decided on Trump as the extreme solution to the nation’s ills. With President Trump in tow with a Republican congress, the Democrats face the fight of their lives. More than ever, after this brutal defeat, they surely cannot depend on the moderate liberalism defined by Clinton’s candidacy.
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