THE FUTURE: Donald Trump
THE VICTORY of Donald Trump last month in the US Presidential election was like an earthquake which signalled the electorate’s misgivings about liberalism and globalisation. Voters have instead embraced nationalism and identity politics.
Trump, who has no political experience or credible plan, is abusive to women, ethnic minorities and Muslims. He was dismissed by all the pundits, but still won. His opponent offered detailed and credible plans, had the support of the establishment, including many Republicans, with an impressive political infrastructure, but still lost. It should be noted that Trump had considerable support from the FBI Director who re- opened a spurious case against Hillary Clinton late in the campaign. He also lost the popular vote.
A number of themes seem to be at play that in some ways are frightening. Voters rejected what the liberal elite consider to be a rational choice and applied different standards to Trump – for example, he made far more incorrect statements than Clinton, which they ignored.
However, the decisions taken by voters which may not appear to have any logic, make sense to a significant proportion of the electorate and appeal to some of the darkest and primordial instincts of his supporters.
The Liberal establishment is largely to blame – it failed to communicate and connect with the electorate and/ or has just not understood or appreciated the angst and difficulties that globalisation has caused.
Trump is not an isolated case – the nationalist movement has taken root in the UK, Eastern Europe, Russia, China, the Arab world and Africa.
How did it happen? What is the way forward? Do nationalist sentiments have any positive attributes?
Trump swept to power on the white vote, primarily the working class but also a significant majority of almost all sections of that demographic.
The deindustrialisation of America caused by globalisation has hurt the white working class disproportionately as skilled jobs have been shipped abroad. The damage caused by this trend was compounded by the fear that whites feel about losing the ascendancy they have always enjoyed.
In Britain the loss of sovereignty and jobs to the EU and other EU nationals respectively were the deciding factors in Brexit. In Eastern Europe there are fears of immigrants coming from Syria and other conflict zones.
In the Arab world the religious turmoil has a nationalist flavour in the form of a pan-Arab Muslim “caliphate” espoused by the so-called Isis, with the Sunnis at the helm.
In Africa’s largest country, Nigeria, a new, unique leader elected last year has been pushing that country to rely more on its own resources and to wean the country of its dependency on imports, to the consternation of “free trade” ideologues.
Trump’s policies will result in a huge increase in the US budget deficit. A central mantra of the Republican Party’s opposition to Obama, led by the Tea Party movement, has been its opposition to budget deficits.
And whereas Obama’s stimulus spending, which did not receive a single Republican vote in Congress, has led to the US weathering the recession better than most other developed economies according to many economists, most of Trump’s deficit will go to tax cuts for the rich and defence spending.
Early in Obama’s administration, against strong opposition from the Republicans in Congress, he gave crucial support to the automotive sector which was on the verge of collapse.
It is therefore rather odd that this party now has a President-elect who would have gutted
America’s industrial landscape significantly had Obama not prevailed.
Finally it should be noted that Trump’s slogan – Make America Great Again – is hollow given his party’s record in power. George W Bush, the last Republican president, inherited a budget surplus from Democrat Bill Clinton that he quickly turned into a deficit – yes, through tax cuts. What is the way forward? Trump and his ilk in Europe cannot be dismissed and they have tapped into real and perceived concerns.
Unfortunately for Americans – particularly for the white working class who have been seriously conned – there is a very thin divide between the corporate elite and the new political masters as The Donald – rather than “draining the swamp” as promised – has filled it with appointments of mil- lionaires and billionaires to key positions, the winners.
He has adopted policies that are not only unlikely to expand the social welfare function but will also exacerbate the huge income divide. Yes, he will invest in the physical infrastructure but he has not come up with any proposal on soft infrastructure that would be even more productive, such as research, education and retaining.
The Donald and others of his ilk in Europe have tapped into the angst but they need policies that are quite different from what they currently espouse. The Donald does not do policy – rather he tweets and makes grand gestures, ignoring the big picture.
Does nationalism have a place? Yes it does. Does globalisation in the form of the movement of goods, services and people have a future? Yes it does.
America and Europe need to use nationalism to encourage their consumers to buy produced goods. The European Union project needs to adopt pragmatic policies that do not ride roughshod over the national characters of its member states.
J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford www.oxfordmemo.co.uk
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