Trump puts US democracy in peril

Written By: Kailash Chand
Published: February 11, 2017 Last modified: February 12, 2017

Donald Trump has finally taken over as US President. His acceptance speech smacked of “crude and shameless” nationalism, dumbness and xenophobia baked in a pie. Trump wants “every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs” to “benefit American workers and American families.

Trump has been the biggest political experiment since the end of the cold war. He says things which are actually unthinkable in diplomacy. He is rude, he is insulting – and he is painfully honest. This can lead to conflicts, but also break open crusted conflicts. The world as well United Kingdom will have to hold their breath for more details about Trump’s main objectives.

Media of all colours were united in their concern at what will happen next. My concern with Trump’s election is the rise of right-wing populism and similarities between UK and the US about a general disillusionment with political elites. Certain omissions in Trump’s speech were stark. The humility that American Presidents usually embrace in their first address was missing.

So was the historical emphasis on American values. No word of thanks for the work of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Instead, Mr. Trump continued his attacks on the Washington establishment, vowing to end the “American carnage” and eradicate “radical Islamic terror” from the “face of the earth”. This is the speech Donald Trump decided to give: populist, nationalist, thrilling to his fans, disturbing to his foes – and sending the message to Washington that he intends not to bring peace, but the unrest and anxiety. What we saw on the Inauguration Day of the 45th president was the truest sign of how he will rule: not by extending an open hand, but by raising a clenched fist.

The democratic world will be a poorer and more dangerous place if the US retreats from the responsibilities and obligations that have been accepted by every president since Franklin D Roosevelt. If the world’s largest economy, the main pillar of the global economic order, turns protectionist, it would have far-reaching impact on other major economies. This means the current crisis in globalization, which in a way helped Mr. Trump’s rise, is likely to deepen.

Trump’s fiat on Obamacare shows he will try to utilise the brief honeymoon period to make quick changes by executive action. Donald Trump in his first interview to Michael Gove for the London Times, promised to draw up a trade deal with the UK “quickly” after Brexit and said he could understand why voters chose to leave in last year’s referendum. The UK has
numerous multi-dir­ectional interests to protect and nurture in partnership with the US. It will be obliged to recalibrate them once the fine print of Trump’s policy for the wider world on trade, military posture, Russia, skilled immigration and energy security becomes clear. Till then let us like the rest of the world brace ourselves for a very rocky and unpredictable ride. Theresa May is going to have to continue to be terribly nice to this terrible man because he is offering a juicy trade deal just when Brexit means we need it most. She must remember, though, that Donald Trump is the classic bully, picking on those he knows will not fight back. The nation will be watching her!

Unlike his predecessor, Trump lost the popular vote, and has no mandate. He also has slimmer majorities in Congress than Democrats had eight years ago. Americans against Trump are in a majority, world opinion by and large has no sympathy with the Trump doctrine. There is a danger, if Trump doesn’t get his way, he will become more bullying and auto­crat­ic, defying the sacred principles of democracy!

None of Mr. Trump’s 44 predecessors offered more reason than we have today to fear for the survival of democracy in America. Mr. Trump’s infatuation with foreign strongmen, including the one who intervened in the election on his behalf; his brazen self-dealing and self-justification; his intolerance for difference and dissent; his appeals to racism and resentment; the contempt he has shown, consist­ently, for the rule of law, the freedom of the press, the system of checks and balances, the very notion of equal rights — all this puts the American experiment in peril.