Donald Trump: Post-truth politics faces a test

Sheikh Rahman | Published: December 09, 2016 18:11:25 | Updated: October 22, 2017 19:50:57


Globally, people shared similar reactions to the results of 2016 US Presidential election - 'Trumped', 'stumped', 'stunned', 'shocked' and 'unnerved'. It seems that Donald Trump achieved the impossible and rocked the world, albeit in a regressive way. 'Unpredictable', 'uncertain', 'insecure', 'unstable' - are some of the popular feelings shared worldwide when describing the new and unprecedented era of the President-elect Donald J. Trump. 
Besides, a cocktail of right-wing populism and White nationalism has challenged America's ideological foundations and the legacy of its founding fathers - liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness.  Etched in stone on the Statue of Liberty are the words depicting the United States -
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! 

Throughout the campaign, Trump had expressed a deep resentment towards immigrants, attributed mostly to the illegal migration from Mexico, loose border controls, and the influx of immigrants from Muslim countries. However, the President-elect has barely mentioned the pledge of building a US-Mexico border wall and having the Mexican government pay for the wall. If Mexico pays for such wall, the country is likely to make up the specifications for its construction. A good humour predicts that Mexicans will provide for constructing a scalable wall four feet high with plenty of gaps in between - to allow small donkey carts and carriages to pass through along the steps built into the wall to let women and children cross over the barricade! Anyways, voters must see how much of the pledges Trump made during the campaign is actually delivered and it would not be surprising if none materialises - as they say, "promises are made to be broken". During the campaign, Trump's call to "lock her up" helped to mobilise countless voters against Hillary Clinton. Nonetheless, the President-elect declared that he will not prosecute her since Hillary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have gone through a lot. One may argue that Trump is an implicit sympathiser to Clinton Family's wrongdoings despite their infringement of certain national security prerogatives and practices - marking Trump's second u-turn from his campaign pledge. Trump's act of forgiveness indicates that he has made a behind-the-scene deal with his old friends, the Clintons. Why would Trump do that or in exchange for what? - implies such complicity with Hillary Clinton that means President-elect Trump is willing to condone a behaviour or practice that Candidate Trump once rallied against. 
If roles change, so do expectations! As an astute businessman, Trump may have discovered a glaring truth in contemporary US politics that a large number of dissatisfied, disgruntled, unhappy, laid-off and underemployed workforce living on low wage with hardly anything to look forward to and lacking any sign of a change in their dismal outlook on life or any movement of social emancipation or upward mobility - often categorised as 'stagnant' with a depressed and somewhat 'anti-establishment' mindset - can be mobilised to rally behind a businessman-turned-politician for yielding incredible bonanza. 
 At least, President-elect Donald J. Trump hit all the magic numbers. At first, it was 1,237 to clinch the GOP nomination that seemed almost unreachable. Somehow, the numbers began to climb upward with the end result of Trump becoming eligible for the ticket from Republican Party. Secondly, the magic number of 270 seemed a distant shore for Trump with projections of the possible winning of less than 200 and a certain bet in favour of Hillary reaching the comfortable margin of 270. Thirdly, Trump's net assets and a business empire worth $10 billion had made it possible for the real-estate mogul to build his road to White House. Election results suggest that any wild speculation may turn into a true fact. What is Trump's next magic number? Perhaps, the decisive factors could be an increase in the growth rate of America's gross domestic product (GDP) accompanied by the country's neo-isolationist foreign policy of non-intervention versus the rapid escalation of conflict in certain parts of the world. There may be zero incidents of international terrorism - particularly those with racial or religious overtones. Similarly, issues that helped Trump to win the majority of votes in the traditional Blue States should be addressed. The President-elect must be cautious before dismantling the Obamacare, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). China, Iran, Syria or any existing factor in the foreign policy should not be dealt divisively regardless of Trump's likeliness to maximise media attention and public fervour with little or no end goals.  
Since Trump is already shrouded in pessimism, any slip will inevitably land the superpower in a super trouble. Close observations may reveal whether Trump has already triggered the demise of American unilateralism or did America's anxiety over its economic decline lead to the emergence and acceptance of a populist leader promising relief of the masses. 
The vast population of America's Midwest, South, and parts of both East Coast and West Coast had to bear the brunt of globalisation responsible for the factory closures, layoffs, and the closing of coal mines. Michigan, once the epicentre of US automobile industry suffered from its shifting to low wage countries like Mexico and China. Pennsylvania suffered from President Obama's policy leading to many mine closures allowing Republicans to crack the blue wall of Democratic Party. As a Blue state, Wisconsin also witnessed the loss of manufacturing jobs to Japan, India, South Korea, China, Vietnam and other low wage countries of Asia and Latin America. It was surprising that North Carolina rejected Hillary Clinton in the final moments, although being one of the few states untouched by globalisation. Apparently, the rust belt of America did not have the stomach for Hillary's political invectives against her rival. Both underemployed and unemployed people struggling to make ends meet in the depressed inner cities represented a movement of Americans bent upon the resurgence of national pride - Make America Great Again! 
Is it the prelude to a new awakening for a new world order or is it the sounding of a death knell for an early demise of American might? Boom or bust - billionaire Donald J. Trump is going to be the next President of the United States. Obviously, any observer would agree that the trump-card used during the campaign will cease to be effective in office and Trump will eventually fit into the role of US Presidency and discard any campaign promise as a mere slogan. 
Moreover, Trump's victory is not a mere coincidence. It happened at a time when the United States is going through a change - either transformational or consequential. Trump's campaign heavily relied on showmanship and a series of promises to catch the attention of the gullible citizens hoping for a miracle to change their lives since Trump appeared to them as their saviour. Although, unlike President Barack Obama, Trump carries neither answers nor vision to offer any realistic solution to the problems that are remotely feasible but raises a plethora of questions in an attempt to sort out a prolonged dilemma. 
Furthermore, Trump is a businessman and not a statesman - explaining why the President-elect has not come out with an explicit statement on foreign or domestic policy and lacks any futuristic vision and answer to the ongoing problems. Trump holds his cards close to his chest and may not reveal his next steps in fear of losing the deal! 
People still opine that it is time for the United States to retreat from the world stage and make room for Asia's emerging superpower China. Question remains whether by accepting its new role China will wait begrudgingly for America to honourably withdraw from such scenario. Is it going to be America's own brexit from NAFTA, NATO and APEC? In casino language, Trump is the wildcard that hit the jackpot! Soon, people who voted for Trump will realise that the person they elected as the President is not keeping his promises. 
The writer is a Managing Partner of Enertech International Inc. rsheikh1999@gmail.com

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