Trump victory: Towards an inward-looking America
If a Trump administration implements the policies he has campaigned on, the US will end its role as the guarantor of the global trade, it will close its historical “golden door” to immigration, cease to be a provider of global security and become increasingly focused on social welfare on the home fronteditorials Updated: Nov 10, 2016 15:23 IST
The most powerful person in the world is a real estate developer with a record of bankruptcies and law-breaking, a misogynist whose claim to fame is a reality television show, and a throwback to a brand of American isolationism thought buried in the 19th century. Donald Trump has stunned an army of pollsters, the metropolitan elite of his own country and their counterparts across the world. Parallels are rightly being drawn to the shock referendum result supporting Britain’s departure from the European Union and the strong poll showings of the anti-immigrant party in France’s coming presidential elections. At the heart of Trump’s victory and the Brexit vote is a widespread revolt of the working class population of the dominant ethnic group against an increasingly distant and uncommunicative elite.
The lesson of Trump’s victory is not that flawed personalities or policies can win votes. The message is that being against the establishment overrides everything else for these disenchanted voters. The rise of Trump was mirrored by the equally surprising run for the Democratic candidacy by Bernie Sanders. Luckily for Trump, the remainder of the primary vote was divided among 15 candidates. Sanders lost because his only rival, Hillary Clinton, was able to consolidate the remainder of the vote. For both Trump and Sanders, otherwise very different personalities, political success almost solely derived from the fact they did not represent business as usual. Populist revolt, conservative in its values but leftwing in its economics, is now endemic in the polities of the developed world. The question now is what these governments will do to assuage this lower-class fury. If a Trump administration implements the policies he has campaigned on, the US will end its role as the guarantor of the global trade, it will close its historical “golden door” to immigration, cease to be a provider of global security and become increasingly focused on social welfare on the home front. A similar template is becoming evident elsewhere as well. For example, Britain has begun retreating to a position of “splendid isolation” in terms of migration and diplomacy.
The evidence that any of these policies will actually help the working class of these countries is thin on the ground. The investments in education, infrastructure and regulation reform that would genuinely make the US more competitive are not part of the Trump platform. While he may yet surprise — his past indicates a pragmatic man with a minimal adherence to ideology — it is more likely that the world’s most powerful nation will become increasingly inward-looking and more internally divided over the next five years. The real hope is that a Trump administration will successfully discredit the platform of its chief advocate and pave the way for a more constructive reworking of the international system.