SUCH was the impact of Donald Trump’s election on the American psyche that thousands of those who were caught by surprise have come out in protest, even without any illusion of ever changing the result of the seismic event. No one is suggesting the election, as most of ours are, was rigged, or that Trump had cheated. The Democrats, Trump’s enemies within his own party, and the nation itself simply failed to foresee what was dropping from the skies. Newsweek magazine printed an advance souvenir edition with Hillary on its cover as “Madam President,” while New York magazine had Trump on its cover as “Loser”. Newsweek had to recall 125,000 copies of its boo-boo edition.
Trump’s “basket of deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton (to her eternal dismay) had crudely and mistakenly put it, had clearly overwhelmed and repudiated the pollsters, the pundits and the entire political establishment, to elect a candidate who, throughout the campaign, had merited nothing but their contempt. The plaintive placards and streamers borne by marchers proclaim, “He is not my president,” while the “deplorables” bask in triumph with the President-elect.
Will the marches ripen into something like the great revolutionary general strike of the European working class 48 years ago, which became known as the French revolution of May 1968? Somebody asked me this question yesterday, and I did not think I was competent to answer it. But I thought Trump’s election, propelled mostly by the vote of the white, mostly male, working class, was (and is) the revolution, that it had just begun, and that the current street marches against Trump were but a puny reaction to it.
The Financial Times editorial of Nov. 10 expresses one point of view. There is at least one other point of view, completely antithetical to the liberal response, which has not been touched by the mainstream press. To that I shall pivot in a little while.
The Establishment repudiated
“Donald Trump’s victory makes a thunderous repudiation of the status quo,” says the editorial. “The most powerful nation on Earth has elected a real-estate mogul with no experience in government, a self-styled strongman, contemptuous of allies, civil discourse and democratic convention. Barring a protean change of personality, Mr. Trump’s victory represents, at face value, a threat to the Western democratic model.
“Mr. Trump’s campaign appealed to nativism, isolationism and protectionism,” the editorial points out. “He railed against immigrants and vowed to build a vast wall to keep them out, at Mexico’s expense. He castigated allies in Europe and Asia, disavowing decades of foreign policy doctrine by suggesting Japan and South Korea could go nuclear to counter security threats from China. He cosied up to Vladimir Putin, coming close to being an apologist for the Kremlin. And he promised to tear up trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership in order to protect and reclaim American manufacturing jobs…
“The world waits nervously to see if Mr. Trump’s policies are as incendiary as his words. The shift to a more positive tone since the election result is a first step. But this remains a moment of great peril. Mr. Trump’s victory, coming after the Brexit referendum vote in Britain, looks like another grievous blow to the liberal international order. Mr. Trump must decide, by his actions and words, whether he intends to contribute to the great unraveling, at incalculable cost to the West.”
Trump is not the first to be elected US president on the crest of a popular wave. Andrew Jackson rode such a wave in 1828. Nor is Trump the first businessman to become president and proclaim “America First.” Although he is undoubtedly the first genuine outsider without any experience in government or the military to be elected president, at least three others had preceded him. In 1920, an article by Sarah Charwell of the University of London recalls, America elected Warren Harding, an isolationist businessman whose slogan was also America First.
This meant then what it means now, writes Charwell: anti-immigrant nativism and isolationism. And mirrored the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the same period. The popular plaint of the working class then was that the so-called economic boom of the 1920s did not extend its benefits beyond the urban middle class. Harding was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, also businessmen, whose administrations created the conditions for the great crash and depression of 1929.
None of them, though, was exactly like Trump, who promises to be the most powerful US president in recent memory. This is not only because he is supported by a Republican Senate and a Republican House of Representatives, but above all because he is the first avowed protectionist to be elected US president since before the last world war, and he could turn upside down more than 70 years of American history.
What Trump promised to do
Trump has promised to embark on sweeping tax cuts and a massive infrastructure program, reform the US Federal Reserve first by firing its chair Janet Yellen, renegotiate sovereign obligations, scrap “unfair” trade agreements, pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the World Trade Organization, build a high tariff wall (as high as 45 percent) to prevent the entry of cheap Chinese and Mexican goods into the American market, just as he has promised to build a concrete wall to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the US-Mexican border.
If Mr. Trump were to follow through on these threats, some economic and financial pundits believe he would spark a global trade war and plunge the world into recession—similar to the depression of the 1930s, which was “greatly deepened by America’s embrace of protectionism.” It would be a disaster for America and the rest of the world.
At the same time, Trump has promised to withdraw from America’s role as policeman of the world. He apparently does not believe the US has a unique responsibility to uphold the global order, particularly in defense of countries which do not bear the cost. He apparently takes a critical view of John F. Kennedy’s famous line in his inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”
In fact in 1987, according to a report quoting Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution, Trump paid $95,000 to take out a full-page ad in The New York Times fulminating against America’s free-riding allies and claiming Japan was fleecing the US.
Will he follow through?
If Trump were to follow through on this threat (or promise), it could mean the dismantling of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the US security alliances with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. The dismantling of NATO could prompt more withdrawals from the European Union after Brexit, possibly leading to its eventual demise. Indeed, it could mean a complete remaking of the global order—the entire global security environment. This seems easier said than done.
Experts fear that “America First” would undercut the world view that unites both Republicans and Democrats, and pit Trump against the US’s closest allies abroad. At home, it would pit him against the bipartisan elites, and the military-industrial complex. The Pentagon could well be drawn into a bitter debate, which should be avoided at all costs. Instead of making America great again, many fear that America First could facilitate the exact opposite.
To counterbalance China’s dominance in the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific, Japan, South Korea and Australia may have to form a credible security alliance to fill up the vacuum created by the US pullout. Japan will have to overcome all internal objections to a reinterpretation or revision of its Peace Constitution to allow it to rearm, and enter into an active military and security alliance with its like-minded neighbors. It will not be easy, but it could be done.
A real test for DU30
The Philippines under President Duterte will have to decide whether its “independent foreign policy” will allow it to ally itself with China or with Japan or to remain completely neutral. This would give DU30 the opportunity to demonstrate whether his declared pivot away from the US and toward China and Russia is a serious foreign policy initiative or pure political posturing. It is worth noting that although he had announced separating militarily and economically from the US, he has done nothing to carry out his threat, and he said he looks forward to working with Trump, when he publicly welcomed his election.
To millions of Americans and other nationalities around the world, particularly “conservative Christians,” Trump’s election represents a new hope for the revival of Western culture and civilization. This is something that has not been touched in the geopolitical discussions. However, an online article by Blaise Joseph, an assistant dean at Warrane College, University of New South Wales, Australia, which first appeared on Mercatornet last March, and was republished a few days ago, puts this issue at the core. The article sees in Trump the potential making of a Constantine, the Emperor who ended the persecution of Christians through the Edict of Milan in 313 AD.
Trump as Constantine?
Like Trump, Constantine was no pillar of virtue. He had multiple wives, one of whom he had put to death; he was given to various excesses. But he converted to Christianity after seeing the sign “In hoc signo vinces” (by this sign you shall conquer) written in the skies, and defeating his opponent Maxentius in the famous battle at Milvian Bridge on Oct. 28, 312 AD. Constantine, for all his defects, created the environment which gave Christians the freedom to influence society. This is what Trump can do for Christians in America and the West who have succumbed to the scourge of political correctness, moral relativism and the LGBT agenda.
The article believes Trump can fundamentally change Western culture. With Trump speaking the truth as bluntly as he spoke during the campaign, political correctness would be severely weakened, cultural Marxism and the politics of victimhood crippled. Progressives could no longer shut down debates and conservatives would be free to make their case in the public square. Universities would become places of learning and free thinking again. Better lawyers, judges and politicians would emerge. The people would be better informed on important issues. Truly wise Supreme Court justices would be able to revisit and reverse Roe v. Wade and the ruling on same-sex “marriage.” Western society could become truly Christian again.
Trump will not lack of obstacles and opponents. For many post-Christian societies are bent on promoting lust and libido as the most essential qualities that should transcend the will or the intellect, or the human spirit. Wikileaks has disclosed that Mrs. Clinton was committed to fund overseas abortions without conscience protections for doctors, had she won the presidency, and the most heated in-house debate in the United Nations today, according to Austin Ruse of C-Fam, is on the appointment of a UN global enforcer of LGBT rights. It’s the African Group that’s fighting to protect our inviolable human rights, from the “UN protectors” of LGBT rights. DU30 may want to instruct the Philippine delegation at the UN to join the African Group, if he wants to identify with Trump.