I am utterly incredulous that a self-declared sexual pervert, a blatant misogynist and an overt racist could take in so many people, but Donald Trump has clearly tapped into the rich lode of disillusion with the status quo that many Americans feel. I wonder whether he will remember Abraham Lincoln’s famous dictum:
If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.Trump made quite a few wild promises in the run-up to the election, and some of these will be next to impossible to fulfill. Take his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border and to make Mexico pay for it. I imagine that a lot of people will have taken him at his word, but I wonder how many of them are aware that America couldn’t afford to build it, and even if it could, when asked to stump up the cash Mexico would simply tell him to get stuffed.speech delivered in Clinton, Illinois, on 8th September 1854.
And what about his promise to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States? The US economy would collapse if he ever succeeded in that endeavour. There are millions of menial jobs in that economy that white Americans are simply not prepared to do, particularly in the agricultural sector. As for all the jobs that have been lost in the so-called ‘rust belt’, where Trump clearly had a huge amount of support, the unemployed blue-collar workers there will quickly become disgruntled when they see that they’ve been sold a pig in a poke. Manufacturers will always make their products where it is cheapest to do so, the upshot being that the jobs lost there are gone for ever.
As for his boast that he will best China in trade, I can only say that I’d like to see him try. He might make some headway if he were to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but I would expect him to regard such a course of action with disdain. After all, he has claimed, in his book The Art of the Deal, that “I understand the Chinese mind”. It takes a peculiar species of arrogance to make such a claim, which I would never make, even though I’ve spent most of the last 43 years in Hong Kong. In fact, Trump is a geopolitical dunce who will be out-manoeuvred at every turn by the Chinese—and also by Vladimir Putin, about whom he has spoken so favourably. However, Putin is a shrewd political operator who will eat a President Trump for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Trump has also called for Muslims to be barred from the United States “until someone can figure out what the hell is going on”. I would have thought it obvious: what is going on is that a group with an extreme fundamentalist interpretation of Islam has set itself up in the vacuum created by his predecessor’s ill-advised invasion of Iraq 13 years ago and will do whatever it takes to spread their poisonous ideology throughout the world. And “bombing the hell out of IS” will not resolve the problem.
In fact, I would be surprised if Trump even understands the difference between Sunni and Shi’a Islam, even though that difference is crucial to what is going on in the Middle East. So the West, collectively, supports Saudi Arabia, one of the most reactionary and repressive regimes on the planet, while demonizing Iran, which has good reason to hate America and distrust its motives. From the Anglo-American coup d’état in 1953 that toppled Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, to George W. Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech in 2002, which cemented hardliners in power and marginalized moderates in the Iranian regime—even though Iranian moderates had facilitated American entry into Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks—America has got it wrong with respect to Iran. And Donald Trump has said that he will tear up the recently concluded agreement with Iran on nuclear development, presumably to appease Israel. That would be a huge error of judgement.
We have already heard what Trump thinks of Mexicans (“rapists”), but he also plans to row back on the progress made by President Obama in normalizing US/Cuba relations, although whether this is because he hates Obama or whether this is merely because he despises Latinos—or both—is a moot point.
Of course, many will see the story of Donald Trump as the embodiment of the American dream—a self-made billionaire who made it all the way to the White House—but beyond the glitz and glamour it’s worth taking a much closer look. As a businessman, he filed for bankruptcy no fewer than four times, although he claims that this kind of procedure is common in business, and he was smart to do so. In other words, having run up massive debts, he was able to hide behind the law to avoid repaying those debts, while those to whom he owed money, including employees and small subcontractors, lost out. That doesn’t make you smart Mr Trump; it makes you a crook and a swindler.
As for the so-called American dream: I’m reminded of an email that my cousin Dave sent me a few years ago:
I sometimes think that Americans are particularly prone to a belief in the good intentions of their leaders because of their particularly idiotic belief in the ‘American Dream’, which I believe is the greatest control device and negative feedback cycle any political system ever created. Basically, anyone can make it in America. If you don’t then for a variety of reasons it’s your fault, and to bitch about the failure and the system demonstrates your weakness. And worse, it’s un-American.Anyway, I’m not American, so I can close this diatribe by reminding you of one of my favourite words: schadenfreude, a mischievous delight in the misfortune of others. There was only one thing that Mr Trump got right in his entire election campaign: America is no longer great. And how ever hard he tries, he will not make it great again. America is in terminal decline, and it has just elected a carnival barker as its next president.