Writing this post is no easy task because it means recognizing the reality we are now in. Donald Trump is the President Elect, and even writing these words should be a reminder that – even six weeks removed from the election – we should never feel fully comfortable with a President Trump nor his administration. Here are some reflections on Donald so far.
Words matter. Donald’s promises throughout the campaign hinged on the inane to the insane, and were above all provocative. Donald used his words to invoke racism, misogyny, jingoism, and in doing so harnessed a groundswell of anger in his most devoted followers. Donald appealed to the worst characteristics we have as a nation, and used that as a vehicle for victory.
Actions matter more. So far, Donald’s picks for key cabinet positions and national security reflect a desire to convert his words into actionable policy. Two examples:
- Under a Department of Justice led by a racist senator so vile even a Republican-controlled congress under Reagan would not appoint him to a federal judgeship, mass deportations could become a reality.
- An Environmental Protection Agency led by a man who sued the Obama administration for its pro-environmental positions, will be redesigned to protect business interests at the expense of environment.
Whether or not his words become actions will depend on those who carry them out. Congress bending to Donald’s will will become the biggest story to follow in 2017.
A disregard for the current world order. Since World War II, the United States has worked with allies to expand trade and lower barriers. Secretary Clinton failed to adequately defend NAFTA and other free trade agreements during the debates. Like them or not, free trade ensures cheap goods arrive at our shores, at the expense of some jobs at home. More importantly, free trade binds nations and economies together. The chances for war decrease proportionally. By contrast, Donald targeted NAFTA consistently through his campaign, with a vow to renegotiate NAFTA on more favorable terms, or leave NAFTA entirely. “Build the Wall” became a rallying cry and, frankly, will become a symbol for the new U.S. style of diplomacy. Trade wars with key partners (i.e. China) will usher in a new era of protectionism, higher prices, and mutual distrust. The chances for war increase proportionally.
Other actions point to a new way of doing business and, by extension, a new world order. Assuming Donald reinstates Bush-era torture, the United States will lose further standing, especially amongst its key allies. Meanwhile, Donald’s warm relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin suggests an era of cooperation between the superpowers, wherein economic sanctions are lifted, oil and gas flow freely, and the two countries cooperate on defeating ISIS. The price of cooperation could easily be a tacit agreement to let Eastern Europe fall back into the Russian orbit.
Facts matter not. Donald lied his way to the presidency by making outlandish remarks, and continues to do so. That Mexicans are rapists and murderers, that the inner cities are crumbling, that millions of people somehow voted illegally in the presidential election. Global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Today, Donald takes very few national security briefings, reaffirming the idea that Donald operates not by fact, but on his gut.
What the future beholds. Working with a U.S. President that cares not for facts or data will be, in short, a challenge.
What should concern every citizen is that a foreign power or an interested party can plant fake news in a story or in a headline that will grab Donald’s attention. Seems outlandish? If Donald has already dismissed factual reports that Russia swayed the U.S. election, then little would keep Russia or the alt-right from spoon feeding news into Donald’s worldview.
Will those who have been elected or appointed to key positions in the U.S. government have the strength, will, conscience, and/or ability to counter Donald? U.S. institutions are indeed resilient. Yet we have failed so many times already. Nobody could stop Donald from winning the primary, nor the presidency. An Electoral College, whose very mission is to stop a potential tyrant from taking power, failed miserably.
Does the average citizen even care? The split in the United States is real, be it republicans vs. democrats, or distinguishing fact from fiction. Did people really believe that Pope Francis endorsed Donald? Did people really believe that Clinton ran a secret child sex ring from the basement of a pizza shop? The answer to both questions is, yes, and both stories got thousands upon thousands of views thanks to social media, even though both stories are unequivocally fake.
Enemies foreign and domestic now have a blueprint and a vehicle for causing unprecedented disruption to domestic and foreign policies they deem unacceptable to their own interests. I count Donald as one of them, as he is a wedge that he will use throughout his presidency to divide us.
In short, until and unless we can even agree upon a common set of facts and rules for human decency, Donald, his appointees, his supporters, and foreign powers can and will exploit this divide.
Those opposed to Donald need to stand up and unite. Failure to do so will cause tremendous damage to democracy and peace, and will usher in a new and dangerous world order.