Trump’s rhetoric and realpolitik

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Mohammad Jamil

Before presidential elections, most pollsters had forecasted that Hillary Clinton would succeed but Donald Trump defied all these predictions and won more electoral votes than the number required to be in the White House. While Trump’s camp does not need to find out how he won, Hillary’s camp has been examining the causes of her defeat by the most unpopular Republican nominee in the US history. Hillary ascribed the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s revelation of criminal charges as one major reason. In early 2015, it was revealed that Clinton had used a private email server in her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., to conduct government business while serving from 2009 to 2013. On October 28, 2016, ten days before the election, FBI Director, James Comey, had written a public letter to congress suggesting that Hillary Clinton was still under FBI investigation for emails. On November 4, 2016, Comey wrote another letter that Hillary Clinton was cleared of the charges but that was too late. Yet another reason that has escaped the attention of the analysts was President Obama’s write-up in the October 8 edition of The Economist. Exactly a month before the presidential election, President Obama wrote an article in The Economist titled “Four Crucial Areas of Unfinished Business in Economic Policy His Successor Will Have To Tackle.” He had expressed his concern over the popular sentiments against globalisation, immigration, trade and technical innovation and protectionism, saying, “Decades of declining productivity growth and rising inequality, especially since 2007, resulted in slower income growth for low and middle-class families. And globalisation and automation have weakened the position of workers and their ability to secure a decent wage. In 1979, the top 1 percent of American families received 7 percent of all after-tax income. By 2007, this share had more than doubled to 17 percent.” The period included Obama’s seven years. In other words, he had provided a justification to the Trump’s stance vis-à-vis globalisation, automation, and especially immigration, which deprived the Americans of the jobs and opportunities. Proponents of globalisation describe it as a process that cements economic, cultural and political bonds between people of different countries of the world. They claim that a large-scale flow of commodities, capital, technology and labour has precipitated the process, leading to an integrated world market, what they call as the global village. But the result is contrary to the much-touted merits of globalisation, as it has led to the creation of global monopolies and cartels through the mergers of Multinational Corporations that were otherwise likely to compete with each other. Globalisation, once the popular paradigm of development for European and developing countries, became unpopular even in the western countries, as people from Europe and the US had staged protest demonstrations against it. In 1999, more than 100,000 people held demonstrations in Seattle against globalisation at the inauguration session of the WTO. In 2000 and 2001, large-scale demonstrations were held against globalisation and international institutions in Genoa, Prague, Davos and wherever IMF, WTO and World Bank held their meetings. People further lost faith in the system after the 2008 financial meltdown. On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy. With $639 billion in assets and $619 billion in debt, Lehman’s bankruptcy filing was the largest in history, as its assets had far surpassed those of previous bankrupt giants such as WorldCom and Enron. Lehman was the fourth-largest US investment bank at the time of its collapse and had 25,000 employees worldwide. Moreover, the financial crisis swept through the global financial markets in 2008, which contributed to an erosion of $10 trillion. For some time, the resurgence of nationalism across the EU has been witnessed and, hence, right wing political parties are gaining ground in Austria, Sweden, France, and Netherlands, with their demands of a plebiscite on the EU. Donald Trump used these popular sentiments already prevailing in Europe and even the US. Some of Trump’s detractors believed that by raising “America first” slogan, he would take the country into isolation. But others believed his words to mean that the American interest should reign supreme. It is understood that to advance that interest, the US has to have both friends and allies. If the US loses friends and allies, Russia and China stand to gain, which it cannot afford. In one of his speeches, Trump said that if elected he would “no longer surrender this country, or its people, to the false song of globalism — being a prime example of a naively accepted catchword.” The moot question is whether Trump would extricate the US from military alliances and free-trade agreements? The answer is “No”, as he is not stupid enough to put the country on the road to perdition. Except for a few hints here and there, Trump has neither outlined contours of his foreign policy nor appears to have one in mind. Therefore, the question of a paradigm shift in the US foreign policy does not arise. Secondly, institutions in the US are very strong. Hence, the state department, the Pentagon and the civil establishment would largely influence his decisions in the realm of foreign policy. As regards to military alliances like NATO, the US has been the main beneficiary. To attack Iraq, Coalition of the Willing was formed by the US while persuading Britain and other allies to join in. At domestic front, he is known for insulting women, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics and so on and so forth. Trump has to win their trust to be able to run administration effectively, and of course, this would be an uphill task. With regard to Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade, it should be mentioned that his ancestors had come from a small village, Kallstadt, in western Germany when his grandfather Frederick Trump had left Germany for the US in 1885. Of course, a great majority of all whites is European-Americans followed by other countries. And what the US is today is largely due to the contribution of the immigrants. In a report titled “Talent, Immigration, and US Economic Competitiveness,” authors Gordon H. Hanson and Matthew J. Slaughter wrote, “One-quarter of U.S. high-technology firms established since 1995 have had at least one foreign-born founder. These new companies employ 450,000 people and generate more than $50 billion in sales. Immigrants or their children founded 40% of Fortune 500 companies.”