Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Donald Trump and the world


Written by the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper

The United States (U.S.) presidential election has been won by the candidate most of the pollsters predicted would lose it, Mr. Donald John Trump. Politics is over and machinery for serious governance is being set in motion. Quite unlike in this milieu where official procrastination is sometimes legendary, barely a week after election, most of the president’s key men including Chief of Staff to White House and Chief Strategist have been named. Even the cabinet is steadily taking shape. It is a tribute to the influence of democracy in the U.S. that despite the tempestuous nature of the election, protests against the same exercise in many parts, there is no threat to the set date of inauguration of the country’s 45th president.

It is remarkable that the whole world is beginning to study the undercurrents and indeed the unexpected outcome of the elections even as pollsters are still wondering where and how they went off-mark. The pollsters have also failed in UK’s Brexit, in Greek and Canadian elections. This has confirmed the theory that media can really be a weapon of mass distortion, after all. The media is beginning to manifest inability to reach significant portion of the populace. This is part of the lessons of the just concluded U.S. elections.

As was noted in our pre-election comment, the election campaigns did not only divide the country, it also raised some questions and dust about race relations, among other negative connotations in a country that prides itself exemplary whenever multi-culturalism is in focus. Now globalisation as a means of trade has been dented by the election campaigns.

Trump’s strongest supporters are Americans who prefer strong men to strong institutions. Trump has been openly tribal. He has promised authoritarian leadership to an angry majority of Republican Party members. They don’t only fear a loss of status, they also resent globalisation and immigration that he has promised to radically reform. They are scared of terrorists and want a more assertive America dominated by white Christians male: “Make America great again” is the magic wand that ensured victory for the maverick Trump.

However, Africans and most immigrants have been historically linked to the Democratic Party’s ideals which include a celebration of American diversity and concessions to a progressive faction demanding greater economic justice. This was the message of Mrs. Clinton.

How America’s two major parties have dealt with excluded identity groups’ demands has defined their priorities since the 19th century. And in the 1960s the Democratic Party lost a large faction when it passed civil rights legislation. Virtually all the white segregationists who controlled the bloc of southern states quickly turned Republican and remain so till date. The effect was to further hinder the centuries-long struggle by African Americans for full and equal voting rights. This partly explains why a coalition of minorities expectedly voted to retain the Democrats in power to topple the white race in the G.O.P. They failed.

However, there are more lessons here including the fact that personality of the candidate, rather than party ideology can swing election outcome. Besides, artistry in political debates may not be a critical success factor anymore. After all, Mr. Trump failed to answer so many specific questions even about “how to make America great again.” And despite the obscurity of his messages in the mainstream media on trade agreements and immigration and the ‘Great Trump Wall’ for Mexico, the unusual businessman turned politician won.

What is more important for the president-elect now is that elections are over, governance should continue without disrupting the existing world order as has been promised during campaigns. While appreciating the political message that American interests will now come first before policing the global system, Mr. Trump should be sensitive to the reactions of the U.S. partners to the outcome of the election. China that has gone ahead of the U.S. in constructively engaging Africa should not be vilified for that foresight. China is an emerging world power that should not be provoked. And (European) partners in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) should not be ignored at this moment. There is an existing world order that should not be buffeted at this juncture by an enlightened self-interest and so the U.S. should not shirk its responsibility, in this connection. After all, the United Nations Headquarters is in Trump’s country. Even fear of Islamic fundamentalism that has been part of the campaigns should be managed carefully without hitting the roof. Isolationism cannot be successfully pursued by the United States, a citadel of multiculturalism. That fear has been fueling widespread protests since election result was declared.

It should also be noted that though the United States may no longer be seen as the world’s hegemon, whether benign or threatening, it is still the single most important power. Its action at this time has unique potential to either make solutions possible or add to existing problems. The western media has already predicted that a Trump presidency would be bad for the U.S. and dangerous for the world. Which was why they had noted that a vote for Mrs. Clinton would have been the most effective way of preventing it. Mr. Trump should not allow the media to proclaim later that we told you that his strongman antics are a liability.

Be that as it may, the president-elect should recognise that in the 21st century, U.S. power has more chances of attaining goals if it acts inclusively, and and not with go-it-alone reckless tactics. A Trump presidency should rely on soft power in a smart way. He should pay close attention to climate change, development and working out fairer global trade arrangements. The U.S. should also take the lead on international justice by signing up to the international criminal court – a development that even the outgoing Obama administration has regretted (for failing to join the court).

Despite the discontents the November 8, 2016 elections have triggered, American democracy remains very strong. That is why we believe that instead of looking at the profile of Trump, we should look at how the people, not campaign slogans can cause a stream to defy gravity and flow uphill. That again reinforces the point that only Nigerians can develop Nigeria. That is the message of Trump and his America where they have just re-echoed John Jay’s belief that, “The people who own the country ought to govern it.”

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