By Johan Galtung
Writing in Washington
The 45th President of the USA, Donald Trump, delivered a highly presidential acceptance speech. The words chosen, how he spoke them, his body language, all belied the idea that he could not be presidential. How good a president, remains to be seen.
What matters now in his concrete action coming January. For instance, will he do as he promised, cancel out-sourcing, “trading” of industries to Mexico and “in-sourcing” them back to the USA, to recreate jobs for US workers?
However, the media are still too anti-Trump to realize he is their President, maybe hoping for some reversal. Also too struck by how wrong all the polls have been predicting an easy Hillary victory. They will probably go on with that for a long time.
I do not think there was any objective basis for predicting a Trump victory. Clinton had all criteria in her favor: president’s wife with influence, secretary of state, senator etc. Trump: not even office.
But Clinton’s criteria were elitist and status quo, Trump’s smacked of populism and basic change. The wind was blowing toward populism, which is, actually, what democracy is about, catering to the people.
And vast categories had suffered what the Greeks call a-timia, the loss of status, white-male-workers-Americans. 5-2 in favor of Trump. And the rust belt, the big mid-Western de-industrializing states, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Trump catered to their interests in revival, indeed also in hitting their negations in very unacceptable ways: women, colored, elites, immigrants.
But all of that does not a victory make. There is more to it.
Some idea of a “normal American”, in a “normal America”. Say Spain, that idea brought Franco to power. Answer: we do not know. We need more information. But a revolution it was.
Be that as it may. Much more important: his concrete actions.
Trump periphery populism was as unseen by US elites as Brexit periphery populism by UK elites. 90% in urban USA voted Clinton; 70-90% Trump in sub-urban and rural areas. But after the unseen became reality things proceed smoothly in the way prescribed by US democracy. The election was FAFE. fair and free, no Florida 2004, or Ohio 2008.
There are heavy demonstrations against Trump for good reasons, but no violence from his adherents, so far. And President Obama just met President Elect Trump for 9 hours focused on the interests of something beyond both of them: USA, of course, the world. All normal.
But the media still live in the pre-election period, focused on how close Clinton was to winning this and that, making their forecasts come true. A Norwegian professor of media studies calls media people flock animals that decide the truth, hanging on in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Flock animals like lemmings may head for the sea and drown, collectively. A major reaction against US media, for meddling (“endorsing”) and incompetence will come.
Trump has used his business model for politics: you fight to conquer the market, painting competitors and self black and white. He did that, and won the political market place–White House, Congress; some Supreme Court niches not yet. His products, the policies, will flow domestically; he is in command. But not in the world.
The focus turns to foreign policy, particularly China and Russia. Allies, but very different. China is bilateral, negotiating deals for mutual and equal benefit and good at it (Vietnam); Trump should go for the same. Russia is multilateral, they want a European House from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with US understanding of Crimea and Ukraine, cooperating with everybody for mutual benefit, but not meddling.
Trump now has a unique chance to negotiate good deals with both; for the first time since the Russian and Chinese revolutions.
Trump and his inner circle of executives now work hard on a presidency “for all Americans”, after having insulted most of them. His business model calls for a President Trump different from the Candidate Trump.
Some predictions of what he will claim:
• he is not against blacks, but reached out to them;
• he is not against women, only commented on some beauty contestants;
• he is only against Mexican illegals–therefore no wall is needed;
• he is only against illegal immigrants–solving that they are welcome;
• he is against people not working, living at the expense of others;
• he is against bank(er)s not investing, only speculating, “trading”.
Above all he wants to lift white, male, American workers up, not only to jobs and a living income, but to restore their dignity.
Will he be believed? That will take time. Current protests, demos, even battles against him, will abate. But many may think: if he can change that much once, he may do so twice; and then toward what?
Up against him comes a fact: the decline of the group he wants to lift up and who brought him into power is much less due to the groups he insulted, and much more to simple automation, maybe as much as 88%. Those jobs may no longer exist.
“Education, retraining for white collar, not blue collar jobs”, the System says. OR: if artisanry was overtaken by industry and industry by automation and AI, artificial intelligence, maybe advanced, labor-intensive, high quality artisanry? Not easy, and different from campaign rhetoric and “business model”.
But very many jobs can be created improving the infrastructure. That is also a Sanders revolution, but Trump may be less economic and more into dignity. Financed by cutting down on bases and military commitments abroad, except Israel? Conservative he is not; nor are the others, always progressive. Old maps to US politics are invalid.
But US democracy as such has so far stood the test brilliantly.
The Washington Post listed on 11 Nov “Donald Trump’s Campaign Promises”; and on 12 Nov, “Trump advisors play down some of his campaign promises”.
Trump’s new focus: health care, jobs, borders, tax reform.
Here the 12:
1. Putting Hillary Clinton in jail for mishandling classified e-mails
Unlikely, may be kept in the background as threat to control Clinton.
2. Building the Wall between Mexico and the USA, paid by Mexico
Will probably be postponed and dropped, in favor of No. 6 below.
3. Imposing stricter limits in the Iran nuclear deal
Other deal parties make it difficult; may backfire on US economy.
4. Withdrawing the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Will probably be done, TPP has problematic dispute settlement.
5. Repealing the Affordable Care Act for new health care programs
Given 25% fee increase at the end October, he will go ahead with that.
6. Deporting all illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, and others
Will probably be done.
7. Rebuilding the military, cooperation with Russia in Syria
Will be done, reducing military to domestic operations; adding Ukraine.
8. Canceling the Paris Climate Agreement
Other agreement parties make it difficult; but USA may exit.
9. Waterboarding to be continued as interrogation tactic
May be done, at great expense in US prestige-making; America look small.
10. Banning all Muslim refugees from Syria
May be done, but may also disappear given No. 7 above.
11. Shrinking the federal government; keeping military, police, health
Standard Republican position, not much will happen.
12. Drilling for gas and oil, digging for coal
Maybe done, at great expense in US prestige-making; America look small.
Conclusion: Except for 4-5-7 bad promises, campaign talk; better forgotten.
Trump’s new focus above is much better for a president “for all Americans.”
Donald Trump passed the CBS 60 Minutes TV test on Sunday evening 13 Nov in Washington. So did the very well prepared journalist.
What came through was a relaxed Trump, in command not only of voice and body language and short crisp answers, almost always straight to the points, but also of an amazing array of facts. A quick learner; but also considerably better educated (Wharton) than his competitors.
Watch out: the 45th president may end up among the top 10. Or 5?
He was confronted with his many negative comments on groups in US society and campaign promises; and his answers were all as predicted in the four preceding mini-columns on The Trump Presidency.
The journalist would have done us a favor had she focused less on campaign statements and more on the new Prescient Elect Trump not only handling relations to the Clintons and Obama gracefully, but full of new ideas.
But she was right in drawing attention to massive anti-Trump demonstrations in nine major cities around the USA.
Trump has a point about “professional demonstrators”, but the anti-Trump sentiment is genuine and totally understandable given the former Candidate Trump.
However, the demonstrators should consider that winning the election gives him a strong position in a democracy; well understood by the Clintons and Obama. The demonstrators say: we know better than that (stupid) majority!
Challenge his presidency, not the election.
Moreover, any demonstrator who voted for Clinton voted for war; preferring a possible nuclear war with Russia to controversial Trump.
Do people with that political profile merit being taken seriously?
Trump owes many groups inside and outside the USA an apology. He should meet them publicly for dialogues that may or may not end with conciliation, depending on both sides. In the meantime, his “Stop It!” to the racism of some of his own people was appropriate and useful.
And this is the last Trump mini-column.