The Meaning of Trump

The Meaning of Trump


Two weeks after the American presidential elections of November 8, the meaning of Donald Trump’s surprising victory is coming into ever sharper focus. While Trump’s unexpected victory is undoubtedly historic and promises to usher a new era in American politics, it may be worthwhile to begin analyzing its meaning by looking into other actors that were dramatically, perhaps, irreversibly affected by the outcome of the public’s choice on Nov. 8.


Obama’s legacy and the democrat wipeout


To begin with, this has to do with the legacy of President Barack Obama as a two-term president. It will be recalled that he came to power in 2009 with the bold promise to “fundamentally change America“ in line with his leftist, pseudo-socialist predilections. It is fair to say that he was able to achieve very little ‘fundamental’ change and the little that he did accomplish could and would be reversed at the very beginning of the Trump tenure. This includes his signature achievement known as Obamacare, that many considered to be a thinly disguised effort to nationalize the American healthcare system. This massive effort, written into law without the support of a single republican legislator, is now universally considered a failure and it is only a matter of time before most of it is rescinded in Congress. The same is true about Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which his acolytes tout as his most important foreign-political accomplishment. What’s left is some 600 executive orders and countless bureaucratic regulations introduced without congressional approval that would be invalidated by Trump the same way they were imposed by Obama – with a the stroke of a pen. What’s left is the doubling of the national debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion in just 8 years, an under par economic performance and a highly unstable international environment with the Middle East in turmoil, Islamist terrorism continuing and Russia’s aggressive neo-imperialism resurgent. By all objective criteria, Obama’s presidency must be judged a failure and little of his legacy is likely to enter the history books, except that he was the first black president of the United States.


Perhaps much more important for the future is the huge damage sustained by the democrat party during Obama’s tenure (See graphic below). In short, when Obama came to power in 2009, the democrats controlled 257 seats in Congress, 60 in the senate, 28 governorships and 27 state legislatures. Today, the GOP controls not only the House (238 to 193) and the Senate (52 to 48), but it also enjoys a better than two to one (33 to 15) advantage in governorships and in the state legislatures (69 to 30). If that is not bad enough, worse is to come for the following reasons. In the 2018 mid-term elections, 10 democratic senators must defend their seats in states won by Trump, and in 2020, following the scheduled census, the dominant GOP state legislatures will have the opportunity to gerrymander electoral districts to their further advantage. Last but most, the democrat party appears to have learned none of the lessons of 2016 and is determined to march even further to the left. The dominant candidates for leadership positions at present are hard-left ‘progressives’ like Keith Ellison, a congressman with highly suspect Islamist affiliations and Elizabeth Warren.  They seem to follow the example of the British labor party, which, under similarly hard-left Jeremy Corbyn, is set to commit political suicide.





The Domestic Equation


During the campaign, Trump elaborated a rather detailed domestic policy program, which he continues to promise implementing since the election. It consist of several key proposals, which taken together represent a radical break with the policies of President Obama and, more often than not, those of the Bush Administration as well.  The key promised reforms are the lowering of the corporate tax rate to 15% and the introduction of a 10% repatriation tax for money American corporations have stashed overseas. Currently, the American corporate tax of 35% and 39.6% is the highest among OECD nations and its lowering to 15% would immediately make the U.S. a very desirable investment location for domestic and international capital both. These very high rates heretofore also made the repatriation of a reported $2 to $2 ½ trillion accumulated profits by US corporation overseas very costly. At 10%, much if not most of it, will come back home and serve as a significant economic stimulus. Other Trump economic proposals include the spending of $1 trillion on infrastructure building and repair and enabling the American oil and gas industry to explore and produce on state-owned lands and the ocean shelf, which Obama had put off limits. This could provide a huge stimulus to the domestic hydrocarbon industry and guarantee low oil and gas prices for years to come. Trump’s economic proposals have already led OECD economic forecasters to double expected GDP growth in the United States from 1.5% in 2016 to 3% in 2018.


On the domestic political front, Trump has promised to deport the nearly 2 million illegal immigrants with criminal records, whom Obama refused to deport and appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court of the United States. The opportunity to do so on the latter promise would be available to him immediately upon entering office given the court’s vacancy since the death of Judge Scalia. If these proposals were implemented, America can look forward to radical and for the most part positive change.


The Foreign Policy Challenge


The foreign political challenges facing the new administration are considerably more complex. Obama had often chosen to “lead from behind,” a contradiction in terms, with the result that America was often absent or seemingly detached from international conflicts. A classic example is the White House’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of a radical Islamic movement as a breeding ground for terrorism and to argue instead, that only individual terrorists are the problem. Which way, president-elect Trump will take American foreign policy is still unclear because of numerous and often contradictory statements he had made during the campaign. Nonetheless, post-election foreign policy pronouncements and, especially, the profiles of individuals already picked or officially considered for important posts in the new administration, allow some educated guessing.


Europe and NATO


A constant refrain in Trump’s election campaign with respect foreign policy was his promise to make America’s NATO allies contribute their fair share to the alliance’s defense burden. It is indeed striking that since the demise of the Soviet Union, most European NATO members have dramatically lowered their defense spending on the mistaken assumption that war is no longer possible in the old continent. The result has been a NATO, whose budget is largely sustained by the American taxpayer, and where its largest and most prosperous European member, Germany, spends a miserly 1.2% of its GDP on the military and has virtually no independent defense capability to speak of. For pointing this out during the campaign, Trump was pilloried for being anti-NATO. In fact, Trump’s tough talk may finally be waking Europe and for the first time in years its politicians are talking about boosting defense spending. It remains to be seen if this augurs real change, but, if it does, far from destroying NATO, Trump may end up saving it.




Another area of foreign-political discontent with Trump during the campaign, and one that this writer shares, involves his poorly thought out praise of Russian dictator Putin.  Being a politician with no experience whatsoever in the foreign policy, this could perhaps be understood, though not excused. The reality of being the leader of the free world, in which Putin’s neo-imperialist Russia has emerged as an  aggresive rogue power, is likely to quickly change that. We have already seen how quickly and unceremoniously Trump dumped his erstwhile campaign manager and Putin/Yanukovich acolyte, Paul Manafort. Further, most of the people Trump has already appointed or is seriously considering for top positions, such as General Mattis for defense, Gen. Flynn for national security adviser, Mike Pompeo for the CIA, Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and Mit Romney for secretary of state, are known for harboring strong antipathy to Putin’s as an international outlaw and are unlikely to change their views in office. To be successful, Trump would also have to work in close cooperation with the republican majorities in Congress. Some of its most prominent members, like Senator John McCain, Senator Lyndsey Graham and speaker Paul Ryan have already publicly warned Trump against underestimating Putin’s mendacity. There is no chance that the new president will risk a fight with the GOP on behalf of Mr. Putin, “a totalitarian dictator and a thug who does not have our interests in mind,” in the blunt words of Gen. Flynn.


America’s Posture


Finally, as to the overall foreign-political posture of the Trump Administration there is little doubt that it would be very different from that of president Obama who essentially withdrew America from its traditional role of guarantor of international stability. He has said on numerous occasions that he will maintain a US defense capability that is second to none and is willing to spend more money on the military to keep it that way. He will also engage much more actively in the war against radical Islamic terrorism and we should expect a greater direct US military involvement against the terrorists. At the same time, he is unlikely to engage in doomed efforts, such as the Bush Administration’s ‘nation building’ schemes and prolonged military engagement unless vital US interests are at stake. Overall, a welcome change from the do-nothing Obama years.


By Alex Alexiev

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