Trump lost — but won!

Trump lost — but won! Featured

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US President-elect Biden is largely unknown. It’s different with Trump. The man is an open book from the time he dominated the GOP slate during the 2015-2016 primary debates and subsequent campaign sorties, where he bullied his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Many thought his election in 2016 was a freak and Putin’s interference gave him the presidency. But the election last week revealed another peculiar perspective.

He will not have his second term. He lost the popular and the electoral votes. But in some bizarre way, Trump won this election. His doctrine, Trumpism, has found traction in the mainstream of America’s political conversation. He won because he has set Americans against each other, undermined the legitimacy of its institutions and arrogated upon himself the Republican Party’s agenda.

Trumpism as defined is “…a compendium of warped beliefs underpinning a cult of personality, producing policies centered on the whims, caprices and behavior of this narcissistic US president. Overall, a perversion of the once vaunted conservative leanings of the Republican Party.” (“America’s precarious fling with Trump,” The Manila Times, Nov. 4, 2020.)

Trumpism and the American dream
What I assumed as a school of thought and a concept of governance acceptable only to America’s fringes were in fact the conscious choice of 72 million Americans who voted for Trump. Not all may have understood the nuances, but this is a larger segment of the American public, beyond Hillary’s “basket of deplorables.” On the positive side, it’s all about aligning America back to its traditions primarily as a conservative society that spawned the proverbial American dream, that Americans have equal opportunity in the Jeffersonian concept of “pursuit of happiness.” But there is a dark side to it. An editorial contributor to the Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky, put it succinctly: “Trump, in all his incompetence, brutishness and cruelty, embodies one powerful, ugly, and persistent version of the American dream.”

It is the influx of non-white immigrants pursuing that dream that diluted the narrative for white Americans. Trump struck a chord championing America First that formed the essence of Trumpism, propelling him to resuscitate Reagan’s 1980 slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” The Donald was flagrantly propagating his bigotry, his open racism and what can only be construed as his contempt for the rule of law, fortified by his now famous declaration that “…Article II of the US Constitution gives the President the right to do whatever he wants.” His emasculation of the electoral system has produced chaos. He has sown the seeds of discord that will only grow in the years to come. This will further polarize America long after his exit and his persona becomes irrelevant. Trumpism could flourish and be the cancer that will continue to eat into American politics for decades to come. Trump, the loser has become Trump the winner through this aberrant legacy he leaves behind. This is America’s curse for the coming years.

Biden’s inhibited America
And what a legacy! He was obsessed to undo what Obama accomplished and set out to dismantle them. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which 80 percent of Americans support, has been his bete noire from the get-go and he wants this repealed — without a substitute in place. This will effectively deprive 20 million Americans of health care insurance coverage at a time when Covid-19 is wreaking havoc with more than 11 million cases and 250,000 deaths.

In four years, Trump presided over the waning of the American hegemony and may even have accelerated its economic decline. Prior to the onslaught of the pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared that China had overtaken the US as the world’s largest economy. Using purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than the traditional market exchange rates (MER), China’s economy is worth “…US$24.2 trillion compared to America’s US$20.8 trillion.” (EurAsian Times Desk, Oct. 18, 2020.)

Trump initiated a trade war with China with devastating effects for the two economies. The Brookings Institute estimated “US exports to China dropping $30 billion while imports fell by over $70 billion.” This did not solve the original purpose for which the trade wars were meant to resolve — contracting the trade deficits which in 2016 stood at around $346 billion.

Bloomberg Economics Reports estimated the trade war would cost the US economy $316 billion by the end of 2020. Moody’s Analytics studies shows the trade wars causing the US 300,000 jobs — even before the onset of the pandemic — hitting the American agricultural sector heavily and bankrupting farmers. China on the other hand, with its totalitarian government, has managed to mute the effects on its people.

NATO-Middle East-TPP-Iran deal
He corroded the Western alliance that underpinned the balance of world power that assured a modicum of what could pass for world peace from 1945 toward the end of the Cold War in 1989. He has alienated old allies at NATO and played to old adversaries.

In the Middle East, he recalibrated relationships drastically and unilaterally reversed decades of painstaking negotiations between Israel and the Arab and Palestinian states. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital transferring the US Embassy there. This threatened to upset President Obama’s efforts at diplomacy and cooperation among protagonists that earned for him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize — a recognition that Trump insanely coveted for himself.

Earlier in his regime, he withdrew from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP). This agreement was to advance US geopolitical interests in the Asia-Pacific region, expand US trade and investments, spur economic growth, lower consumer prices, and create new jobs. Effectively this reduces the member countries’ dependence on China.

The Iran nuclear deal, signed in July 2015 between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, meant to reduce Iran’s capability to create its own nuclear devices towards a safer world, was not certified by Trump.

Climate change mitigation
Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed by 196 countries in 2016, to combat climate change and global warming. This was the first comprehensive climate agreement among a community of nations that deals with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance.

All these pales in comparison with what Trump has done in the wake of his electoral debacle. His ultimate and continuing act is undermining America’s election process and what could be construed as the perversion of the American brand, its cherished principles collectively called “Democracy.” This concept which for years was the bedrock of American governance and peaceful transfer of power separates it from fascism and totalitarianism. But it allowed a deviant to worm its way into the system and putrefy it from the inside. America may take decades to survive this trauma.

The fact that 72 million Americans supported this dysfunctional man and all that he stands for tells us about this nation’s state of mind and the extent of America’s deep divisions. But more importantly, it tells us about how low America has fallen. Could President Biden persuade all Americans to look into themselves and find a common ground — one that will bring back democracy’s adversarial dialogues in lieu of hostile protocols?

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