The Economist: The Trump era
Posted by fidest press agency su sabato, 12 novembre 2016
By Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief. THE fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9th 1989, was when history was said to have ended. The fight between communism and capitalism was over. After a titanic ideological struggle encompassing the decades after the second world war, open markets and Western liberal democracy reigned supreme. In the early morning of November 9th 2016, when Donald Trump crossed the threshold of 270 electoral-college votes to become America’s president-elect, that illusion was shattered. History is back—with a vengeance.
The fact of Mr Trump’s victory and the way it came about are hammer blows both to the norms that underpin politics in the United States and also to America’s role as the world’s pre-eminent power. At home, an apparently amateurish and chaotic campaign has humiliated an industry of consultants, pundits and pollsters. If, as he has threatened, President Trump goes on to test the institutions that regulate political life, nobody can be sure how they will bear up. Abroad, he has taken aim at the belief, embraced by every post-war president, that America gains from the often thankless task of being the global hegemon. If Mr Trump now disengages from the world, who knows what will storm through the breach?
Anger has sown hatred in America. Feeling themselves victims of an unfair economic system, ordinary Americans blame the elites in Washington for being too spineless and too stupid to stand up to foreigners and big business; or, worse, they believe that the elites themselves are part of the conspiracy. They repudiate the media—including this newspaper—for being patronising, partisan and as out of touch and elitist as the politicians. Many working-class white voters feel threatened by economic and demographic decline. Some of them think racial minorities are bought off by the Democratic machine. Rural Americans detest the socially liberal values that urban compatriots foist upon them by supposedly manipulating the machinery in Washington (see article). Republicans have behaved as if working with Democrats is treachery.
Mr Trump harnessed this popular anger brilliantly. Those who could not bring themselves to vote for him may wonder how half of their compatriots were willing to overlook his treatment of women, his pandering to xenophobes and his rank disregard for the facts. There is no reason to conclude that all Trump voters approve of his behaviour. For some of them, his flaws are insignificant next to the One Big Truth: that America needs fixing. For others the willingness to break taboos was proof that he is an outsider. As commentators have put it, his voters took Mr Trump seriously but not literally, even as his critics took him literally but not seriously. The hapless Hillary Clinton might have won the popular vote, but she stood for everything angry voters despise.The hope is that this election will prove cathartic. Perhaps, in office, Mr Trump will be pragmatic and magnanimous—as he was in his acceptance speech. Perhaps he will be King Donald, a figurehead and tweeter-in-chief who presides over an executive vice-president and a cabinet of competent, reasonable people. When he decides against building a wall against Mexico after all or concludes that a trade war with China is not a wise idea, his voters may not mind too much—because they only expected him to make them feel proud and to put conservative justices in the Supreme Court. Indeed, you can just about imagine a future in which extra infrastructure spending, combined with deregulation, tax cuts, a stronger dollar and the repatriation of corporate profits, boosts the American economy for long enough to pacify the anger. This more emollient Trump might even model himself on Ronald Reagan, a conservative hero who was mocked and underestimated, too.Nothing would make us happier than to see Mr Trump succeed in this way. But whereas Reagan was an optimist, Mr Trump rails against the loss of an imagined past. We are deeply sceptical that he will make a good president—because of his policies, his temperament and the demands of political office.
Abroad Mr Trump says he hates the deal freezing Iran’s nuclear programme. If it fails, he would have to choose between attacking Iran’s nuclear sites and seeing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (see article). He wants to reverse the Paris agreement on climate change; apart from harming the planet, that would undermine America as a negotiating partner. Above all, he would erode America’s alliances—its greatest strength. Mr Trump has demanded that other countries pay more towards their security or he will walk away. His bargaining would weaken NATO, leaving front-line eastern European states vulnerable to Russia. It would encourage Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. Japan and South Korea may be tempted to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.
The election of Mr Trump is a rebuff to all liberals, including this newspaper. The open markets and classically liberal democracy that we defend, and which had seemed to be affirmed in 1989, have been rejected by the electorate first in Britain and now in America. France, Italy and other European countries may well follow. It is clear that popular support for the Western order depended more on rapid growth and the galvanising effect of the Soviet threat than on intellectual conviction. Recently Western democracies have done too little to spread the benefits of prosperity. Politicians and pundits took the acquiescence of the disillusioned for granted. As Mr Trump prepares to enter the White House, the long, hard job of winning the argument for liberal internationalism begins anew. (abstract from The Economist) (photo: the economist)