Thursday,22 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1321, (24 - 30 November 2016)
Thursday,22 February, 2018
Issue 1321, (24 - 30 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Which Trump?

The signs are not encouraging of changes in US President-elect Donald Trump, writes Ralph Nader

Al-Ahram Weekly

Optimists in the US are hoping for a Donald Trump makeover. They cling to the US president-elect’s brief victory remarks suggesting that he wants to be the “president of all the people.”

In his 60 Minutes interview on television following the election win, Trump said that the protesters against his election were out in the streets because “they do not know me.” This recalls his statement some months ago that he had to say outlandish things in order to get greater media attention and reach more people than his Republican Party primary competitors.

But character and personality are not prone to change in most people. This is especially so in the case of Trump, who sees his campaign tactics as reasons for his “successes.” However, the transition to exalted, higher offices of public trust and power can sometimes bring out better angels.

So far, though, the signs are not encouraging. Trump values loyalty, and people like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stuck with him at his lowest points earlier this year. Trump knows very little about the awesome job given him by that dead hand from the past – the US Electoral College – which has once again caused a plurality of voters to see their chosen candidate lose. (Even Trump acknowledged its unfairness after the election.)

Lack of know-how coupled with blind loyalty brings Trump to rely heavily on these old hands behind the worsening corporate state and military belligerence. His transition appointments are delighting the corporatists. The man chosen to oversee the changes in the US Environmental Protection Agency denies that climate change is man-made and scowls at the regulation of harmful pollutants. Trump has opened the door to the big oil and gas lobbyists to control the US Department of Energy and Department of The interior. Wall Streeters are smacking their lips over Trump cavorting with opponents of regulating that giant gambling casino.

His military advisers do not come from the ranks of prudent retired officials who see perpetual war for what it is – a mechanism for national insecurity, authoritarianism and profits for the military-industrial complex that former US president Dwight Eisenhower warned about in his 1961 farewell address. On the contrary, many of Trump’s military advisers have been quick to embrace an empire mentality and a warfare state.

One can imagine how a major terrorist attack on the US during his administration could provoke Trump into a heavy-handed retaliation with dangerous and unforeseen consequences. This is exactly what these adversaries want him to do in order to further spread their propaganda campaign against the US. Meanwhile, US civil liberties and the domestic necessities of the people are shoved aside.

Trump’s first two major assistants – chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon – have called for corporate tax reductions and the elimination of the estate tax on the rich (the only ones who pay it). Despite their “small government” façade, they are not likely to challenge the deficit-swelling combination of a larger military budget, decreased revenue and continuation of the bailouts, subsidies and giveaways known as crony capitalism that have enriched Trump and his plutocratic allies over the years.

Intrigue and internal fighting inside the White House and top cabinet levels are likely if Trump insists on giving powerful roles to his three children and son-in-law (albeit without pay). Nepotism and conflicts of interest are acidic cocktails, and they undermine the integrity and transparency of public office.

Then there is the explosive crackdown on immigrants – many of whom benefit millions of Americans by working in low-wage jobs – that could produce daily turmoil, not to mention the exorbitant human cost of breaking up families in communities across the country.

In past Republican Party electoral victories, there was always a modicum of checks and balances to slow plutocratic greed and power grabs.

But as of 21 January 2017, the Republican Party will control the executive branch, the Congress, the Supreme Court and most likely 33 governorships and 32 state legislatures in the US. The anti-democratic Electoral College is the cause of giving the Republicans control over the White House and, by extension, the Supreme Court.

Other than a vigorous and fearless free press, not just in Washington but also back in the localities, or a self-destructive Trump implosion, the redeeming power of the people can only come from the grassroots. The US is in an extraordinarily high-risk condition, given who possesses the reins of power. Self-described conservatives and liberals can curb that power if they form alliances in the congressional districts around the major initiatives on which they agree. Such alliances have occurred with success in the past.

With the power-brokers employing their divide-and-rule tactics, such potent political alliances will require citizen action and adequate funding in all congressional districts with focussed and sustained intensity on their senators and representatives. Congress, with only 535 lawmakers, is the most accessible of the checks and balances reachable by the people back home.

How many enlightened billionaires, serious citizen-patriots and advocates for transforming elections and governance will now step up to help?


The writer is a US consumer advocate, lawyer and author.

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