Is Donald Trump anti-globalist
To understand Trump's election success, one has to understand three problem areas that have divided the US for decades. It's about demographic change, questions of values and the country's economic development. First, the US population structure is changing rapidly, which some constituencies perceive as a loss of power and control in their own right. While in 1965 the country was still over 80 percent white, the proportion of white people in the population fell to just under 65 percent by 2015, and according to forecasts it will only be 46 percent in 2065. Demographic change means the end of the country's European history of development. Actually, it shouldn't matter at all: anyone, regardless of their origin, can become an American through their commitment to the values of the nation. Nevertheless, there is a diffuse fear of or a defensive attitude towards this development, especially among whites and especially among white older men. This may also have something to do with the fact that white men have lost influence since the 1960s due to the emancipation of women and minorities - even though this made the country more just and representative than ever before.
Second, there is an irreconcilable dispute between value conservatives and liberals over social norms. The liberalization surge of the 1960s and 1970s provoked a conservative counter-movement in the 1980s and 1990s that wanted to reverse the change in values. The so-called “cultural struggles” between liberals and conservatives continue to this day. Issues include family planning and gender roles (“family values”), abortion law, marriage for same-sex couples, and school curricula (sex education; creationism versus evolutionary biology). The social conservative camp is strongly influenced by religion. Since the 1980s, white evangelicals - to put it simply, are "born again" Christians who follow a very conservative interpretation of the faith - have become a fixture in the political landscape. Three quarters of them think the country has changed for the worse since the 1950s.
Third, the gap is growing between those who prosper and those who feel economically left behind. The USA is the strongest and most innovative economy precisely because of its global network. They recovered from the financial and economic crisis of 2008 faster and better than other industrialized countries. The unemployment rate is below five percent and wages are rising. Even so, some feel that the economy is not working for them personally. This is particularly evident in the country's old industrial centers, where millions of jobs have been lost over the past 25 years. Responsible for this are not only job relocations abroad, but also, in particular, increases in efficiency and advancing industrial automation. It is true that millions of new, well-paid jobs were created at the same time. However, it was primarily university graduates who benefited from this. The losers, on the other hand, are workers without a college or high school diploma. As a result, the income gap between the two groups has been widening since the 1980s.
Party political division and crisis of the Republicans
The Democrats and Republicans have represented and strengthened the rifts in the three areas in the past few years instead of overcoming them. The Democratic Party lost its white voters in the southern states with the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It subsequently developed into the party of minorities, progressives, the coastal elite, workers and trade unions. The Republicans became the party of the white southerners and, since the 1980s, the home of the social conservatives and the economic liberals, who backed the withdrawal of the state, deregulation, tax cuts, privatization and globalization. Both parties had a hard time satisfying their electoral coalitions. After all, workers who belonged to the Democrats' core clientele were not automatically progressive on values, while the economic liberals in the Republican Party did not necessarily share socially conservative beliefs. In theory, this should make the parties able to compromise. In practice, exactly the opposite was observed.
Both parties won through the mobilization on the margins and drifted further and further apart: The Republicans ensnared whites and social conservatives, the Democrats wooed minorities and elevated "diversity" to an ideal, which recently blossomed with debates about transgender toilets. On economic issues, the Democrats came closer to the Republicans in the 1990s (for example free trade and “small government”). However, the republican skepticism towards the state has since developed into an ideology. According to a survey by the Pew Research Institute in 1994, 64 percent of Republicans were more conservative than the average Democrat, in 2004 it was 70 percent and in 2014 it was 92 percent. Conversely, the values look similar. So it became more and more difficult to compromise, even though the American political system depends on compromise. As the political blockade intensified, social dissatisfaction with "Washington" increased.
During Barack Obama's term of office, the Republican Party slid into crisis because the right wing radicalized and could no longer be controlled. It was about the three well-known topics: demographic change, questions of values and the economic situation of the country. Obama won the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections with a coalition of blacks, Latinos, women, college graduates and liberals from the urban centers. While the Republican leadership wanted to tap into new groups of voters and address minorities, the right-wing base demanded that social changes be countered. She tried to deny the legitimacy of the first black president. From 2011 onwards, the thesis that Obama was not a US citizen at all was vocalized by Donald Trump ("Birther movement"). At the same time, bitter resistance arose against any form of immigration reform that would open up a path for illegals to legality, although the deportation of all 11 million immigrants without documents was considered practically impossible. The socially conservative base felt themselves betrayed as “voting cattle”, since the Republicans did not reverse the change in values despite promises to the contrary. The legalization of gay marriage in all states in 2015 was just the final example. In addition, the so-called Tea Party movement emerged in the Republican Party, which was directed against any form of state intervention: against Obama's health care reform and against the state aid and debt-financed economic stimulus programs that had prevented the American economy from collapsing after the financial crisis. They alleged that the Democrats' “socialist agenda” endangered the freedom and economic well-being of the “little man”. The Tea Party movement also railed against allegedly too compromising "establishment" Republicans and swept many of them out of office in the 2010 congressional elections.
The Republican Party had mobilized on the right for years, but failed to meet expectations of halting social and normative change. For one simple reason: it was simply impossible. In economic terms, the USA is suffering from the fact that it has neither a modern social policy nor an activating labor market policy that is needed to cope with the structural change in the economy. The fact that neither is the case is because the state is mostly seen as a problem, not part of the solution. This attitude has taken on a life of its own in the Republican Party. It offered no prospects for those who were economically struggling. The Democrats under Obama addressed economic and social injustice and wanted to push ahead with social reforms, but because of the political blockade they had little room for maneuver. Furthermore, they appeared to many white low-wage earners as the minority party, doing redistribution for others, not politics for people like them. This paved the way for Trump's populist election campaign.
Donald Trump's winning strategy
Trump succeeded in stylizing himself as the champion of those who fear “losing their country” in the face of social, cultural and economic change processes. His promise to “Make America Great Again” ultimately means nothing other than to lead the nation back into the past. He served moods, stirred up fears and resentments, did not care about facts and limited himself to simple slogans instead of suggesting solutions. Apparently it was precisely his rumbling tone that gave him credibility. Many voters supported Trump not in spite of, but because of his taboos and simple answers. Others followed him, despite his populist sentiment, only to prevent Democrat Hillary Clinton from winning the election. Both are worrying.
Trump marginalized minorities, thereby reassuring voters who are plagued by fear of loss that the country belongs to them. The message to his white, often older, male supporters from rural areas was that they were the "real Americans" and would (again) determine the fate of the country in the future. He also cultivated relationships with the so-called "alternative right" ("Alt-Right"). It is a reservoir for racists, white suprematists and conspiracy theorists. After he had lured the “Alt-Right” with the debate about President Obama's birth certificate, he made Stephen Bannon, until then head of the right-wing “news” portal Breitbart, a strategy advisor during the election campaign. Trump's racist fire rhetoric and his promises to build a wall against Mexico and to deport all illegal immigrants uncompromisingly served the interests of this group perfectly. He promised the value conservatives to break the influence of the "immoral liberal elite" and to restore the "true" nature of the nation. Though neither Trump’s lifestyle nor his previous political views correspond to their ideas, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for him. Trump won the electoral segment by portraying himself as a candidate for radical change and promising the appointment of ultra-conservative judges to the Supreme Court who would reverse the 1973 abortion legislation. He also brought in Mike Pence, an evangelical, as a vice presidential candidate.
In economic matters he succeeded in detaching workers from the electoral coalition of the Democrats and in addressing non-voters. He assured the economically frustrated that the economy would also work for them if “politics”, the rich, corporations, lobbyists, the financial sector, illegal immigrants or cheap workers abroad did not deprive them of their opportunities. So Trump identified alleged scapegoats and promised to remedy the situation with simple recipes. He wants to use protectionism to bring back lost industrial jobs and to stimulate the economy with an infrastructure investment program, tax cuts and deregulation. In fact, almost 80 percent of voters who rate the country's economic situation as bad and their financial prospects as negative voted for Trump.
Trump won the election by cannibalizing existing breaks and making unrealizable promises. He pushed the Republicans to the extreme on social and value issues and mobilized with maximum positions. But the USA will neither become a country of whites again, nor can the socially conservative demands win a majority. In the economic area, he suggested that structural change did not have to be mastered, but could be reversed. It is an illusion. In fact, the protectionist course advocated by Trump promises catastrophic consequences for the economy, while the (lower) middle class will not benefit from his tax plans either. The USA actually needs structures of a social market economy. But that's not up for discussion.
From candidate to president: options for action and scenarios
What can Trump do as President in light of this situation? What if he can't meet the expectations of his supporters? According to the lesson of this election campaign, his opponents took Trump literally and therefore not seriously. His followers took him seriously, but not literally. So it is quite conceivable that Trump will succeed in distancing himself from his wildest promises without any consequences: he no longer wants to lock Hillary Clinton up, instead of a wall to Mexico, a fence (which is partially in place anyway) is now sufficient, instead of all illegal ones Initially, he only wants to expel immigrants. However, he had just convinced part of his electorate with his extreme demands.
Trump will have to muddle through. He will make compromises in order to be able to act, but at the same time serve his electorate, lured with maximum promises, with concessions, gestures and rhetorical fuss. This pattern has been evident since his election victory. Trump brought Reince Priebus, the party leader of the Republicans, as chief of staff and the right-wing agitator Stephen Bannon as a strategy advisor to the White House. In doing so, he is integrating the party establishment he needs in Congress and the ultra-right electorate in equal measure. Trump is conciliatory in order to create space for cooperation, but still holds the extreme elements of his electorate in line with provocations - such as the baseless accusation that illegal immigrants have voted millions of times for Hillary Clinton. He is celebrated for preventing the air conditioning manufacturer Carrier from relocating 1,000 jobs to Mexico. However, the methods used - tax breaks of around seven million US dollars and the threat of possible loss of orders in the defense sector - do not offer a future model. The success report was misleading anyway: 300 of these jobs were not threatened at all, 600 jobs will still be lost, and another plant with 700 employees will still close. Ultimately, such muddling through is likely to lead to an escalation of the political division. He will have to compensate for his unsustainable promises with extreme rhetoric and blame on others - just as the Republican Party had done before. Even if he moderates, the Trump presidency is likely to mobilize liberals in the country - just as the conservative right has grown in strength through resistance to Obama. This applies all the more, the more Trump serves the white, socially conservative, rural, anti-globalist electoral segment - and thus alienates the “colorful”, progressive, urban, prosperous and internationalist part of the country. This does not bode well for the future.
Could Donald Trump also offer a positive impetus in the long term? During the election campaign, he addressed, among other things, people and regions that are not doing well economically. Indeed, politics has not looked after them well in recent years. Trump has put his finger in the wound, but has not presented any answers: Protectionism, deregulation and tax cuts for companies and high earners will not help the low-skilled. But Trump will at least confront the Republican Party with the fact that, for example, he wants to invest heavily in infrastructure and keep some of the provisions of Obama's health reform. In doing so, he is reopening the debate about the proper role of the state in the party. Ideally, Trump could help the Republicans question their state skepticism, which has grown since the 1980s and is now ideological, and which does more harm than good to the country. It probably does not appear at the moment because of the many hurdles. One thing is certain: the USA is facing difficult times with a populist in the White House.
Dr. Gerlinde Groitl is a political scientist at the Professorship for International Politics and Transatlantic Relations at the University of Regensburg. The author gives her personal opinion.
Copyright: Federal Academy for Security Policy | ISSN 2366-0805 page 1/4
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