Trump Is Right!

It is easy to emphasize all that is bad about the new American President. For sure, I think he is a clown who will do a few bad things to the US and the world at large. His protectionist agenda is of course a libertarian nightmare, which will also make the people who elected him worse off. Still, the US President is not a dictator, so some trust in the institutions and the actors that fill them still seems appropriate.

Trump is also plainly right on a number of issues. Foremost, his plea (also in yesterday’s inaugural address) for the partners of the USA, especially in NATO, to contribute in equal measure. This is not new, all recent American Presidents have pointed this out to their European allies. It is simply outrageous to let Mrs Jones from North Dakota pay for the defense of other rich countries, such as my home country of The Netherlands. The Europeans got away with major free riding. Only recently did they start to get their act a little bit together, as the Russian threat is looming again. The defense budgets in almost all European NATO members have decreased drastically since the early nineties, which is plainly immoral if you are in the world’s most important security organization together. So hopefully Trump will pressure them to the max.

He is also right in pointing out that many US foreign interventions have been a disaster. And it is good that he wants some closer scrutiny from now onwards. I am not a great fan of military intervention, although I also do not want to rule them out them perennially (as opposed to many others in the liberal tradition). Many of the interventions over the past few decades have lead to nothing though, and created their own follow-up problems. So it’s pretty good if that same Mrs Jones is not likely to lose her son or daughter at the battlefield in some faraway country.

And of course Trump is right in asserting that the government is not ruling the citizens, but is just a service provider on behalf of the people, and fully accountable to them. Sure this is bit more complicated in practise, but it is the only proper principle.

So in these three respects: hail to the new chief! Hopefully he sticks to them and does not screw up too dramatically at all other policy fields.

2 thoughts on “Trump Is Right!

  1. Although I agree with much of what Edwin van de Haar has said however I do think he is far too optimistic. I think Van de Haar underestimates the very destructive effect of the rhetoric of Trump. It is the immeasurable (rhetoric) versus the measurable (policy proposals). His rhetoric has destroyed the (somewhat) equilibrium U.S. politics had. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it depends if the equilibrium is changed by better ideas. Unfortunately Trump is not known for a man of ideas, and to the extent that he has any ideas they are mostly destructive. His example and the way he has campaigned has set a precedent that more ‘adventurers’ in politics can and probably will follow in the future. These people may not copy Trump directly but they are willing to borrow and deploy many of his scorched earth campaign tactics. In addition Trump has openly undermined traditions like the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next by declaring upfront that he will not accept the outcome of the election regardless. Moreover he started wielding power before the inauguration the Carrier Deal is an example of this. Disrespecting part of a long political tradition in U.S. politics that underpin its robust stability. Trump has also branded himself as a ‘strong man’ by immediately singing executive orders bypassing the U.S. Congress. All of this will seep in into society and than bubbles back up both reinforcing forces but very destructive in its nature. What worries me most is that the rhetoric of Trump will undermine the credibility of U.S. citizens in the system of checks and balances of the U.S. government (the legislative, the executive and the judiciary). Since it is rhetoric that can create a society it also rhetoric that can destroy a society. The checks and balances are not carved in stone but contain value because American culture and society values them. If Trump demonstrates to Americans to value his style of American politics over the system of checks and balances it will disintegrate more and more. Leaving aside the massive corruption and ‘the Berlusconi way of doing business’ Trump will introduce in Washington D.C. This will be crony capitalism on steroids. Trump talked about ‘draining the swamp’ in reality he will be ‘adding to the swamp’. A Trump presidency may do a few good things, most likely by accident. So fasten your seat belts because for the most part his presidency will be a catastrophe*, in Trumps own words: ‘believe me’!
    * This doesn’t imply that he doesn’t have a very good chance to serve a second term. It will depend mostly on two things. First the Democrat Party has to continue in offering (incompetent) pro establishment people for party leadership, which I don’t see changing. The second is that Trump will not be impeached, which is more likely but I do not see happening soon.

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