It was a gloomy Wednesday morning. After the overnight demonetisation of big currency notes, there was a lot more to lament as the vote counts started trickling in in favour of Donald Trump. It felt like the earth was going to slip off its axis! I anxiously breathed in some highly toxic air of my beautiful city of New Delhi as the man who believes global warming is “an expensive hoax” emerged as the 45th President of the US (POTUS).
It wasn’t unexpected, but unbelievable. Americans have chosen the person who has time and again expressed disregard for civil liberties and scientific fact, and displayed ignorance, vulgarity and crassness. The new President Elect of one of the most liberal democracies in the world is a man who does not represent the country’s value system. On the contrary, during the course of the campaign he distanced himself from the intrinsic ethos of American culture and increasingly polarised the American people through his venomous hate speeches and derogatory comments. He confidently took recourse to an avalanche of xenophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and easily-verifiable falsehoods. He offered only rhetoric and no coherent plan explaining how he was going to ‘make America great again’.
Trump counted on the middle-class white voters by exploiting their anxiety over issues such as the economy and terrorism. Average Americans are fed up with the growing economic inequality in their country and Trump seems to have understood that. The middle-class and averagely educated Americans who voted for him care more about their own jobs than about multilateral trade or NATO or climate talks or immigrants or the global economy. Trump may not have given them facts but he knew how to target their feelings. Having no comprehensive plan, he told them that he would tilt Left in his economic policies and they fell for it. Apprehensive as well as elitist voters, presumably white, succumbed to the lollies he offered in the form of hollow oratory.
While Hillary Clinton was certainly not a perfect candidate, at least she has her head on her shoulders. She had her basic manners intact and dint display the naivety that Trump so foolishly wore on his sleeves. He not only distanced himself from some of the things the Republican Party has stood for but also embarrassed his own party members on many an occasion, so much so that some of them openly refused to support him. Perhaps he wouldn’t be standing on top of the world today had Bernie Sanders defeated Clinton in the Democratic Presidential nomination a few months ago.
It’s quite amusing that the choice for the head of the mighty American empire was reduced to who was lesser of the two evils. The media openly and largely endorsed Clinton not so much because of her but because everybody expected catastrophic effects to follow a Trump presidency. The media, however, failed to judge the potential of the white Americans. Prepared after much research and calculations, many exit polls predicting comfortable leads for Clinton toppled on their heads. The media failed in its analysis of the mood of the people that turned out to be anti-political establishment. Claiming that Trump, being a filthy rich entrepreneur and having no political or military experience was out of touch with ground reality, the media itself was unaware of the resentment of the working-class people and the staunch elitism of the whites.
However, I have a feeling that Americans have made a disastrous choice. Clinton too could’ve been bad but Trump seems to be a historic blunder. Clinton would’ve been shrewd and determined to ensure that America remained a world power by hook or by crook. Trump’s Presidency, on the other hand, would not only blindly shuffle the existing world order in every way but would also spell the end of American power (read supremacy). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the world will blossom to power. Trump has immense potential to ruin America and wreck havoc in other countries all at the same time.
Not only American citizens and residents but people in different nooks and corners of the world are full of anticipation and anxiety as every step Trump will take after his swearing-in as President on 20 January will have ripple effects across the globe. However, there is a big question mark over all guesses about his first few steps as POTUS since no one knows how he will behave. Trump has brought his country and the rest of the world to a blind curve. Nobody knows how things will be beyond this inflection point. He is an unknown entity who, as far as his campaign showed, lacks political and diplomatic insight. He has been known to be reckless, overconfident, having a very short attention span and deviating from his own political stands. It will be amazing if he materialises some of his absurd plans such as building a wall at the border with Mexico after making that country pay the expenses, prohibiting the entry into US of people from countries having “proven history of terrorism”, and a complete ban on Muslims from entering the US.
In India, at least the Hindu right-wing groups who had earlier prayed and held yagnas for his victory as well as celebrated his birthday are excited about Trump’s anti-Muslim stand and his claim that he will act tough on terrorism. However, the President Elect has a vague plan — that includes “extreme vetting” and an “ideological test” — to stop terrorists from entering his country. On how he would help other countries with regard to Islamic terror, his plan offers nothing substantial. In his speeches he has said things like he will ensure that cyber cells for terror recruitment are busted, that there is cooperation and coordination with other countries in fighting the ISIS, that efforts are made to cut funding for the ISIS and that international conferences are held with countries affected by terrorism.
We will have to wait and watch how Trump’s Presidency affects India. His campaign speeches have offered our country a mixed bag. He tried hard to woo Indian-Americans, saying he has immense respect for “the Hindus”. It’s a different matter that most Indian-Americans are traditionally Democratic voters and according to some polls 80 percent Indian-Americans were expected to vote for his rival Clinton (though it’s against common sense to trust the exit polls anymore). Trump’s economic and foreign policies will largely affect India and we can only hope that he will walk the talk
on the few positive things he has spoken about our country. However, on the trade front he might bring in protectionist measures and we may not able to secure a favourable bilateral trade deal with the US. India exported goods worth over $40 billion to America in 2015-16. If Trump focuses on setting up US’ manufacturing sector, then we stand to lose a large chunk of our exports.
Trump has criticised the H1B visa programme through which IT companies send Indian citizens to work in the US. He has also spoken against the outsourcing of American jobs to India due to cheaper labour costs. Though it is a fact that other US presidents too have talked in vain about taking away American jobs from Indians for the benefit of US citizens, India should hope that Trump doesn’t take this promise seriously. Such a move will hurt not only Indian IT professionals but our software giants too.
If Trump implements his plan to reduce the corporate tax in the US from 35 percent to 15 percent, it could mean that US companies that operate out of countries such as ours to save tax could set shop in their own country. This will certainly affect the large number of Indian workers employed in such firms as well as the tax that our government collects from them. There is quite a possibility that Trump will scrap the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, commonly known as Obamacare, that has resulted in medical insurance cover for more Americans than before. After Obamacare was enacted, Indian pharmaceutical companies’ exports to the US more than doubled — from $31 billion in 2010 to $66 billion five years later. So a revocation of this healthcare law will negatively affect the Indian pharma industry.
However, India would largely benefit if Trump opens up the US oil sector. He has said that he would make US self-sufficient in the field of energy by removing embargoes on shale oil, natural gas and coal reserves. This could lead to global energy price stability and protect India from the volatility in oil prices due to which it has to suffer because of its dependence on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
As far as US foreign policy is concerned, India is hopeful that Trump will take a hard stance against Pakistan, which he has described as “probably the most dangerous country in the world”. Trump has also mentioned that India is part of the solution to the terror problem posed by Pakistan. If Trump acts tough on Pakistan, it’ll be a boost for India’s new policy of initiating the global isolation of its neighbour. Pakistan may not be able to milk the American cow any more as the huge funds it received in the name of fighting terror might just stop, which is also good news as India is a victim of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
If Trump is serious about acting tough on terror, then he ought to see the evidence against the Pakistani establishment that previous US Presidents including Obama have been conveniently ignoring. If Trump acts tough on Pakistan and has good relations with India, New Delhi might be able to take his help to prevent Pakistan from meddling in Kashmir. It is unclear if Trump is good or bad news for China. Trump has said that he would “stand up to China” by bringing back US manufacturing jobs from that country. He has called China a currency manipulator and accused it of stealing America’s trade secrets, threatening to file litigation against Beijing at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Even if Trump causes some economic damage to Beijing, the Oriental country stands to gain strategic advantage from his leadership.
China preferred Trump as US President over Clinton as she would have been more interventionist on the fronts of human rights and American military presence in the region. Beijing is hopeful that Trump will fulfil his promise of reviewing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that includes 12 Pacific Rim countries but notably excludes China. Trump has also talked about reviewing military alliances with Japan and South Korea, which Beijing is happy about as it will dilute US military presence in its region.
Trump is certainly bad news for the spirit of democracy. Apart from displaying zero respect for Americans’ democratic and civil rights, he has given a reason to smile to autocratic China and to Russian President Vladimir Putin who has steered his democratic nation in an authoritarian direction. In the near future Beijing and Moscow will definitely rise as world powers, all thanks to the new US President.
Trump will also provide a setback to any progress by various countries on climate talks. He has expressed much disdain for efforts towards reigning in global warming and climate change. Even on the last day of campaigning, he promised to “cancel billions and billions of dollars in global warming payments to the UN where those payments disappear,” a statement that also shows his contempt for international organisations. It is very dangerous to have as a world leader a person who doesn’t take climate change seriously.
At a time when the whole world is reeling under hatred, chaos and conservatism, Trump was the last person we needed. He is certainly the man who would change the world, though it will have to be seen if the world changes for good or bad. If he has won this election by fluke or by sheer luck, hopefully the world will benefit the same way. It is also hoped that the hateful agendas that were a part of his campaign were only for the benefit of winning the election and that he doesn’t seriously believe in them. President Trump will be a test for America and Americans. His term will show how strong or fragile is the institution called America and the liberal value system that it has stood for. God Bless America.