Donald Trump. The Show Must Go On
15 November 2016
Trump together with Russia may want to effect a new division of the world.
In critical situations people often say that… time passes all the same and things must go on. May I say so a few hours after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections in the US?
Maybe I do not want to say so. Still – I have to say so and different things should “go on”.
Why do I not want to say so?
Because Trump’s victory is the victory of the voting. And I respect that. However, democracy is something more than just an election result. Democracy is also about mechanisms of defending democracy and about its vivid nature, about the potential participation of everyone in the decision-making processes – and about the place for everyone in the social and political network, irrespective of the convictions of an individual. It is about caring for the separation of powers and for the rights of everyone, also of minorities and of those who think and act differently. It means uniting people in order to build a better future. It means tearing down walls and not raising walls, also the mental ones. Trump has done his best to build walls or to call for building them.
It is a peculiar historical paradox that on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the world a new wall may be rising. Within America and between other countries – because there is something in Trump’s words that sounds like extreme American isolationism.
The value of the cooperation and of the social capital is crucial if we want to meet the challenges that the world is facing: demography, digital revolution, democracy – its strength and the threats for it. Meanwhile, Trump has divided the American society and the world’s public opinion to an extreme degree. His distinctiveness has given him victory. However, the same distinctiveness will destroy the chances for communication if the language he used in the campaign becomes the language of his presidency.
Russia and Putin’s ambitions will cease to be isolated. Ukraine will stand on the edge of a precipice, as regards the American support for its sovereignty, reforms and territorial integrity. NATO may gradually become weaker in order to please Russia. Trump together with Russia may want to effect a new division of the world. The unfinished works of the European Union and the United States on a free trade agreement will be suspended.
A populist vehicle has won. And it is not the question of social matters and the poverty of the American “white people”, Trump’s major supporters from the lower and middle class. Although the growing inequalities have been and are one of the reasons for the populist parties’ being victorious. It is not exclusively the resentment of a great part of the society towards elites, which for years have been satiated with their own policy and success. A revenge of sorts of less go-ahead parts of the society – who are poorer at technologies and at new business models, who are less creative and closed to the latest social trends and who have small-town and rural mentality to a greater extent than they have metropolitan mentality – on the leaders of the changes which the world has been experiencing over the last 25 years. It is, more than anything, a victory of emotions: the negative ones, developed in people during the presidential campaign through continuously instilling fear in them and showing them threats, and the positive ones, because the frightened people could at last find an idol, a chief, a leader. A leader who, thanks to the unconventional power of his own personality, has given them the sense of security. The sense of a new Great America. And who has given them the sense of community – such community whose strength will be fuelled by excluding others. A tribal community will be stronger than an open society.
The people who allegedly were considered worse than others were given the sense of strength and an identity. And also a conviction that it is them who may be, and, after the victory, who effectively are, the sovereign. It may happen that the over two-hundred-year-old American democratic tradition will not be able to withstand that. It may happen that the institutions will cease to be independent and that they will become opportunistic and submitted to the will of the winner. It will be a great test – for the judiciary, for the pluralism of the media, for the openness of the American economy to the global exchange, for the independence of the Congress (with all its political affiliations), for the openness of the American cultural patterns and of the universities, for the openness of America to its own source of success, which has been and still is the “cultural melting pot”, meaning the openness to immigrants.
The populist vehicle, victorious and nightmarishly effective in terms of marketing, may continue to function. For the new president not to betray his own electors. For the new president to keep his promises and to change America.
And this will be a bad change for the world. America will cease to be a reference point as regards the fight for democracy and human rights. America will cease to be a reference point as regards the economic breakthrough strategies (in a good and bad sense). America will cease to be an element of a balance. A new balance will appear – with the role of Europe diminishing still further or with a growing importance of Europe, if Europe becomes the supporter of Trump. And if Marine Le Pen wins the elections in France – and so on and so forth…
However, why should I possibly say that the things have to go on?
Because it will turn out that the democratic institutions of the US are stronger than the results of one election and that Trump’s presidency will be curbed. Through customs and norms, through the administration and thousands of its officers, through somewhat adjusted but still unchanged sense of the American interest. Through the subsiding of emotions. Trump will keep some of his promises (and that will happen in the spotlights and camera flashes), others will be left aside until they lose their validity and relevance.
Someone will say – let this happen! And the world will somehow survive – without the total destruction.
But it is not that simple. “The show must go on”, but the dramaturgy of that show will be nothing short of Shakespearean. Every single thing will become an object of a battle – in the American Congress, in the American media, between the American think tanks, at universities, between the American states, between business groups, in the American civil society (liberal- and conservative-oriented), between African Americans, Hispanic Americans and others. An endless crisis or an endless presidential campaign. America in a campaign for the next four years!
America and the world will go on, but according to a customary scheme: two steps forward, one step back or else: one step forward, two steps back.
Indeed, it will be a Shakespearean historic moment. Will Trump be a power-hungry and tragic Henry IV, a crazy Macbeth, defeated finally by the Birnam Wood, that is, by the strength of freedom in the society, or a Claudius in his moment of triumph after killing Hamlet’s father?… Or a Fortinbras, a powerful winner, who proceeds step by step from the policy of emotions and war to the policy of practical decisions?
“The show must go on” – that is: time will tell what it will be like. Something definitely ends and something begins.