Saturday, November 12, 2016

Donald Trump as president - will he be deal-maker or divider? - Note for a discussion, "E Puribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Katty Kay, Presenter, BBC World News 11 November 2016

image from article, with caption: Feelings are running high

As Washington swoons in the halcyon promise of unity, a somewhat trite commitment made in the days after every contentious election in modern history, we should not forget that Donald Trump made a campaign habit of fuelling disunity.

It is worth remembering, not out of political grievance, but as a clue to what kind of president he will be.

Watch what the president-elect does, not what he says.

In many ways this was an election between two New York Democrats.

On economic issues, Mr Trump threw out the tenets of American conservatism.

He is protectionist - modern Republicans have been ardent free-traders.

He said he'd protect the social welfare net - modern Republicans want to slash social spending.

He floated the idea of raising taxes on the wealthiest - anathema to the GOP of the last four decades.

In the past he has supported abortion rights, universal health care and an assault weapons ban. Could that be the tone of the Trump era?

The indications this week are that he is interested in a massive spending bill for infrastructure as an early priority.

It's the kind of liberal expenditure that Hillary Clinton would thoroughly approve of. Meanwhile his transition team shows signs of wanting reconciliation - it is reaching out to never-Trumpers and asking them to join the administration (though the one I spoke to this week swore he never would).

Where Mr Trump diverged from his Democratic past (he was once a registered member of the party) was in his nativism.

His rhetoric about "others", about people who were not white, Christian Americans, is what led to the accusation from his critics that he fuels fear of minorities to rally his own support.

It's those minorities who are now really worried about their standing in Mr Trump's America.

It's the 11m-odd Hispanics and other immigrants who are here illegally and who now worry that Mr Trump may make good on his promise of a "deportation force".

It's the Muslims who've been feeling under siege since 9/11 and now don't know quite whether Mr Trump will make good on his earlier promise to ban them or not.

It's the women who came forward and spoke about instances of sexual abuse by the president-elect and now wonder if he will sue them as he said he would.

Just because Mr Trump won, doesn't mean we should forget what he said about Mexicans, how he teased a disabled reporter, the dog whistle critiques of a Jewish global cabal, the lewd comments and "pussy" grabbing.

So, will Mr Trump be a deal maker, in the mould of his idol Ronald Reagan, who gets things done - while not compromising on his core beliefs of less regulation and more protectionism?

Or will he be a divider who plays to the populist, anti-immigrant message of our tumultuous time?

President Obama, Mrs Clinton and a host of European leaders have called for an open mind. They are right to do so.

No one has any interest in Mr Trump failing in this job.

For the sake of the millions of Americans who voted for him, and the even larger number who did not, we should all root for him to succeed.

But it will take co-operation, and that's a very rare commodity in Washington.

On closer examination, it turns out that “the people” – Volk might be a more accurate term – is actually only a part of the people. Trump perfectly exemplified this populist sleight of hand in an impromptu remark at a campaign rally. 
The only important thing is the unification of the people,” he said, “because the other people don’t mean anything.It’s not the Others, you see: the Kurds, Muslims, Jews, refugees, immigrants, black people, elites, experts, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, cosmopolitans, metropolitans, gay Europhile judges.

Timothy Garton Ash, "Populists are out to divide us. They must be stopped," The Guardian (November 11, 2016)

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