Trump – the triumph of patriotic nativism
That Mr. Donald Trump will be the 34 new President of the United States of America arising from his stunning defeat of Mrs. Hillary Clinton in a presidential poll which result has curiously drawn both ire and unrestrained or zealous enthusiasm is no longer news. It must be understood however, that Trump’s electoral success is assuredly founded on his espousal of a view of America that is extremely morbid or cheerless but widely shared. Many Americans think the U.S. economy is unfavourably skewed or tilted in the direction of the rich; that politicians are irresponsible regarding the performance of their social contract with the electorate; that America’s foreign policy is self-defeating or insensitive, etc. In the midst of it all, America’s cherished infrastructure is crumbling or decaying before the people’s very eyes. Gun totting, terrorism, drug abuse and such social fall-outs deriving from undue or inordinate emphasis on individual liberties or civic rights, etc. have become a national bug bear or special objects of dread.
Trump unsolicitously exaggerated these problems into an absurd or ridiculous bogeyman. He lamented America’s precipitous decline. Trump’s odds or foibles highlighted unfavourably by mainstream media, even out when compared with the electorate’s poor view of Hillary Clinton. She had herself vaingloriously basked in the joy of having a supposedly unpopular opponent in Trump. She was however deceived as the silent majority strategically withheld an open enthusiasm for their choice even as they cleverly avoided an un-mistaken embrace of his person and poise. Throughout the campaigns, Trump impudently shunned prospects or pressure of moderating his views to coincide with what Republican leaders may be comfortable with or which they feared could be disintegrative or disruptive of the party’s cherished traditions or structure. He refused to be politically correct.
Leading Republican Party men at first balked at the idea of a Trump presidency. They were however comforted in the forlorn hope that Mrs. Clinton would trounce the irritant Trump and thereby end the mid-summer night dream. Even as pundits gave little chance or offered poor prospect of a Trump ascendancy, beleaguered Mr. Trump trudged on believing in his own block buster or roller coaster character. He remained undaunted and visibly bold even in the face of organised opposition to his feared emergence.
Basically, what Trump represents is the view that prevents the perception of the U.S. cultural dimension as co-terminous with the ideals of interventionism or good neighbourliness. New dynamic factors, new sensibilities and new cultural attitudes will be observably fashioned in this Trumpian presidency in line with the overall objectives of America as a nation that dialectically resists not only external domination or dictation but that is avowedly dis-interested in the self-inflicted upheavals or tragedies of other nations. The theoretical underpinnings of the political philosophy of the founding fathers of America find practical elaboration in the trumpery of Mr. Trump. Whether he believes in his own pronouncements or not, even as they may sound extreme, they are truly the privately-expressed predilections of the real American people. Trump’s rhetoric is illustrative of the American national nativist bunkum.
Mr. Trump’s economic programme may sound like a fairy tale. For example, he has pledged to pay down America’s $19 trillion national debt in eight years while at the same time cutting taxes by $10 trillion. It is suggested that he may have to cut other areas of governance by 93 per cent to meet his objective. Trump is implacably committed to his vision. He would render the government more efficient by improving America’s trade terms and savings. He has vigorously and consistently opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is perhaps significant to observe that some identifiable moral-ideological stances have emerged on the American political scene valiantly spearheaded by Trump.
“America for America” as opposed to “America for the whole world” will appear to be the new lingo or full panoply of what the U.S. presidential election results have elicited. The results of the elections take a clearly discernible pro native-America position. A new paradigm for viewing the interplay of the personal and the collective regarding bilateral relations between the U.S. and other nations has emerged. Trump is an embodiment of the attitude of America’s inclusivity or insularity. Mr. Trump would insist, for instance, that America’s allies pay “at least” the total cost of any protective American presence or be abandoned to protect themselves.
Trump’s adversaries have no shortage of ammunition in their arsenal: his many sexual exploits, his recourse to bankruptcy law four times, his vile or lying tongue, and so on. In a normal situation, they would have succeeded to stop him. Trump’s uncanny talents, however, are his forte and they are quite formidable – tactically astute, ruthlessly efficient, and the possession of a near-Papal charisma. Trump is far more an electoral asset than his foes are wont to admit. He understands and shares the concerns of his constituency – the “real” Americans. His reliance on expediency regarding many issues is proverbial. He once disliked the use of guns but now gleefully advocate same; once accepted abortion but now opposes it with apostolic logic or rigour; once showed little interest in God but now praises Him with angelic effusiveness or fervour.
From early on, Evangelical Christians assured victory for him in southern states such as Georgia and South Carolina. Thrice married and brazenly irreligious, Trump is strangely loved by Christians whose intrinsic values are obviously in oppositional relationship to his, especially on sacerdotal or moral matters. It can be discerned that Trump’s xenophobia or protectionism is expedient or has a method to it. It is positioned to have groundling with extant popular wishes or attitudes in a situation where new aspirations are in constant flux and new attitudes evolve by the moment. Truly, these attitudes are conditioned by historical occurrences to which sensible politicians react either radically or conservatively.
In the case of Trump, the main distinguishing characteristic of his political career is its textual or contextual nature as against the socially-affable requirement to play to the gallery or to be politically correct which ethic or values his main opponent vainly displayed or affirmed. This classification affords us a full grasp of the deep-level meaning or under currents of Mr. Trump’s epic victory in the 2016 American presidential poll. Thankfully, the electorate is always acutely able to discern the difference and make the right choices even in a basket of seeming similarities or of identical options.
The lesson for us in Nigeria is to, first of all, identify what our ultimate national interest is. We should then critically interrogate all seeming diplomatic, internationalist or interventionist niceties and subsume them under a rigorously-derived national ethic. We should be guided, in making choices, not by shifting circumstances or compromises but by the application of immutable principles, policies and attitudes formed in the fire of national ferment or consensus regarding the cherished national goal of the primary role of government as the promotion of the general welfare of the people. We should not allow ourselves to be detained by self-serving or tangential rabble-rousing mischievously clothed in high-mindedness.
• Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, sent this contribution from Abuja.