PTH is grateful to Abhinav Pandya for this post. We do not endorse Trump and nor do we essentially agree with the points made in this article
By Abhinav Pandya
Just about six months back Donald Trump was hardly taken as a serious contender for American Presidency. A New Yorker, who spent his life building casinos, golf courses and hotels, and hosting reality shows, would be the most unexpected candidate for the American presidency. Many a times, while visiting UN headquarters, I had strolled outside the premises of Trump Tower and always a strong sense of intuition informed that it’s not just Trump, rather it’s a Trump phenomenon setting the course for America in the “interesting times” coming ahead.
Over the last six months, I have been a witness to the class arrogance, snobbery and elitism of left-liberal intellectual class and media in their understanding of Trump phenomenon. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell states that Trump is “completely uneducated about any part of the world.” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson finds Trump’s “ignorance of government policy … breathtaking.” Tara Setmayer of CNN says Trump is “wholly unqualified” to be president, while the New York Times editorial board finds Trump “disturbing” and “shockingly ignorant.” And, in the process he has become stronger and now he seems invincible. The rise of Trump reminds me of the rise of Narendra Modi in India who was almost banished by the intellectual class and left-liberal media for his controversial role in Gujarat riots. However, this denial and banishment after a point sounded racial, spiteful and politically-motivated. Now, It seems that history is repeating itself but in a different continent. I feel that now it’s much more rational to understand the Trump phenomenon and accept his political existence. Even if one hates him, he has no choice because a reasoned opposition of Trump can only come out of this classic acceptance of Trump phenomenon.
The rise of Trump is not just an ordinary rise of a presidential candidate i.e. he isn’t just another kid on the block. His rise has much deeper meanings. His rise signifies a big question mark by American populace on the neo-liberal regime characterized by free-trade, large-aid programs and military interventions to foster democracy and American values, and self-imposed onus of world policemen, often demanding a huge economic, political and military investment in return. This regime has been in existence since the end of WW II. And, after all, these aid programs and military interventions have brought nothing to America except unpopularity, huge loss of men, material and prestige, be it in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa. Further, U.S. with its post WW II global military infrastructure and diplomatic presence has not been able to contain the rise of China and lately, even Russia has alarmed US and Western Europe with its aggressive footprint in Ukraine, Syria and new bonhomie with countries like China, Iran and Pakistan.
In a cab-journey from Hagerstown (Maryland) Washington DC, I got a chance to interact with Marc who is an Afro-American war veteran and now drives a cab. To me he appeared a simple, god-fearing middle-class American. I realized that despite his bluster and bullying, Trump has emerged as a hero for many ordinary Americans like Marc, which include Mexicans, Afro-Americans, Asians and the white citizens. In my interaction with common citizens like Marc, I felt that Trump has an extraordinary insight into the art of political communication and he talks straight to people’s heart. In many other such interactions, I also realized that most of his adversaries lack this quality; especially Hillary who in my understanding fails to connect with America. She is perceived as someone who is too mechanical and has no conviction. Further, she is perceived as military enthusiast who in all likelihood will continue with the interventionist foreign policy with respect to Iran and Syria. And, the people are fatigued with never-ending wars, increasing American bases and forward troop deployment. The only democratic candidate, who connects with people with his ideas on poverty and inequality, was Bernie Sanders but it is more or less clear that he is out of the race now.
Trump’s bold and forthright stand on Islamic extremism vis-à-vis democrats’ obsession with political correctness reflecting in the use of terms like “violent extremism” does not go down well with the common people. His political adversaries are perceived as going to extraordinary lengths in their appeasement to Islamic extremism countries like Saudi Arabia which are playing a crucial role in spreading radical Islam.
So far, it seems that the political counter to trump has hovered around his mockery and there is no substantial counter to his views on foreign policy. His ideas in foreign policy are revolutionary and mark a significant departure from the past whereas Hillary has nothing new to offer in the said field. Rosa Brooks writes in FP that despite the braggadocio, the bullying, and the bluster — despite the contradictions, misstatements, and near-total absence of actual facts — Trump is, to a great extent, nonetheless articulating a coherent vision of international relations and America’s role in the world. And, this new line of thinking is making sense to people despite its vagueness. In my informal interactions with his supporters, I found that a good number of them do not take his extremist ideas like “building a wall on Mexican border”, “reviving water-boarding”, “banning Muslim immigrants” seriously. However, they do find the core essentials of his vision on foreign policy sensible and worth considering.
Trump’s vision for America’s future is realistic. David Sanger and Maggie Haberman capture it will in their New York Times interview with Trump, “In Mr. Trump’s worldview, the United States has become a diluted power, and the main mechanism by which he would re-establish its central role in the world is economic bargaining. He approached almost every current international conflict through the prism of a negotiation, even when he was imprecise about the strategic goals he sought.”
In effect his foreign policy mean that he would be willing to stop buying oil from Saudis if they are not serious in fight against the ISIS; restrict China’s access in US markets if she continues with her strong-arm tactics and bullying in South China sea and stop economic aid to Pakistan if Pakistan continues to support terrorist groups in India and Afghanistan. Further, from his apparent vagueness and contradictions it appears that Machiavellian unpredictability is also going to be the core principle of his diplomacy. In his interview with NYT he says, “You know, if I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’ve said I would or I wouldn’t [use force to resolve a particular dispute].. I wouldn’t want to say. I wouldn’t want them to know what my real thinking is.”). It is not surprising if someone who has spent his life building casinos and hosting reality shows, imports the gambler’s bluff in international relations.
I don’t know if I really want to see him as President or not but yes, I do want to venture into wonderland of Trump’s America either out of trust, attraction or just simple curiosity. I feel that he has a charisma and an intuitive-mystic like persona. My thoughts on Trump’s America are just as unpredictable as his persona. At this stage, I can just that it will be a new chapter in America’s history, hopefully for good, if he wins.