The Trump legacy

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The President Trump is on his way out from the Whitehouse, but his tenure has given an assertion to mediocrity and divisive populism. Despite the American system believing in the functionalism on merit and space for individual flight, Trumpism has found articulation to the new values of right wing politics, opposite to the Enlightenment ethos of American society.  His exit from the Whitehouse has made Trumpism visible in the streets and the public realm, difficult to go away easily. This would find its legitimacy in times to come; in defining the boundaries, not in social cohesion, but in the distinctions of outside-insider, merit and mediocrity, and adhocism and fluidity with race connotations. The four long years were no serious years of American presidency, but an individual twisting for the economic boom of the country on cult formation. It was a shift from the traditional systematic approach of American policies, internal and international. In yesteryears, before September 11, Democrats were pro democracy, conservative and inward looking, whereas Republicans were out worldly and national image builders of US supremacy and hegemony. The president was not only powerful but had such measured grace to his expressions that each statement was taken seriously, internally as well as internationally.

America’s influence was so pervading for the last seventy years, it was not easy to ignore the concerns of the US President for international head of the states. We have seen the fate of Muslim countries, from Iraq to Egypt. That was not President Trump making. At least peace prevailed in his tenure but at a cost which future generations might have to pay the social price. He made Republicans incline inwardly, business oriented. This he sold to his audience, which is less privileged, determined by the perceptions of avant-garde and facing exclusion in the competitive established American competitive system. It looked on paper as if he was for the clash of civilizations, but he was a pragmatic businessman in his decisions and foreign policy assertions to make his adverse states feel vulnerable. The contradiction was in his character. His business interests were overriding.

COVID-19 made all difference as his inner contradictions came to surface. Economy shrank, pandemic deaths became a failure of his policies and American rich and poor appeared in white and black. His narcissism and imaging cult persona could not be concealed. It made him rigid for his image consciousness that saw changes and u-turns in his shuffling of his office positions of power and governance The President looked to be experimenting with his adhocism, unsettling the legitimacy of institutions with his instinctive knowledge. His free flow of statements would not be taken significantly. One morning he was a friend of Modi and the other evening he would claim himself to be a buddy of Imran. He was a businessman, caring about his own business and the business of his country. This made him draw a line in terms of business partners and business adversaries, be it be China or Iran, when he found his terms unsolicited. His lenses were straight and fluid too, so that he could bring Saudi Arab and Arab Emirates close to Israel, playing the human nature with economics. No values for stability, predictability or civility were dear to him if it would not fit in the terms of profit and loss. One moment he would be your closest buddy and in another turn he could be the worst foe.

The cult leaders in power of vulnerable countries could easily find their alter ego in President Trump. Like market graphs, his statements would pour in. Since he was in search of economic uplift for his people and for a cult image for himself, he would never take any risk that had ramifications on American economy and for its national populism. Like the present disposition of the cult leaders, he too would believe that all the leaders before him were inferior to him. This self-deception made him question the wisdom and policies of the Pentagon and other concerns of the US Establishment. This way, he would make himself indispensable for his admirers. He had made the regions volatile, vulnerable yet he never wanted peace crossing the red lines. No wonder Modi, and Imran khan would miss him in the office, with equal intensity.         He was a President of the US with whom the south Asian leaders were    comfortable in playing their hero image and victim card game with ease and comfort.
Trump’s loss and Democrats’ come back to power is a return of    measured policies of US foreign affairs. Iran will get some respite and China will have principled distance with the US, rather than hostile blame game pinpricks for each other. The instructional framework will dominate than individual preferences. Democratic system and international peace and predictability of alliances and regions will have some currency.  Within the nation states, human rights and dissent movements would be left for concerned nation states to deal with. The world is not so simple and nation states are not in definable realms, as it were in the close of the previous century. Each country is beset with the problems of interfaith inter group accommodations; America is also exposed to it with a substantial measure. Its role as a global policeman may no longer hold ground but would not be ignored either. With India it shall have a strategic alliance in business and military relations so long India is stable and flexible in its economic expansion in its international dynamics. For the US, Pakistan might be strongly influenced by China, but it has the capacity to serve US interests also, so long as the US is in Afghanistan. It has both tactical as well as transactional relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan under Imran will try its best to replay the ‘Button game’ to bridge US and China, again. Since Joe Biden does not take China as a foe but a rival, Pakistan will try its best to make him convinced that rejecting OROB would not be good for the US, in the longer run a strategy to isolate India, which is pivotal to its foreign policies. It seems the military triumphalism between India and Pakistan will be checked. However, the traditional maneuvering in the background for dialogue and open antagonism would continue in India Pakistan relations. Pakistan is passing through a crucial phase of its history. Let us see that leadership survives challenge of its internal social and political cohesion. There has to be a break with the past to end the bad past in the policy framing, despite the mindset of national populism ignoring future and invoking history. India does not have much space but the choice is with Pakistan. There is no scope for change of national boundaries through war or by the proxy confrontations. It would be good for the leadership and for the long interest of the two countries to live in peace and believe in recognized ground realities. American election results, despite clear cut division of its public are an illustration to feel the dynamics of bad policies.  The human memory is short lived; a bad past can be erased with a good vision for

Ashok Kaul is Professor Department of Sociology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.