Protests in the U.S.

What will happen in the US?

I spent time this morning watching thousands of New Yorkers protesting President Trump’s latest decree, suspending entry rights for visitors from seven (Muslim) countries.

The executive order was signed on the 72nd anniversary of the closing of Auschwitz. Jews then, Muslims now.

Travellers with legitimate visas and paperwork are being detained at airports across the US as the Executive finalises its policy on immigration.

This follows a string of decrees by the Commander-In-Chief that have upset large sections of the US population and international community.

It began with the cancellation of funding for planned parenting, a direct attack on abortions.

This sparked mass protests in over a dozen major cities. Hundreds of thousands of women and likeminded supporters took to the streets. No doubt each of them wondering how they found themselves in this situation in 2017?

This was followed by a decree enabling a wall to be built on the border with Mexico. This so incensed the Mexican President that he cancelled his scheduled visit to the US.

Trump has assigned to the bin, a number of important trade initiatives. He has deliberately antagonised China with threats of tariffs.

In a television interview President Trump disclosed his personal view that at the conclusion of the Iraq War, the US should have “kept their oil”. In other words, the US should have plundered Iraq’s natural resources without compensation. When pressed on this issue the President back-pedalled but he did lament the fact that this same oil was now funding ISIS operations.

I suspect the world took a deep breath when Trump ascended to the Presidency but did anyone expect him to move so quickly and upset so many people so soon?

I have previously written about how history always teaches us with hindsight. It is only after the war or catastrophe that we are able to link up the events that led to the hostilities.

The relevant events that will lead to the next catastrophe are presently unfolding before our eyes. Where will they lead?

History tells us that instability, discontent and insecurity give rise to strong, single-minded leaders. This has already occurred in the US. The first domino has fallen.

History also tells us that such leaders either gain more and more power or their flame is extinguished quickly.

Trump’s actions are deliberately provocative. He moves quickly and without consultation. His actions are stage-managed to cause maximum aggravation. His words are taunting and aggressive.

With every action there is a reaction. Trump and his cronies are counting on it.

My fear is that the situation will escalate. Either the police will fire on protesters or protesters will attack the police or the increasing fervour will result in shootings and widespread fear and anxiety.

Or perhaps citizens will turn on each other.

This will create the perfect environment for Trump to flex his muscle. He will strengthen the Patriot Act and increase police powers and remove individual liberties. This is likely to lead to a spiral of reprisals and counter-reprisals in a nation armed to its back-teeth.

Or the turning point will occur outside the US. Seeing disunity, the US’s enemies (and there are many of them) will act in a way to provoke the US or to provoke a US ally.

Trump and his team are looking for that tipping point. They know that the State will finish on top in times of instability and uncertainty.

I am not saying that citizens should not protest. Far from it. What will save the US are its people and its institutions.

Its people must continue to act with decency. To respect the law and commit to a course of justice. To be discerning in what they believe and always pursue the truth. To reject bigotry and embrace humanity. To avoid jingoism and drum beating. To protest any infringement of freedom. To insist on the rule of law and due process. To learn their history so that they can recognise and reject the aberrations of the current President. To remember that certain rights are inalienable. To know and uphold tradition. To appreciate that with power comes responsibility and that the US military is not a play-thing.

In short, US citizens need to be everything their President is not.

Citizens should not forget the institutions charged with responsibility for protecting individual liberties. The US, like most western democracies has created a system of checks and balances. When one arm of government, in this case the Executive, gets ahead of itself, the other branches of government should reign it in.

What is the judiciary and the legislature doing? What about the Fourth Estate, the Press?

I know you may be thinking “But Mark, it was these institutions that placed Trump in power?” Of course, you are correct but most of the US institutions I am referring to were not involved in the recent US election. Citizens will ignore these institutions (and the Constitution) at their peril.

The founding fathers and mothers created a system that was designed to correct itself. It is important that citizens do not overlook the institutions that are designed to protect them.

On a different note, we also need to analyse the economic impact of these new measures. Will they increase productivity or economic output? Will they strengthen demand for the US dollar or US stock or US trade. Do Trump and his policies promote innovation and growth? What will happen to unemployment and interest rates?

History has shown us time and again, that economics normally determines a country’s agenda. If a country cannot afford reforms (good or bad) they will not last. If a government is “bad for business” it too will not last.

In Australia, our inhumane offshore detention policy is likely to be wound back, not because of protests or court challenges, but because of the significant drain on the public purse and the flagrant waste of tax-payer dollars.

In the end the economy dictates social policy.

How will the economy react to Trump’s reforms?

Changes brought about by economic necessity are slow in directing social policy, particularly in a robust economy. The “invisible hand” of the economy is also amoral. If Trump and his political agenda are good for the economy, he will be difficult to stop.

Meanwhile the rest of the world waits anxiously as our friend, the U.S., steps closer to the edge of the precipice.