How bad is Trump?
I was surprised as much as anybody when Trump got the GOP nomination and worried when I saw that Kellyanne Conway was actually brilliant and could compensate almost anything that The Donald said. A few weeks before the election I was still hopeful that Hillary would win and move congress to the Democratic side, but I started to wonder what all the Trump’s supporters were seeing that I was not. As a foreigner, I have to say, I don’t see Clinton’s sins as badly as “americans” do. And compared with what I knew about Trump, for me the option was a simple one. I was clearly missing something.
I could see some bigot, mindless supporters but I also saw a lot of thoughtful, caring ones that were clearly looking for a change in a country they thought was stranded. I was specially surprised by the big support from Peter Thiel, someone that I believe has good understanding of everything he gets into.
I’m still trying to fill in my knowledge gap, but in the meantime I want to comment here some worries that Trump’s detractor mostly share, which in most cases I feel are exaggerated.
Global warming, fossil fuels and renewable energy
I understand that Trump’s statements and appointments in this areas are something to worry. But we already have a breakthrough in renewable energy and there’s no turning back. I see that there’s a strong lobby supporting Trump from the fossil fuel industry and that there are already evident efforts to help them, but I don’t believe it will be much of an impact. What the big oil companies want to do is avoid paying big bucks for misleading the public on global warming. On the rest there’s little they can do and I suspect they know it.
On the other hand, Trump has given Elon Musk an important role in his advisory team and Musk will know how to balance policies to keep the fossil fuel lobby out of the way while helping USA move forward with electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines and any other kind of competitive energy source.
The main worry for the USA in my view would be the lack of support on R&D from government into renewables may leave the country behind China, Germany and Japan. There may be (almost certainly) a new industrial revolution on the way and the push back against renewable energy subsidies may harm USA’s technological lead.
I wouldn’t be too worried about it though. What USA may be missing in government support in the next years it over compensates with amazing entrepreneurs (like the mentioned Peter Thiel and Elon Musk) and bold, purposeful investors.
Globalization push back
There’s a feeling that the world is about to move back into an era of nationalistic protectionism, reminder of the period between the world wars with all the risks and horrors that it bring to people’s minds.
What I like to remember is that humanity’s values move in pendulum: first we advance towards a more free way of thinking and doing, and then the negative consequences strike hard and we get a few steps back. Those steps are usually required for acceptance of the new ways and to correct imbalances that may occur.
Globalization has been one of these “freedom” push, in the sense that it brought stability and wealth to parts of the world that never had it before.
The imbalance in globalization is the wealth concentration and destruction of middle class that it brought to more developed countries.
The way to move forward won’t come from isolation but from conscious changes in national and international laws, that allow globalization’s good aspects to continue while compensating the bad ones.
It may take some time for cultures to adapt to possible solutions. I fear that at least an acceptance that labor can no longer be the main source of income will be necessary and it will take a lot of suffering before people accept it. In the meantime, we can ignore the world and try to do our part.
I believe that a big part of these changes will come from global business leadership and crowd-sourcing before there’s any political change.
Populism and orwellian trends
This is the most worrisome aspect of recent political trends. When I see xenophobic declarations in rallies and that reality is no longer important for political success, I’m worried for our societies.
The silver-lining on this is that at least in recent history, populism in free societies tend to break under it’s own weight. We can look at Venezuela and my own country, Argentina, for recent examples. In the long run, reality does matter.
My hope is that political parties wake up to the void and corruption they have created for people to think that a populist fantasy is a better path. I believe that everybody should be vigilant against this tendencies and keep an open voice denouncing lies and abuses. But at the same time we need to wake up to the needs of the people that feel so neglected that they prefer a fantasizing egomaniac like Hugo Chavez than any “traditional” politician.
Again, I’m not to worried for USA, since it’s democratic tradition is long and it’s institutions are strong. But I do believe that nobody should be relaxed on this matter. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Clash of civilizations
There’s a reasonable worry about Trump’s handling of Islam, China, Russia, etc. I’m also worried in this case, but I may say this: previous USA policies on these areas have been unsuccessful. A change in stance maybe a good thing, even when the actual stance is not effective. It could help future governments to try new ways of doing things.
One big problem that USA is facing right now is the weakening of representation. This last election marks the second time in a row where presidential power switches from Democrats to Republicans without having the majority of popular support. What’s even more worrisome is that this time the difference has been very large (almost 3 million votes, or 2%).
This is in no means a challenge to Trump’s legitimacy. The institutional rules of election are clear, and Trump and his team were able to win it brilliantly. If the game was a different one, they would have played differently.
Also, the rules have been thoughtfully established by the founders to keep the country in a stable progress.
My intention is this: if the separation between popular and electoral votes keeps growing there will be a representation crisis in the USA. It’s good time to start thinking how to fix it in a way that also considers the problems that the collegiate elections were thought out to avoid. It’s a difficult problem to solve, but one that will help the country progress in a profound way.
Maybe The Donald surprises all of us
There’s also the possibility that Trump keeps surprising us. I still don’t think he will be good for the environment, good for global relations or good for USA’s economy. But as I have been wrong about his chances, I may be wrong about his policies. I believe we should all wish to be happily surprised by him as I was when he named Elon Musk to his team, and hopeful that in four years he wins an election because of great leadership and a well set path to progress for the country and the world.
And if that is not the case, then we should all learn the lesson and look for new leadership that works for everybody and not just the very rich or only some sectors of society while ignoring the suffering and problems of large parts of the world.
Note: if you haven’t done already, I recommend you read 1984 from George Orwell. It was written in a different time but it’s warnings against populism and propaganda are as relevant now as they were then. The importance of rational thinking for free societies is paramount.
I was sadly reminded of 1984 when my country’s government decided that the best way to show progress to the people was to lie about inflation, poverty and growth. What worries me most is that Cristina’s supporters still believe it, even when they have to split reality by ignoring the fact that it’s impossible to lie about inflation (which they mostly accept as understated) without also lying about poverty and growth.
I’m also sad about my own weak reaction against my government’s replacement of the national statistics institute with what can best be described as a “Ministry of Truth”. I hope I learned my lesson.