There was thirst for an outsider
People thought of Trump as an instrument to fix the establishment
ESPITE HAVING an impressive resume and an illustrious political career, Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, a rank outsider whose intemperate comments and other stunts were lambasted by the liberal camp. So, how could this billionaire Republican script one of the major upsets in the history of US elections? If you think Trump is a spoiler, then you have to know that there was thirst for an outsider in the system. People thought of him as an instrument to fix the establishment.
Post-electoral analyses suggest that Trump’s message was more resonant than Clinton’s as he focussed on trade and immigration. While the Democrats sneered at Trump’s socialist promises of nixing international trade deals and reclaiming manufacturing industry, the often-neglected Americans drove him to the White House.
Every establishment is run on the basis of rationality and organisation. You have to fight that rationality within the establishment. For some people, Hillary is rational and Trump is not. But not many realised the need to challenge this rationality. We have to be suspicious of the rationalist structure that drives a government and its economy.
Trump had chosen to speak about economic nationalism instead of globalisation; he preferred isolationism to interventionism and voiced in favour of job growth-oriented economy rather than jobs export-oriented economy. Many have started to think that his economic policies may see a collapse of the “bourgeois democracy”. While the victory of an authoritarian Republican leader has kindled hope of fighting neoliberalism and welcoming protectionism, does that also mean that a form of authoritarian capitalism will ensue?
We have examples of countries where authoritarian capitalism triggered development. If you look at East and Southeast Asia, stellar economic growth was achieved during the regime of Syngman Rhee (South Korea), Ferdinand Marcos (the Philippines), Mahathir Mohamad (Malaysia) and Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore). All of them endorsed an authoritarian form of capitalism. You cannot separate it from development. These Asian tigers, whom I also call man-eaters, thought that an authoritarian structure will help them actualise their development dreams. But this form of tradition comes with a caveat. There is no place for human considerations. No one asks where will the indigenous and poor people go? How will they be affected? The modern Western civilisation is blinded by the assumption that it is the vanguard of future. It does not realise that no human construction is perfect and all human constructions are open to criticism. There was a belief that the vision of enlightenment can be actualised through Western colonisation. No radical thinkers could identify this arrogance of Western civilisation. They say “man is the measure of all things”, but this homocentrism is ultimately self-destructive. If we think of the West, they are largely dependent on defence and other sophisticated technologies. This, itself, is anti-people, anti-life and antifuture. You have to realise that technology cannot solve all problems. Trump has tapped into the anger of millions of people who are jobless, marginalised and displaced, and he has promised to return the sovereignty to America. But it is to be seen how his economic policies impact the society. He believes that environmental concerns are all hoax. This is where he has to distance himself from that arrogant assumption that the edifice of laws and the diplomatic processes that his government builds will lead to historical progress. You need a new way of looking at the world. It’s an age of compassion and humanity that requires a different form of consciousness and a different type of schooling. (Based on a conversation with Subhojit Goswami) Ashis Nandy is an Indian political psychologist, social theorist and critic who has written extensively on European colonialism, development and modernity