Don­ald Trump and his chrysalis

Malta Independent - - LETTERS -

Don­ald Trump, hav­ing de­fied re­ceived elec­toral wis­dom, won the US Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and is now in the chrysalis stage as ‘Pres­i­dent-elect’. As a re­sult, the world is wait­ing to see if he will emerge on 20th Jan­uary as a death’s-head hawk-moth or as a but­ter­fly. In the lat­ter case, as he has al­ready ful­filled the apho­rism of his long-time critic, the late Muham­mad Ali, that “It’s not brag­ging if you can back it up,” we will now have to wait and see if he also fol­lows Ali’s pre­cept to “float like a but­ter­fly, but sting like a bee”.

His post-elec­tion meet­ing with Obama was their first ever meet­ing and was a good omen, for the re­ported soft­en­ing of Trump’s at­ti­tude to Oba­macare in­di­cates a will­ing­ness to ad­just to the re­al­i­ties of a sit­u­a­tion, rather than be hell-bent on car­ry­ing out poli­cies an­nounced in the heat of an elec­tion cam­paign and of­ten de­signed to dis­tin­guish him­self from his op­po­nent.

Obama was clearly im­pressed, later com­ment­ing on Trump’s abil­ity to gen­er­ate en­thu­si­asm, say­ing “I think that... there were a lot of folks who missed the Trump phe­nom­e­non, I think that con­nec­tion that he was able to make with his sup­port­ers was im­per­vi­ous to events that might have sunk another can­di­date, that’s pow­er­ful stuff.” Trump and Obama are not likely to be­come bud­dies, even on Trump’s golf­course, but Obama ap­pears to have emerged from their meet­ing much hap­pier than when he went in. That may not help Trump di­rectly, but could be a step for­ward in creat­ing Pax Amer­i­cana.

Much has been said about Trump be­ing a po­lit­i­cal novice who will have a hard time in the cut-throat world of Washington DC, even when start­ing with a ma­jor­ity in Congress and the Se­nate. His path to the White House is strewn with Repub­li­can bod­ies, but power and pa­tron­age are great heal­ers and many of his den­i­gra­tors have al­ready soft­ened their tone, with some even ad­mit­ting that he could be “what Amer­ica needs now.” His trea­sonous be­hav­iour, in ac­tu­ally talk­ing to Putin be­fore the elec­tion, is now seen in ret­ro­spect as al­most states­man-like, pos­si­bly as pre­vent­ing a ‘hot’ war and even likely to take the chill off any ‘cold’ war.

Trump is not the po­lit­i­cal novice his op­po­nents claim. It has been largely for­got­ten that he had con­tested the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 2000 for the Re­form Party, with a ‘smash the es­tab­lish­ment’ cam­paign’, not dis­sim­i­lar to the pol­icy with which he won the re­cent elec­tion. Then he had his suc­cesses, win­ning sev­eral early pri­maries, even af­ter he had of­fi­cially with­drawn from the con­test. He parted com­pany with the Re­form Party when it was taken over by right-wing ex­trem­ists, but de­spite this, his op­po­nents still paint him as a right-wing dem­a­gogue. Over the years, he has tended to­wards the Repub­li­cans, but he is not a die-hard and has taken is­sues and peo­ple as they come and de­cided his at­ti­tude ac­cord­ingly. He is on record as hav­ing made po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions to both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can can­di­dates and also to hav­ing pre­ferred Bill Clin­ton over Bush Ju­nior.

Trump now has to de­ter­mine which of the many Repub­li­can ‘bod­ies’ are worth re­viv­ing as be­ing likely to be of use to him and un­likely to un­der­mine his work. Those who were too vir­u­lent in their opposition to be re­formed will need to be cast into the outer dark­ness, where they will be pow­er­less. It will be the wis­dom of his ap­point­ments to the White House and the De­part­ments of State, as much as his poli­cies that will ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine the suc­cess of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dr Martin G. Spil­lane Sliema

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