Donald Trump and his chrysalis
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