Can Trump go back to the fu­ture?

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

ROM this day for­ward it’s go­ing to be only Amer­ica first” was the most quoted of Pres­i­dent Trump’s sound bites or “kickers” in his in­au­gu­ral speech.

A scep­ti­cal for­eign press has poured scorn on the Trump per­son, the per­sona, the per­son­al­ity, man­ner, life­style, val­ues and con­de­scend­ing tone. But it worked for many at home. For now. Just imag­ine, for a wild mo­ment, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in­ton­ing: “From now on, South Africa first” in­stead of the usual em­bar­rass­ing en­dorse­ments of the ANC?

Cyn­ics and re­al­ists might ask of Trump: “Which Amer­ica?” Just as they might ques­tion Zuma on “which ANC?” Trump is con­demned as a “di­vi­sive” fig­ure, but he won (nearly) half the votes. What about Zuma as a di­vi­sive leader em­pow­ered by a di­vided party, not by the na­tion?

The Trump rhetoric about “mak­ing Amer­ica great again” has the sin­is­ter cor­re­la­tion of build­ing up its mil­i­tary might. Fur­ther­more, it is not ap­par­ent how the planned dis­man­tling of Oba­macare is putting “Amer­ica” first.

Trump is an un­com­pli­cated and un­re­flec­tive cap­i­tal­ist ad­vo­cat­ing iso­la­tion­ism and pro­tec­tion­ism in a glob­alised world. That is a prob­lem for ev­ery­body.

He wants to re­sus­ci­tate the pe­riod when Amer­ica was “great”. But is it pos­si­ble to go back to the fu­ture?

Geoff Hughes is an emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor for­merly with the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand.

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