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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/13/18

Donald Trump, the silent majority and the world order

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Message Jean-Luc Basle

The shock of Donald Trump's unexpected victory is prompting a lot of soul searching among academics, journalists and politicians.

The prevailing view is that the new, inexperienced president is unwisely rocking a boat it took the United States seventy years to build. Any initiative he may take is examined under that light and criticized. The summit meeting in Helsinki is a case in point. Few ask themselves why voters sided with him, and fewer why Hillary Clinton lost. No one wonders whether neoliberalism and neoconservatism -- the two ideologies which underlined most government's decisions over the last half a century -- had anything to do with it. Instead, critics adhere to a bogus inquiry involving Russia which produced no evidence to this day. Before going any further, let's clear the air: Donald Trump is a narcissistic individual, a loose-cannon who does not belong in the White House. His election is a testimony to the failing of the U.S. government, of the very people who resent his election. That's where the drama lies.

According to the mainstream media, Donald Trump's voters are located in the Rust Belt. Afflicted by a high rate of unemployment, people would have massively voted for Trump. Statistics do not bear out the story. In the year preceding the election, their unemployment rate is 5.3% against 4.9% for the United States. Overtime, the level of their unemployment mirrors that of the United State. Those states did not vote massively for Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton gets 51.6% of the votes in the Rust Belt states against 39.3% for Donald Trump. As always, Americans voted along the party lines: 89% of the Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton, 90% of the Republicans for Donald Trump.

These statistics dispel the spiel and sales pitch often heard about Donald Trump's voters. There is nothing new under the sky. His voters are Nixon's silent majority -- the people who rightly or wrongly feel they are never heard by the political elite and yawn for a change which would improve their lot. Of course, they are rarely heard. They were during a forty year period: from Franklin D. Roosevelt to London B. Johnson. Richard M. Nixon who once declared "we are all Keynesians" collected their votes but did nothing for them. Today, their resentment originates in the offshoring of jobs, the Great recession which arose from the Subprime crisis. The crisis which is due to Wall Street bankers' disregard for their fiduciary duties. They escaped prosecution while people on Main Street lost their jobs and homes. Meanwhile, medium incomes stagnate, inequality rises along with a feeling that the political class simply does not care.

How this came about? Ronald Reagan's election gave rise to what is known as the Reagan Revolution. It is presented as a peaceful and beneficial revolution. It was peaceful, but it certainly was not beneficial for most Americans. Its objective was twofold: undo Franklin Roosevelt's heritage and erase the Vietnam Syndrome in people's mind. Two words sums it up: neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

Neoliberalism is a misnomer. It is not a new Left, as its name implies but a return to capitalism in its purest form. It's about globalization, the rise of transnational corporations, the disintegration of the nation-state and the social programs which go with it. Donald Trump adheres to neoliberalism when he signs the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which provides tax cuts for the wealthy. Neoconservatism is about hegemony. It's "Pax Americana" for the entire world. Donald Trump is in line with neoconservative policies when it tears up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

But, he is locking horns with neoliberals and neoconservatives when he declares NATO obsolete, initiates a trade war with China, or wants to improve relations with Russia. His basic assumption is that the post-World War II world order is outdated and costly. It must be replaced by binational relations which will benefit the United States in view of its size relative to that of other nations. But, even though some grievances might be funded, applying this vision to trade relations won't work. The American trade deficit is due to an excess of consumption over investment. Contrary to Trump's oft-repeated statement, bilateral trade will do nothing to bring back jobs to the United States. Worse, it might lead to a world economic crisis of humongous proportions if the trade war gains momentum, as it did the 1930s.

If Trump is right with regard to NATO and Russia, he is wrong when it comes to Iran, the Paris climate accord or Jerusalem. NATO has outlived its usefulness since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismemberment of the Warsaw Pact. Neoconservatives now use it to impose Pax America around the world. With respect to Russia, Trump does not innovate. He follows in Nixon's and Kissinger's footsteps. De'tente originated in the Cuban crisis when Kennedy and Khrushchev, having seen the depth of the nuclear abyss, decided it was time to lower tension between the two nations. In a 2016 conference, Kissinger restated that serene relations between the United States and Russia are key to world peace.

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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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