Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidential election in his country (United States of America, hereinafter USA), there has been much controversy around his person. The way he talks and the contents of his speech leave many people in disbelief, since they expect politicians to behave rather professional. Another major point that has been brought up again and again was his activity on twitter. Further, his racist remarks and indifferent stance towards issues of inequality added to his unpopularity.
From a discursive standpoint, we can observe that his name was constantly paired with ridicule over the last 4 years of his presidency. Due to the constant link to ridicule, his name became a symbol of backwardsness (not to use dumbness, but in essence this image has been created), latent racism and conservatism. Support for Donald Trump has become a socially dividing line. Unfortunately, this is not only limited to the USA, but in other parts of the world (mainly Europe) his name is well known, as well as what kind of symbol it has turned into. The question why people from countries other than the two neighbouring countries are following North-American politics so closely is another interesting topic.
There are several aspects to look at here. First, ridiculing a president and all his voters undermines the democratic idea. Just because your political system’s (or population’s) quality only allows for such a person to claim that office, it does not validate critique of the elected person and its voters on a personal level. It is funny to only have two parties of which one repeatedly proposes Hillary Clinton (whose husband was already president) and then to expect reasonable political outcomes – may it be elections, policy-making or foreign policy. Mathematically seen, the probability to pick two highly qualified people from a population of over 350 million people in an education system that highly favours economically well-equipped people is extremely low. So, what did you expect?
Secondly, there is a sociological danger in over-hating Trump. As mentioned earlier, due to permanent media coverage his name is linked with negative attributes. Supporting Trump will hurt your social status, although he is basically the policy outcome of a democratically conducted act. Let’s go one step further: Trump’s political rivals will naturally position themselves as far away from him as possible and overemphasise this positioning, in order to gain popularity. But the problem might arise that people will (unconsciously) assume the following: ‘Everything that is the opposite of Trump’s policy is good’. Basically, a lot of post-Trump policy (given that the opposite party assumes power) is already pre-validated, because it will be marketed as the opposite to Trump. This deepens the already extremely bi-polar world view of many people in Western countries, because it underlines the divide between conservatism (Trump) and liberalism (non-Trump). In many other countries, this limitation is less drastic and more diffused, due to the multi-party systems.
And now comes the turning point: from an international perspective, the election of Trump was the best that could happen. His hesitant and reluctant behaviour on the international stage enabled other actors to gain significant power and advance on issues that the USA were blocking. The aggressive foreign policy of the North-Americans left the world in wounds. Leaning on the bloody track record of Hillary Clinton, there is little doubt that this trend would have continued, if not intensified, if she would have been elected instead of Donald Trump. But what did Trump do? In policy terms: pretty close to nothing. For the first time in a century, a North-American president tried to do as little as possible internationally. He announced that he would build a wall on the Mexican border (which was largely already existent), but it was empty talk. He announced the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which did not happen. He put some sanctions on Turkey over a minor matter, which was resolved within a couple of weeks. The only truly harmful move (in North-American terms) was the murder of Qasem Soleimani, who was the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, and the harsh sanctioning of Iran. Personally, I think that he became aware of his incapability when he started to engage with other leaders. These are all polished professionals with years of experience and training. Their eyes have seen too much to be fooled or even intimidated by someone who does not possess a fraction of the skill that they possess. However, it could well be that Trump kept a low profile on the international stage on purpose, as businessmen know that blood is expensive. Nevertheless, the outcome is the same. There was no more intervention in the Russo-Ukranian conflict. Also, Europe was not bothered with North-American opinions on the refugee crisis. Most importantly, however, Trump’s soft stance enabled for great advances in the Syrian Civil War. By withdrawing the troops from Syria’s Northern regions, he enabled Turkish troops to establish a safety zone along the Northern border, which helped Turkey to rebuild their border region and also allowed many displaced Syrian to return to their homes in that region. Further, it saved Idlib, which was at the verge of a genocide.
I understand that people perceive Trump as annoying; personally, I would describe him as highly unskilled, either. But we need to put everything into perspective. Let us not forget about George W. Bush, who paved the way for some of the most horrific war crimes of mankind; a person that is responsible for the death of more than 1 million people. Trump is nowhere close that number. Imagine Trump’s reaction to the incident in 2001 at the World Trade Centre in New York. Probably, he would have just sanctioned some country, bombed one military base and held many more press conferences to condemn the terrorists. The Middle East would look different today. We would not have had any ISIS. No Charlie Hebdo killings. No London Metro bombings. That alone should make us think how much time is spent on eye-rolling about Trump’s tweets, rather than holding worse people accountable for their actions. As a bonus argument, George W. Bush was way more obtuse in his behaviour and speech than Trump. Next to racist remarks, he often forgot what to say, while he was talking. Generally, he had troubles articulating sentences that made grammatical sense.
Summarising, it seems like North-Americans have a hard time choosing capable leaders and the current one is no exception. However, the national and global reactions to his person are more dangerous than his non-existing policies, as they tend to undermine democratic principles and effectiveness in the long run. As an informed citizen, it is important not to become distracted by what is said, but one should rather focus on actions taken and for the most part, there is little that has happened during the Trump presidency. Disregarding the empty talk, we can concludingly say: no news is good news.