31 dezembro, 2016

Man of the Year 2016




Since Tempos Interessantes established its “Man of the Year” award in 2011, this year’s choice was the easiest one so far.

Tempos Interessantes’ Man of the Year 2016 is DONALD TRUMP!

Donald Trump rocked the American political system and has started rocking the international system even before taking the oath of office.

Trump’s saga started when he decided to run in the Republican primaries to get the Republican Party presidential nomination. He was viewed with a mix of scorn and disdain, something of an outcast, a curiosity, or a joke. Trump faced a field of 16 opponents, some of whom with strong reputations, mostly governors and senators. He was underestimated, derided and heavily criticised, yet he beat his opponents one by one.

With less than a handful of candidates left standing, he started to be seen as a real threat and efforts and strategies were concocted to bring him down. Ted Cruz, the last surviving candidate was knocked out in Indiana in May. Then, the mantra was that there would be a rebellion at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, or even that he would drop out, because he really did not want the trouble of being President. However, Donald Trump was crowned at the Convention.

In the Summer, there were two currents: those who asked for a third candidate to come forward, or hat Trump would be dumped by his party and, consequently, would be crushed by Hillary Clinton in November, in spite of the fact that the opinion polls were telling a very different story.

During the campaign, Trump mostly stuck to his style, although he heeded more to his new team’s counselling. He continued to hit hard at Clinton, kept on campaigning relentlessly in the key states, some of which Clinton neglected (and lost), always attracting big crowds and being the centre of the media’s attention.

Come November, against all odds, against the powers that be, against all media, and against most people that mattered, he won. And he won clearly with a 74 vote margin in the Electoral College.

In spite of (and because of) his apparently reckless speech and his outrageous comments, Trump succeeded and he did because he knew better. He (mostly) knew what he was doing and the purpose of it all. He tapped into the deep feelings of a substantial share of the electorate who felt neglected, even betrayed, by the ruling elite, as well as, the general discontent with the political and the media establishment, perceived as being self-serving, corrupt and pursuing social and economic agendas that were alien to them. The ferocity of this establishment’s reaction to Trump’s rise only furthered his credibility and thus his popularity. On top of it all, he also benefited from having a poor, widely disliked opponent, with a long record of deceit, cover-ups and dubious actions, who very much embodied the “Washington” so many Americans despise.

Beyond the United States, Hillary Clinton was also the favourite candidate for most international players, safe Russia, Israel and a few more. Accordingly, most were struck by an election outcome they did not believe to be possible. And suddenly everybody just went into crisis mode, especially in Europe, always more prone to hysteria, Mexico, Central America and, to a lesser extent, East Asia.

Trump’s tools.

It was interesting to notice how supposedly experienced and professional politicians were so very much caught off-guard and seemed unable to react to and to manage the changed circumstances. Donald Trump, with his campaign statements, his election victory and a few tweets, seems to have thrown a lot of international players off-balance. So much so that the Germans started debating the outlandish possibility of acquiring a nuclear deterrent, the South Koreans intensified the talk about their own nukes, the Japanese rushed to meet Trump in New York, some East Europeans are freaking out with NATO’s future, Ukraine is scared, China is angry, Iran is rattled, Turkey is at a loss. And Russia, Israel, Hungary, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cautiously happy.

Donald Trump is by far the politician who has exerted more impact before even holding the reins of actual power in recent memory. It seems to be consensual that things will not be the same after 20th January. How different, depends on how Trump performs at the White House. Now the questions that loom larger are:

            * What is Trump going to do with that power?

            * How effective will he be in implementing his agenda?

            * How much (and what parts) of his agenda does he actually want to implement?

            * How cooperative will the Congress be?

            * How will foreign powers adapt to and react to his style and policies?

Given Trump’s very different approach to politics, all these questions bear a big question mark.

Domestically, the biggest change he could implement would be to effectively “drain the swamp”, i.e. exterminate or largely reduce the size, power and influence of special interests, lobbies, think tanks and assorted institutions that largely live off government money whilst influencing and constraining government policy. This will be very difficult to achieve, but something will have to be done since this was one of Trump’s major pledges and one that mobilised large support.

Another lynchpin of his mandate should be the job-recovery/manufacturing-resurrection pledge. This will not be easy either, but it is the part of his platform that delivered him Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, so it will be crucial for Trump-2020. So much so, that he has already started to work on this front, fighting job-dislocation and terminating the TPP.

The ultimate pledge.

Externally, his biggest challenges will be China, Russia and the Middle East.

Concerning China, the expectation is to see if Trump has the courage and determination to confront Beijing not only on the trade front, but on the security front, too. China has been given virtual free rein in East Asia to expand, harass and threaten her neighbours, occupying islands and rocks belonging to others and challenging fundamental American interests. If Donald Trump makes the United States stand up to Beijing there will be interesting (and better) times in the West Pacific.

Another task will be to find a reconciliation path with Russia. The interest and the will are there, but the future President will have to overcome the strong Russo phobic crowd in Washington, not to mention the Russian bogeyman agitated by Eastern Europeans.

Finally there is the Middle East which has a special knack to find its way to the top of every American President’s foreign policy. Here are the most relevant issues to follow:

            * What will be done with the “bad nuclear deal with Iran?

* What will be the relationship with the regional powers (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Iran)? The former two seem to be better positioned.

* Healing and improving the shattered US-Israel relationship after the end of the most anti-Israel administration in more than half a century.

* The fight against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, the probable step back from the Syrian War and the interactions with Moscow will also merit attention.

Mixing the homeland and overseas, there are two more campaign issues whose evolution will be imperative to accompany: the Wall separating the US from Mexico and immigration, especially the Muslim variety.

Donald Trump has his job cut out for him. Given his pride and his large ego, he will undoubtedly try to deliver. Given the way he challenged and overcame all odds in 2016, given the way he rocked America and the world, one thing this blog is NOT going to do is to underestimate the Man of the Year 2016.

Previous “Man of the Year Posts:

“MAN OF THE YEAR 2015” em

“MAN OF THE YEAR 2014” em

“MAN OF THE YEAR 2013” em

“(WO)MAN OF THE YEAR 2012” em

“MAN OF THE YEAR 2011” em

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