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The Rise of Trumpism

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap] ith the elections over and a new president elected, half of the electorate is still reeling from the surprise upset created by Donald Trump. Due to the mechanisms behind the American democratic system, Donald Trump has managed to assume the highest office in the US and perhaps the world.

Trump managed to break all electoral rules and surprised the media and pollsters by the different electoral demographics he won. Trump’s victory is not so much a testament to his campaigning ability but more of the people’s ennui and wearisome of politicians, both parties, and the system. Trump represents the repudiation of the system. Trump managed to tap into the distress among people of all ages, color, creeds, and education level. Despite what he may have said about certain groups, the majority of the country had reached a boiling point with the status quo and decided to elect him to change things up.

After 8 years of George Bush and his failed adventurist foreign policy in the Middle East as well as enlarging the leviathan that is government by skirting constitutional restraints, Barack Obama swept into the presidency with the promise of hope and change for a new generation of voters and those looking beyond failed wars and a languishing economy. Unfortunately to the chagrin of many supporters, Obama became a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as Oliver Stone put it. Obama dismayed, disappointed and pushed many voters away from the Democratic Party.

After decades of hoping either Democrats or Republicans would help remedy the concerns of the American voters, people became exhausted, hoping that a new kind of candidate, even one not fully qualified, would bring the change and hope they yearned for. But in a larger picture, the world is undergoing a rise in populism once again. Countries are beginning to turn away from the so-called establishments that have ruled their countries to populist candidates. Trump may have begun the domino the effect that will see a rise in populism Trump-style or Trumpism.

Why Trump Won

Voter Apathy

As the media continues to scramble to explain the major surprise of why Trump won, most of the mainstream media that had blatantly opposed Trump in favor of Clinton characterized the victory as “Whitelash”. The media did what it was best at, sensationalized the election as a reflection of identity politics. White America was sick and tired of a black president and vociferous minorities; at least this is how the media was able to explain their failure in not being remotely close to predicting the victory of Donald Trump. As a result, a large group of voters have begun to protest the presidency of Donald Trump by chanting, “Not my President.” Yet these same voters claimed bigotry about those who protested against Obama as not my president. The media characterized the Trump campaign as racist and sexist. While the campaign did, without a doubt, engage in questionable and downright unsavory actions, the victory of Trump isn’t due to a racist or sexist America, but a failed America due to decades of neglect by America’s elite.

It’s the economy again, stupid. Despite claims of the sexism, almost 45% of all women voted for Trump. Trump managed to outperform previous Republican presidential candidates in winning the minority votes. Finally, Trump’s key to victory was being able to demolish the “Blue Wall” as it was labelled. These rustbelt voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, etc. tilted to Trump and his promise of bringing jobs back. The white working class here that voted for Trump was the same voters who had elected Obama in the previous two elections. Nobody can deny that certain racist voters came to show their support for Donald Trump due to the nationalist tone he took during the campaign, but the preponderance of his white working class voters came from those who had formerly supported an African-American Democratic president in the previous elections. So despite casting this election as a repudiation of a Black president by white voters as the media is doing, it is perhaps a refutation of his predecessor and his policies, especially the failure in his ability to revive the economy as he promised in the past 8 years.

Economy

The main reason Trump won was due to the economy and the failure by the Obama administration to resuscitate it in the past 8 years despite what the President claimed. Despite the administration asserting that the unemployment rate dropping to new lows, in reality for those who do not understand, the job reports is an example of accounting voodoo that goes back several administrations. A more realistic indicator is the participation rate, which is still stagnating at 63%. The unemployment rate that is conveyed is one value of many. It doesn’t include those who have given up for work and trapped in part-time jobs wanting full-time. Accounting for those, the unemployment rate climbs up to at least twice as much it is now, 10%, if not more. Some economic experts believe it hovers even higher around 15-20%, reflecting recessionary and even depression-like numbers.

In addition, the quality of jobs is not accounted for. Most jobs that are created are service type jobs rather than high-skill high-paying jobs that many Americans are nostalgic for. The country has become a 1099 economy focused on service jobs such as uber. In addition, the so-called utopia that globalization promised to produce has failed instead resulting in more outsourcing of low and high-skill jobs abroad while corporations amass wealth.

The economy is key to any leader’s longevity. Not only has the American economic recovery failed but the global economy is flailing as well. The European Union is on the brink of collapse and with Brexit, it needs just an additional domino to bring that whole entity down. China, the second largest economy, may end up being the black swan for bringing the entire global economy into another depression. China is currently buried under a series of bubbles, whether it is the stock market or real estate, one market or another will trigger its meltdown.

Media

The media is another medium that has turned off many voters. The mainstream media who has been trusted as the fourth estate to check the overreach of the government has turned into the fifth column. The failure of the mainstream media is abundantly clear in its overall dropping of viewership whether it is Fox, CNN, or MSNBC. The incestuous relationship between the media and politicians is explicit and recognized by many. The media has created a bubble around themselves that is absent of reality and this was perfectly displayed by the election results in claiming a landslide victory for Clinton by all media outlets. Nontraditional outlets on the internet as well as WikiLeaks helped show the aristocratic system that has been in play for a long time between the media and political institutions. Despite their many attempts to hide Hilary’s failing, Trump with his many faults won. This election has begun to reveal the dislike of the voters, on both sides, for the establishment class.

Clinton – The Weak Candidate

One thing that many voters are continuing to overlook in their distaste for Trump is that the flaws that Hilary Clinton possessed overshadowed Donald Trumps. Despite Trump’s lack of depth in certain subjects as well as flip flopping on others, Clinton epitomized the pinnacle of the establishment class. She represented everything wrong with the system and the voters used that as a target for their rage. Clinton lacked credibility and trust with the voters; despite her credentials, her shortcomings dwarfed her strengths. While Trump stated certain statements that brought fear to many rightfully so, Clinton demonstrated through actions her hypocrisy and failures as a president to be. Even though the economy was the overriding factor in the elections for many, for more educated voters, Clinton’s actions demonstrated a failed to be president versus the unknown that a Trump presidency would be. Clinton not only supported the Iraq War, which resulted in at least 1-2 million people dying, but continued to endorse the neoconservative agenda for war. She was deemed the hawk candidate between the two major party’s candidates. Clinton not only supported trading treaties that would have further enhanced globalization such as the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), but she helped orchestrate the myriad of wars that continue to plague and destroy nations in the Middle East and the world such as Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Somalia, etc. along with Obama. In addition, she continued to support the growing government security apparatus with Obama by helping craft the NDAA or Patriot Act 2.0. Clinton created a veneer of progressivism to appease the Democratic base but in reality she was more of the same. This façade of being genuine is what perhaps hurt her more so than anything else.

The Rise of Trumpism

With the economic downturn in America and the rest of the world, people are turning to populist leaders to help give that last iota of hope; first was Brexit and now Trump. As the economy of the world continues to languish, the marching victory of populism will continue with the Italian referendum. Italy will vote on amending the constitution in a big way since the end of its monarchy. If the vote does not go in the direction Prime Minster Renzi expects he will resign, which is most likely the case. Italy will probably be the next major country to depart from the EU as well, perhaps initiating the end of the economic union altogether. In France, President Hollande sits on single digit approval ratings with Marine Le Pen’s national front in the lead in recent polls. Once again, a populist candidate/platform appears to be heading to victory. The tide appears to turning against Merkel in Germany as well. Other nations are undergoing this trend as well with the recent ushering of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, the Filipino Trump.

One by one countries around the world are turning towards strong leaders that are populist in nature rather than the establishment. As the global economy slides towards recession once again, more Trump-like leaders will begin to rise. It has been said that good times lead to weak leaders and weak leaders lead to bad times, perhaps society is undergoing such a phase.

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

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Americas

Israel, the Middle East and Joe Biden

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Photo by Adam Schultz

How will a Biden Administration change American policies on Iran, the Palestinians and Israel’s tightening relationships with Arab states?

Some two years ago, Democrats harshly attacked Trump for withdrawing US troops from Syria and thereby undermining the alliance with the Kurds. However, Democratic leaders also favor a reduced US presence in the Middle East and understand the region’s declining relevance to US global policy.  It was Democrat Obama who withdrew US troops from the Iraqi bloodbath; Biden, if elected, will presumably continue a similar course. The US is no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil, China is perceived as its greatest threat, and the defeat of ISIS has lowered the strategic terror threat level to US national security.

Biden, just like Trump and Obama, probably believes that the US can downscale its presence in the region and rely on its allies (the Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, of course) and on the alliances being forged between its partners over the past two decades. The US could increase aid to a specific ally at a time of need (as was the case with the massive 2014 influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan) or Iraq (during the fighting with ISIS), but it is loath to continue meddling in local conflicts. What is more, the painful lesson of the intervention in Iraq has dissolved the Bush Administration’s messianic belief in the democratization of the Middle East. Concern about Russia or China filling the vacuum left by the US is also no longer deterring US leaders (like Obama and Trump) who are trying to score points with voters by troops drawdowns and free the administration up to deal with different matters, among them the “Pivot to Asia”.

As a Democrat, Biden is expected to be more sensitive than Trump to human rights violations in the Middle East. He condemned the conduct of the Saudi regime following the murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi in fairly harsh language several times and also called for curbing weapons sales to Riyadh.

However, if elected, Biden’s first order of business will be dealing with the biggest health and economic crisis the US has experienced since 1929. He will have to create jobs and deal with thousands of burning domestic matters. Those will be his flagship issues. He may have to set aside his moral repugnance and allow weapons exports to prevent job and profit losses for Americans. Trump, too, was harshly critical of Saudi Arabia prior to his election, but subsequently changed his tune and conducted his first overseas trip there as president.

One can cautiously assess that any change in US policy toward the Gulf would not undermine Israel’s rapprochement with those states. The strategic regional threats (expansion of Iran’s hegemony and its violations of the nuclear agreement, as well as Turkish activity in the region) will remain unchanged, and therefore the interest in economic and security cooperation between Israel and Gulf states will remain. Arab states that traditionally view Israel as a bridge to the White House could try to exploit this now official relationship to promote their standing with Congress and a new administration, if one is installed.

Biden’s position on the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) is of concern these days to both Israeli and Arab leaders, which could further cement their ties. Arab leaders are concerned about Biden rejoining and reviving the deal that Trump abandoned. They are relying on Biden’s criticism of the unilateral US pullout from the agreement and his declaration that he would make every effort to rejoin it. Nonetheless, Biden’s people seem to understand that they cannot simply turn back the clock. Blinken, one of Biden’s closest aides and potential future national security adviser, has said in interviews that the US would not return to the agreement until Iran fulfills all its commitments – meaning, until Iran walks back all its violations of the agreement. It is hard to predict just how Biden might draw Iran to the negotiating table, but as long as such an option is viable, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states will have sufficient grounds to close ranks.

Biden is a sworn supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is expected to re-open the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, restore US aid to the Palestinians and invite the PLO ambassador back to Washington. However, this does not mean that he will place the Palestinian issue on his list of priorities, especially given the domestic crisis and ongoing tensions with China. The Palestinian issue is unlikely to return to center stage following a change in the US administration. The Arab world is growing increasingly weak as the coronavirus continues to spread, the economic crisis deepens and unemployment rises. Arab states also fear that the major non-Arab states in the region – Turkey and Iran – will exploit this weakness. Should that happen, the Palestinian issue is unlikely to attract much interest from key Arab states, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which also dictate the conduct of the Arab League.

That said, should Biden decide to revive the Arab Peace Initiative and mobilize Saudi and other Arab support (perhaps in return for a more determined US stand on Iran, the supply of US strategic weapons, etc.), pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue could re-emerge. If Israel chooses to respond with accelerated construction in the settlements, in defiance of US policy, states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE would likely toe the line of the US administration but would not cut ties with Israel as a result.

In conclusion, a Biden victory would not affect the strengthening relationship between Israel and Arab states, especially if he opts to focus on the Iranian issue and a US return to the JCPOA. The Middle East’s relevance to the US is expected to continue its decline, prompting cooperation among its partners in the region in order to forge a robust front and repel threats from the non-Arab states (Iran and Turkey). A changed US approach to the Palestinian issue could increase pressure on Israel slightly, but is not expected to substantially change the current dynamics.

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Prospects for U.S.-China Relations in the Biden Era

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The U.S. presidential election which will be held on November 3 is drawing ever closer. As the Trump administration performs poorly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the death toll in the U.S. exceeded 210,000, the election trend appears to be very unfavorable for Donald Trump.

According to a recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Joe Biden led Trump by 14 percentage points in the national elections. It is worth noting that retired American generals, who have traditionally been extremely low-key in politics, publicly supported Biden this year, something that is quite rare. On September 24, 489 retired generals and admirals, former national security officials and diplomats signed a joint letter in support of Biden. Among them are Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans, showing that they have crossed the affiliation, and jointly support Biden to replace Trump. Although the opinion polls do not represent the final election, with the election only being one month away, the widening of the opinion gap is enough to predict the direction of the election.

For the whole world, especially for China, it is necessary to prepare for the advent of a possible Biden era of the United States. During Trump’s tenure, U.S.-China relations have taken a turn for the worse, and China has been listed as the foremost “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States.

There is a general view in China that after the Democratic Party comes to power, U.S.-China relations may worsen. The reason is that the Democratic Party places more emphasis on values such as human rights and ideology and is accustomed to using values such as human rights, democracy, and freedom in foreign policies against China. However, as far as U.S.-China relations are concerned, it is too vague to use the simple dichotomic “good” or “bad” to summarize the relationship of the two countries.

However, it is certain that after Biden takes office, his policies will be different from Trump’s. An important difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden will follow a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement his own policies, and he will also seek cooperation with China in certain bottom-line principled arrangements. It should be stressed that it is crucial for China and the United States to reach some principled arrangements in their relations.

From an economic point of view, should Biden become the next President, the United States will likely ease its trade policy, which will alleviate China’s trade pressure. It can be expected that the Biden administration may quell the U.S.-China tariff war and adjust punitive tariff policies that lead to “lose-lose” policies. If Biden takes office, he might be more concerned about politics and U.S.-China balance. In terms of trade, although he would continue to stick to the general direction of the past, this would not be the main direction of his governance. Therefore, the U.S.-China trade war could see certain respite and may even stop. In that scenario, China as the largest trading partner of the United States, could hope for the pressures in the trade with the U.S. being reduced.

China must also realize that even if Biden takes power, some key areas of U.S.-China relations will not change, such as the strategic positioning of China as the “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States. This is not something that is decided by the U.S. President but by the strategic judgment of the U.S. decision-making class on the direction of its relations with China. This strategic positioning destined that the future U.S.-China relations will be based on the pattern dominated by geopolitical confrontation. Biden sees that by expanding global influence, promoting its political model, and investing in future technologies, China is engaging a long-term competition with the U.S, and that is the challenge that the United States faces.

On the whole, if and when Biden takes office, the U.S. government’s domestic and diplomatic practices will be different from those of the Trump administration, although the strategic positioning of China will not change, and neither will it change the U.S.’ general direction of long-term suppression of China’s rise. However, in terms of specific practices, the Biden administration will have its own approaches, and will seek a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement its policies. He may also seek to reach some bottom-line principled arrangements with China. Under the basic framework, the future U.S.-China relations will undergo changes in many aspects. Instead of the crude “an eye for an eye” rivalry, we will see the return to the traditional systemic competition based on values, alliance interests, and rules. Facing the inevitable changes in U.S.-China relations, the world needs to adapt to the new situation.

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Third world needs ideological shift

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As nations across the world have been pooling their efforts to contain the COVID-19 spread, the looming economic crisis has caught the attention of global intelligentsia. In the light of health emergency, The policy makers of Asia, Africa and Latin America have been struggling to steer the economic vehicle back to normalcy. Although, the reason for the economic slump could be attributed to the pandemic, it is also important to cast light on the economics of these tricontinental nations. Been as colonies for more than two centuries, these players had adopted the style of economics which is a mix of market economics and socialism. The imperial powers of the then Europe had colonised these nations and had subjugated them with their military and political maneuvers. Under the banner of White man’s burden, the Imperial masters had subverted the political, economical, social and cultural spheres of the colonies and had transformed these self-reliant societies into the ones which depend on Europe for finished products. The onslaught on the economical systems of colonies was done through one way trade. Though, the western powers brought the modern values to the third world during colonial era, they were twisted to their advantage. The European industrial machines were depended on the blood, sweat and tears of the people of colonies. It is clear that the reason for the backwardness of these players is the force behind the imperial powers which had eventually pushed them towards these regions in search of raw materials and markets i.e., Capitalism. Needless to say, the competition for resources and disaccord over the distribution of wealth of colonies led to twin world wars. Capitalism, as an economic idea, cannot survive in an environment of a limited market and resources. It needs borderless access, restless labour and timeless profit. While the European imperial powers had expanded their influence over Asia and Africa, the US had exerted its influence over Latin America. Earlier, at the dawn of modern-day Europe, The capitalist liberal order had challenged the old feudal system and the authority of church. Subsequently, the sovereign power was shifted to monarchial king. With the rise of ideas like democracy and liberty, complemented by the rapid takeoff of industrialization, the conditions were set for the creation of new class i.e., capitalist class. On the one hand, Liberalism, a polical facet of capitalism, restricts the role of state(political) in economical matters but on the other hand it provides enough room for the elite class and those who have access to power corridors to persuade the authority(state) to design the policies to their advantage. Inequality is an inescapable feature of liberal economics.

The powerful nations cannot colonise these nations as once done. The Watchwords like interconnectedness, interdependency and free trade are being used to continue their domination on these players. As soon as the third world nations were freed from the shackles of colonialism, they were forced to integrate their economies into the global economical chain. Characterized by the imbalance, the globalization has been used as a weapon by the Western powers to conquer the markets of developing nations.

The Carrot and stick policy of the US is an integral part of its strategy to dominate global economical domain. The sorry state of affairs in the Middle East and Latin America could be attributed to the US lust for resources. In the name of democracy, the US has been meddling in the internal affairs of nations across the developing world. Countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Iraq and Syria have challenged the US,a global policeman. Back in the day,soon after assuming the power, the Left leadership in Latin American countries had adopted socialist schemes and had nationalised the wealth creating assets, which were previously in the hands of the US capitalists. Irked by the actions of these nations, the US had devised a series of stratagems to destabilize the regimes and to install its puppets through the imposition of cruel sanctions and by dubbing them as terrorist nations on the pretext of exporting violent communist revolution. With the exception of the regimes of Fidel castro in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the US is largely successful in its agenda of destabilizing anti-American governments in the region. The US has a long history of mobilising anti-left forces in Latin America, the region which US sees as its backyard, in an attempt to oust socialist leaders. At present, by hook or by crook, the trump administration has been trying to depose Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, a socialist.

In addition,The US has been colonising the minds of the third world citizens psychologically with its cultural hegemony and anti-left indoctrination. It is important to understand that the reason for the neo-fascism, which is unfurling across the developing and developed world alike, is rooted in capitalism.The third world citizenry is disgruntled and the ultra-nationalist right wing forces in these countries have been channeling the distress amongst the working class to solidify their position. Growing inequalities, Falling living standards, Joblessness and Insecurity are exposing the incompetence of capitalism and have been pushing a large chunk of workforce in the developing countries into a state of despair.Adding to their woes, the Covid-19 has hit them hard.

The US, with the help of IMF and the world bank, had coerced the developing countries to shun welfare economics.The term “Development” is highly contested  in the economic domain.Capitalists argue that the true development of an individual and the society depends upon economic progress and the free market is a panacea for all problems.Given the monopolistic tendencies in the economical systems across the developing world, the free market is a myth, especially in a societies where a few of business families, who have cronies in policy making circles, dominates the economical and social scene.The time has come for the governments of these nations to address these issues and ensure that the wealth would be distributed in a more equitable manner.

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