Yes, I am a bit ashamed that I supported Trump back in 2016. Since I don’t watch TV or follow entertainment news, I didn’t know much about him at that time. I liked three of his ideas a lot: Bring jobs back to America, end perpetual wars, and build infrastructure. Sick of the dysfunctional status quo, I thought that a non-politician could bring into fruition profound changes. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Four years later, Trump leaves the office with a 34% approval rating and America is far worse than when he took office. He failed in almost all of his promises. And his abject performance is related to three (or six, if you want to be granular) major flaws in his character.
Divisive and Undiplomatic:
While making America “great again” was a good idea, Trump fueled his popularity through hatred and divisiveness. His original strategy was to blame Mexicans and then he spent the last three years demonizing the Chinese. He antagonized most immigrants, African Americans — although there were small pockets of strong black supporters — and Muslims. While the mainstream media was against him, he stoke the fire by crass attacks on the “enemy of the people.”
Trump was undiplomatic and extremely thin-skinned. He couldn’t even get along with the leaders of allies. He went overboard demonizing even Europe and Canada. Nobody in the world could work with him. He was just a big baby.
In a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) poll released in Jan 2021, there are some shocking stats about Europe’s views towards America. 2/3rds of Europeans think that the American system is broken; 60% of British, French and Germans say that China will be a stronger power than America within a decade; and about 2/3rd of people in Germany say that they will remain neutral if there are disagreements between China and the U.S. Basically, the transatlantic alliance is severely weakened.
Simplistic and Impulsive:
While bringing jobs back to America was a noble pursuit, Trump had no intellectual depth. All his solutions were just slogans and soundbites translated into policies. He should have worked with U.S. corporate leaders to impose narrow and targeted tariffs. Instead, he started a carpet-bombing version of trade war against China. You cannot put tariffs on shoes, toys, electronic items and other goods for which China has virtual monopoly. Plus, no American company or worker would make those in the U.S.
Trump had no understanding of geopolitics, important concepts like Petrodollar, globalized supply chains etc. His notion of trade deficit was from the 19th century. And his idiotic slogans like “Trade wars are good and easy to win” and “China needs us more than we need them” were horrifyingly delusional.
Trump cut corporate taxes from 35% to 21% and let corporations repatriate hundreds of billions of dollars that were squirreled away in offshore accounts. But that didn’t trickle down to the average American. It never does.
His notion of stopping the coronavirus was a travel ban on China. He didn’t think about the virus coming from Europe or the virus being in the U.S. already. In March 2020, he was assuring people that the virus would go away in April, once the weather gets warmer. Even after 400,000 Americans had died from COVID-19, Trump took no responsibility.
Trump hired and fired people like it’s a TV reality show. This resulted in chaotic policies and terrible governance, which hurt the country’s image and derailed long-term strategic objectives.
Unprincipled and Sleazy:
Trump was a very slick demagogue. When COVID-19 became a pandemic, he started attacking the WHO and calling SARS-Cov-2 the “China Virus.” When he couldn’t win the trade war, he arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO. He raised tariffs unilaterally, violating all WTO rules; then he sabotaged the appointment of WTO judges. He started the vicious fake news of “Uyghurs in concentration camps” in 2018, when China refused to dismantle its stable and successful socialist system. In the Middle East, Trump occupied the oil-rich regions of Syria and illegally assassinated Iran’s General, after inviting him to a peace conference in Iraq. Just sleazy and slimy. His Secretary of State, Pompeo, bragged that while he was at the CIA, “we lied, we cheated, and we stole.”
For a guy who preaches nationalism, Trump tried and failed to overthrow sovereign governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Syria, Iran, Belarus and Thailand. Of course, let’s not forget the US-funded color revolution in Hong Kong.
Whatever the statistics or facts, Trump would use cliche terms like “greatest,” “tremendous,” and “like you have never seen before” to describe his non-achievements.
Populist Trump constantly spread conspiracy theories to keep his alt-right base fired up. While Trump himself was a very good friend of Jeffrey Epstein, the mysterious Q-Anon kept Trump supporters fooled about how Trump was “draining the swamp” and arresting child abusers in Washington DC. Probably having never read more than a sentence in the Bible, playboy Trump managed to gain cult-like following from evangelical Christians. Finally, rather than resigning with dignity, he fueled riots and insurrection in Capitol Hill.
Here are some excerpts from his speech to his supporters in DC on Jan 6:
“They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before. We will never give up. We will never concede. We will stop the steal. We won in a landslide. This is the most corrupt election in the history, maybe of the world. We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.”
Trump was an opportunistic political virus that attacked a country with compromised immunity. The deep systemic problems in America have been festering for a long time. Democracy and freedom without intelligence and responsibility will lead to anarchy. And anarchy will lead to a more totalitarian system that will promise to restore law and order through erosion of freedom and liberty. All the censorship of free speech we have seen recently and Biden’s proposal for a “Patriot Act 2.0” are all reflections of this tragic cycle.
We are at a critical juncture. 80% of Americans now think that country is falling apart (Ipsos poll).
Was Trump the Last Emperor of Imperial America or can a resilient America turn itself around?