Be afraid of Trump's Presidency, not the man.
Donald Trump should not be underestimated. I am not referring to his intellect (which is over-rated), but the damage he may do to the US and the World. It takes a small intellect and a huge ego to believe that major decisions can be made without advice and using gut feelings (that he calls "being a smart person") and Fox News as a guide. While the United States Constitution provides checks and balances to presidential power, it appears that Trump's ignorance and arrogance is allowing him to override convention and law and do things many thought would not be possible. It is probable that much damage will be done before the long process of impeachment finally stops him.
Trump clearly admires totalitarian and authoritarian leaders around the world and has openly stated his admiration for Putin, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and he even said that he "would be honoured" to meet the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Trump has an empathy for their leadership style and he consequently had real difficulty creating a meaningful relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is everything he isn't: smart, diplomatically astute and female.
Donald Trump once supported the Democrats, and more liberal ideologies, but shifted his viewpoints to capture the support of the US conservative heartland. He has no real moral compass or strongly held philosophy "being the President" is all he wants, and adulation is what he craves. Trump had promised to "drain the swamp" and instead has dragged up those who lived at the bottom and appointed them to key positions. His cabinet is the most wealthy, white and male dominated since Ronald Reagan and many hold extreme conservative views. What makes Trump especially dangerous is the fact that he is happy to give his swamp dwellers free rein to do as they wish and implement their own conservative agendas.
Those who have compared the US President with tyrants of the past have been ridiculed as overly excitable and conspiracy theorists. I don't think that such comparisons should be rejected so readily. While Trump is failing to push through his key campaign platforms (banning Muslims, building a wall along the Mexican Border and replacing "Obama Care"), hard right agendas are still being instigated by those he has devolved power to. The consequences of current budget decisions and policy direction will be mass human and environmental suffering:
- The Fourth Estate will become less able to hold Trump to account as the President's attacks on honest reporting encourages the growth of actual fake news. The public will become desensitised as shock stories become commonplace and truth becomes blurred. This will further divide US society as people shift away from conventional sources to less ethical outliers that support their world view. Truth will be lost in a media free for all.
- The US will become a more violent society. Already the United States has the highest rates of gun violence in the western world and Trump's support of the NRA opens the door for higher rates of gun ownership. Attorney General, Geoff Sessions, supports hardline policing and less scrutiny of police behaviour. The efforts to deal with the racial profiling and gun happy policing will be forgotten. Marginalised groups will be further marginalised and miscarriages of justice and unrest will likely increase.
- While Trump has struggled with replacing Obama Care there is no doubt that health funding will be cut back and millions will suffer.
- Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos supports privatising education and conservative Christian views. It is likely that there will be a growth of Charter Schools and non secular education, schooling standards will drop and inequities will grow.
- The environment is under siege. Trump has appointed a climate change skeptic to lead the EPA and it is likely that the environment will take a back seat under his leadership. Environmentally damaging oil pipelines will be progressed and coal mining is being encouraged again. The ability to deal with the threat of climate change and build on the Paris Accord will be so much harder with Trump leading one of the most influential and largest polluters. The whole world is at risk if appropriate action doesn't occur in a timely fashion.
- Millions of people around the world who are reliant on US humanitarian aid will suffer under Trump. Cutting the funding of contraception is the one of the most concerning and millions of women and children will be put at risk because of this change in direction and the management of population growth will become compromised. Trump also proposes to cut in half the support for UN programmes in areas such as peacekeeping and vaccinations. This will effectively reduce the overall budgets by around 1/5 and again result in unnecessary suffering for millions around the world.
- Increased militarisation under Trump will make the world a more dangerous place as this indicates a shift away from diplomacy to favour military threats and solutions instead. A proposed $54 billion increase will boost spending to over one trillion dollars for 2018. Trump's military posturing and threats of a pre-emptive strike has already forced North Korea into dangerous defensive behaviour and South Koreans are feeling very vulnerable. US military support of Saudi Arabia is also a huge cause of concern. Trump has agreed to a staggering $350 billion arms deal to an Arab nation that has a shocking humanitarian record of beheadings and slavery. The military atrocities being instigated by the Saudis in Yemen and elsewhere are likely to increase dramatically under Trump.
Trump's rise to power was enabled by a dysfunctional political system that has been increasingly corrupted by money and special interests. Real democracy has been compromised and a presidential candidate who did not win the popular vote is now in power. At this point a Reuters/Ipsos survey has Trumps approval rating at 38% and 23% of Republicans don't support him. This is no mandate for his policies and governance and yet he continues to radically change the political direction of the United States.
Trump is an egotistical buffoon and cannot be compared to the likes of Stalin or Hitler for his cunning or intelligence, however, his access to military power and ability to determine funding priorities makes him just as dangerous. Global suffering under Trump's Presidency has the potential to be just as horrific. We should be afraid.