Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Editorial | Why we worry about Trump

Published:Friday | January 20, 2017 | 1:00 AM

If not outright fearful, we admit to being deeply uneasy. Which, we suppose, is the case with most of the world. With good reason.

Today, in Donald Trump, a callow, rude, thin-skinned, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist and narcissistic 70-year-old adolescent will assume the presidency of the United States of America. If it were any other country, we might have ignored Mr Trump, hoped for the best, including, if it were possible, the discovery of some formulation for the acceleration of time and, therefore, the quick completion of his term.

Unfortunately, the USA is not just any other country. It is the United States - the world's sole superpower, with its largest economy and its most sophisticated and powerful military. Further, America's economic and military might, resting on a foundation of democracy, gave it great moral authority globally, even when, on occasion, it drifted from its defining principles during foreign engagements. Who is president of the United States and commander-in-chief of its military, with the authority to establish the direction and tone of its domestic and foreign-policy matters globally.

Yet, Mr Trump has shown himself to be intellectually, temperamentally and morally unfit for the job. He has insulted Mexicans and Muslims, and spent several years attempting to delegitimise his predecessor and the USA's first African-American president, Barack Obama. The linguistic symbols he employs against America's black communities and their leaders drip with denigration and disrespect.

But of greater potential danger to the United States and the world are the simplistic and naive notions of Mr Trump regarding the integrated global economy and the ease with which America may disentangle itself from it; and the disdain he has shown for institutions crucial to the function of the American states. He supposes that his instincts are superior to the empiricism of these institutions based on their collection and analysis of data and intelligence.

So, he rejected evidence of Russia's attempt to influence the presidential election in his favour and sided with Vladimir Putin over his country's legislative establishment, including his own party, on a broader characterisation of the intent and effect of Russian policy.

 

TWITTER ARGUMENTS

 

Further, while Mr Trump's use of Twitter to communicate directly with supporters could be interpreted as the behaviour of a technologically engaged modernist, a dissection of tweets reveals a man who is a throwback to a simple, uncomplicated time; whose arguments are absent of context and nuance and without intellectual discipline. Mr Trump exists in the present tense - today, for now - unencumbered by the accumulated knowledge of the past. He is ahistoric. Americans, therefore, should be uneasy not only with his rightward shift, but an authoritarian streak, masked by a beguiling charisma.

In the midst of the gloom, however, there are positives. America has a way of righting itself, as it did after McCarthy. And the opinion polls as Mr Trump heads to the Oval Office suggest that Americans are gaining the measure of the man and will hold him on a short leash.

At 37 per cent, he will enter the White House with the lowest approval rating of any modern president. Eight years ago, Mr Obama's was 87 per cent, and before him George Bush's was 61 per cent. The majority of Americans (53 per cent) also are less than sanguine about Mr Trump's ability to handle the presidency. Therein lies the opportunity for his containment.