Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Life After Trump

It is only 18 months into his term but the forty-fifth President of the United States has had such a impact on politics that already people are discussing what the post-Trump world will look like. It now seems likely that Donald Trump will stand for a second term in 2020 and he will be re-elected unless the Democratic Party finds itself a better candidate than the awful Hillary Clinton and a better campaign strategy than insulting half the electorate with terms like 'deplorable'. It is possible that Trump will be impeached before he gets the chance to stand again but that seems unlikely given the trivialities the Muller inquiry has come up with to date and the fact that both houses of Congress are in Republican hands.

The post-Trump world will have a different international order. The United States is becoming more isolationist under Trump with his anti-immigration stance, scuttling of trade agreements and criticism of NATO. On the other hand, he looks like he is succeeding in his efforts to bring North Korea in from the cold and his rapprochement with Putin probably lessens the likelihood of conflict with Russia. I think Trump is actually less of a warmonger than most recent presidents and that he is unlikely to start any new conflicts, so it may well be a more peaceful world than has existed since 9/11.

Trump's most positive legacy may be his rejection of the international climate change racket and his removal of renewable energy subsidies and bans on fossil fuel exploration. These are already having a positive effect on the US economy. Add in his tax cuts and broader deregulation and you start to see why the US economy is experiencing GDP growth exceeding 4% for the first time since 2014. On the other hand, Trump's protectionist trade policies will constrain both imports and exports and the negative impacts of these may send the whole world into recession, particularly if (as many analysts expect) there is another global stock market crash.

The biggest effect of the Trump years may be on politics itself. We have seen a massive polarisation and radicalisation of politics, particularly in the United States, and so entrenched are the left and right that, as a libertarian and individualist, I feel like a civilian caught between the cannon fire of two armies bent on mutual destruction. The most noticeable effect in the last few years is the resurgence of identity politics, with both sides pushing their particular grievances groups' victimhood. Not since the early 20th Century has your race, religion or some other collective characteristic been such a determinant of your worth in so many people's eyes. Trump hasn't been the sole cause of this collectivist groupthink but his derogatory labelling of Mexicans and people from Islamic majority countries has legitimised what ought to have no part in mainstream Western politics.

I remain an optimist about the future of Western society, notwithstanding the polarisation for which Trump is at least partly to blame. America has seen far worse political tensions in comparatively recent times and for all the doom and gloom, our lives continue to get better every year. I think Trump is an aberration, not a trend, and life after him will be just fine.

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