Trump, his "mistakes" and his legacy

(To Andrea Mucedola)
14/01/21

Like it or not, Trump's adventure is drawing to a close, leaving behind many ashes and uncomfortable legacies for Biden. To understand what Donald Trump represented for the United States of America, you need to know the United States and the way of life and thinking of millions of people living on the other side of the Atlantic, with their values, their merits but also their contradictions. A people that for almost a century has in any case influenced the rest of a large part of the world. The extraordinary thing was that, for better or for worse, this melting pot of different cultures and religions has exported theAmerican way of life in culturally more ancient countries influencing their customs.

To understand the United States you have to live there for a long time, trying to always remember that our culture and theirs cannot be qualitatively compared. They are simply different, based on different social and cultural substrates.

Who is Donald Trump?

Perhaps we could define him as a rich and controversial New York businessman who, before turning to politics, was not immersed in the environment of Capitol Hill, much less of Congress. Although he had floated the idea of ​​going into politics since the 80s, only in 1999 did he set up a presidential exploratory committee, basing his political project on socially liberal but economically conservative views.

In June 2015 he announced his candidacy in the 2016 US presidential election, promising, in a nutshell, millions of new jobs, protectionism of national companies, repeal ofAffordable care (ACA), relaunch of the US coal industry, reduction of the excessive power of lobbies in Washington, DC, withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris agreement to combat climate change, a new tariff protectionist regime, fight against migration clandestine (you will remember the famous wall along the border between the United States and Mexico) and the ban on immigration to the United States of Muslims.

The campaign was tough, faced with a rough and Gascon style both during the rallies and in the media, against Hillary Clinton, what he called "Crooked Hillary". His outspoken threat to put her in prison if he was elected caused a sensation, which was unprecedented in modern US political history.

With great difficulty, in a campaign that appeared dirty on both sides, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the November 2016 voting and was elected president, being sworn in on January 20, 2017.

His victory, unexpected for many, showed that Trump had managed to put the economic anxieties of the middle class to good use, tired of fine words and few facts. His entry into the White House was marked by actions aimed at destroying the provisions of the previous presidency, in line with his electoral program.

Trump distinguished himself from previous presidents by his continuous and rhetorical use of gods SOCIAL MEDIA and, in particular, of Twitter, which he also used as a venue for semi-official presidential declarations. A new style, in line with the communication of the third millennium, direct and immediate but which often highlighted its inability to understand the institutional role assumed.

In reality, Trump represents a rare if not unique case in modern US history where all presidents had always had one background politician, serving, in one way or another, in the House, Senate or as governors. A factor that, as we shall see, may have counted in your presidency.

In fact, Trump in his mandate cut taxes, reconstituted the federal judiciary and gave a breath to the military instrument, massacred by Obama's policy. Wanting to be pragmatic, until the end of 2019, the work of his administration allowed to continue the negative gradient of the unemployment index, giving jobs to thousands of Americans.

In his tenure, Trump has tried to implement his election program, based on the slogan "Make America Great Again," by holding his nose, despite criticism from economists and many of his advisers. He often spoke with his stomach and not with his head and then hid behind the refrain of fake news. It has made unfortunate and unpopular decisions in the environmental field, denying climate change taking place decidedly short on the future. In this it has not even been able to exploit the support of researchers who, in certain cases, could have supported it with competence from a scientific point of view.

Economically speaking, perhaps one of his biggest mistakes was linking the welfare factor to that of the stock market. Often the vision of businessmen is different from that of economists, and Trump has not been able to grasp the difference, observing America through the eyes of a middle class which has not yet recovered from the crash of 2008. You will remember that in thatannus horribilis for the US economy, the Fed had kept interest rates low and cheap money, causing the market to rise; the availability of money passed from the Fed to Wall Street, where it inflated asset values, without a real advantage over Main Street.

Focusing on the value of the growing market can therefore be misleading, and is like looking at the outside of a beautiful box that doesn't reflect the problems of the overall economy within it. In 2016, Trump had already pointed out in his first debate against Hillary Clinton that America was "In a big, fat, ugly bubble".

A situation that emerges from the Dow Jones chart which shows trends over the last 20 years. Anyone can watch the massive market crash in 2008, following the recovery that began under Obama, from 2009 through 2016, and then continued with Trump, with Federal Reserve (FED) support for Wall Street banks and bankers. However, these actions did not help families and businesses Main Street.

Those who visited the United States in those years could perceive the impoverishment of an America where unemployment had risen sharply and where the newspapers denounced the alarming increase in the recipients of food stamps. A sad America, with a degradation that could be observed by the state of inefficiency of its apparatuses, including the military one. In particular, the US Navy, since the post-war spearhead of US foreign policy which, despite being present in all the oceans of the world, was at the lowest terms in terms of efficiency. Of course, accusing Trump of this would be unfair, as the decline began a long time ago.

What were your biggest "mistakes"?

Taking stock of the Trump management, especially a few days after his final presidential term, is at least risky, due to the emotional factors flowing in rivers. mass media. I will therefore try to make an evaluation as objective as possible of his actions.

Wrong decision structure

Trump's cabinet was largely made up of people who had a lot of experience in business but, compared to previous administrations, little in government matters. Trump, after his unexpected election, surrounded himself with loyalists, chosen from family and friends. This would have been normal if he had not left in their place also old purebred sharks, loyal to the previous government, which had long since saturated the decision-making structure. An ingenuity probably linked to his little experience of those long and bright corridors that Trump has paid for during his term.

As Reagan said, people make politics, and it's the people who "Make things come true". This happens in any country; often a minister is blamed for his actions without considering that those who turn the wheels are his staff, who can facilitate their work but also frustrate it, being more familiar with the mechanisms. Surprisingly, there was no economist on Trump's staff.

One of his first mistakes was therefore not having a fully consolidated and aligned team, which over time has led to important replacements and sometimes left some important offices vacant from a decision-making point of view.

Politicizing the coronavirus pandemic, minimizing the risks for the American people

President Trump's approach to the pandemic was perhaps his biggest misstep, because it tipped the scales in Biden's favor during the election. When the outbreak began in Wuhan, the American health system proved unable to react promptly. Trump focused on accusing China and the WHO of not telling the truth right away (which was later in fact ascertained) instead of the pandemic. This approach demonstrated the insufficient ability to analyze the situation on the part of Trump's staff, even deaf to the advice of health experts.

This analytical lack was exacerbated by the inability to understand the gravity of the situation, highlighted by the report on morbidity and mortality by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who had revealed from the examination of the strains discovered in Northern California how the infections came from individuals returning from international travel (from China but also from Europe). Trump did not know, or did not want, to get the message and issued the first travel ban from Europe only on 11 March, among other things without consulting the European allies, which raised many protests.

In other words, the Trump administration's obsession with blaming China for the outbreak diverted attention from the real problem, the spread of the virus, making many important actions belated.

New York is now paying a heavy price with over 38.000 deaths, but the rest of the United States has also reached over 367.000 deaths; this could perhaps have been mitigated by stricter measures.

Another mistake by Trump was to play down the grave situation in public; in nearly every stage of the crisis, it has ignored or mocked scientific warnings, prioritizing keeping business open in a futile effort to prevent a deep and inevitable recession. Ironically, if he had immediately followed the recommendations of the scientific council, he might have mitigated the fits and starts in the states and thus slowed the decline of the economy towards a recession now similar to the Great Depression

The racist rhetoric

Donald Trump is known for his speeches often judged racist or otherwise instigating racism in the United States. For his part, he has repeatedly rejected the accusations, stating that the limitation of illegal immigration is not dictated by racism but by the need to favor the US economy, which would improve the integration and living conditions of immigrants already present on the territory.

Beyond the declarations, in fact Trump has not been able to manage a problem that still appears unsolved in the United States, the racial question. Beyond the laws, there are substantial cultural differences in the different states, which fuel conflicts between the different racial communities. Trump can count on the support of the "white" community of the Southern States, in which forms of intolerance are still present. This contrast is clear, evident and present in all States, with mutual violence and questionable actions by local administrations.

Recent violence suffered by black people by the police has led to serious social clashes, igniting tensions that have never subsided in the most degraded neighborhoods, with the phenomenon of “Black Lives Matters”; questionable local government measures followed which, on the basis of the politically correct they degenerated into the demolition of statues of historical figures of the Confederate States, considered in some Southern States still today national heroes, but opposed by the administrations as reminiscences of a past to be erased; also victims of this cultural degradation are characters such as Christopher Columbus and Homer.

It is curious to see that all over the world these intolerances are spreading, leading us towards an increasingly precarious democracy of thought..

What is being observed in the United States is in fact the beginning of the clash of civilizations theorized in the last century by Samuel Huntington, for which the balance is changing according to cultural dividing lines that have little to do with the ideologies of the century. last.

Cancellation of Obamacare

According to the BBC, one of Trump's most important campaign promises was the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare).

During the 2016 presidential election, Trump advocated a health reform based on "free market principles", promising to repeal theObamacare; it also intended to simplify the sale of health insurance, establish a full tax deduction for insurance premium payments for individuals, make health savings accounts inheritable, require price transparency, grant health aid to states and also allow drug providers foreigners to enter the American market, effectively reducing regulatory barriers and speculation. Interesting promises that were going to touch very powerful lobbies. Although the Chamber of Deputies approved its bill, the so-called American health care act of 2017 (AHCA), Senate members were unable to agree on a transition plan fromObamacare to the AHCA, thus maintaining the previous one in force.

In October 2017, Trump issued an executive order to create new rules to allow small businesses to collectively purchase health insurance thereby expanding health coverage and the use of health reimbursement agreements (HRAs). An attempt that did not actually make significant changes, leaving the problem open.

Anti-immigration policies

Trump has in fact remained consistent in his anti-immigration policies intended, according to his program, to "protect Americans", suffocated by an increasing mass of illegal migrants in search of jobs, with physical barriers along the borders ; according to the Democrats, the planned wall along the Mexican border would have caused the opposite effect, namely a growth in jobs abroad and a loss of innovation and investment domestically.

In reality, Trump has not been able to block migration and its flow, especially of Hispanics, continues to feed poor communities already suffering in the big cities of the States.

Internal economy

In November 2016, Trump inherited a growing economy. While unemployment continued to decline (see graph below), the economy of Main Street he had no real advantage. He cannot be blamed for this, as it is an ancient evil. Certainly Trump, in order to resolve the existing conditions, would have needed more time to develop and implement his projects, continuously attacked by the media and slowed down by a “rusty” and far from agile bureaucratic apparatus. A political "mistake" was to give "false hope" in the most difficult moments, hiding the reality.

As recently as last month, as the coronavirus crisis raged and millions of people remained unemployed, Trump tweeted that his administration had built the largest economy in history, of any country, saving millions of lives. It actually hid, in time of COVID, the real situation, which had already cost more than 10 million jobs.

The unemployment rate represents the number of unemployed as a percentage of the workforce. Labor force data is limited to individuals aged 16 and over, who currently reside in any of the 50 states or the District of Columbia, who do not reside in institutions (e.g., criminal and psychiatric facilities, retirement homes) and who are not on active duty in the military (Charts generated by FRED - https://fred.stlouisfed.org/)

Forbes reported that in 2018, Trump's best year, about 2,31 million jobs were created, actually fewer than Obama's total for each of the last three years of his presidency. Following the COVID emergency, a collapse occurred that led to the loss of 2019 million jobs due to massive layoffs in mid-July 7,8 but, to be honest, this would have affected any other administration.

What emerges from the official data provided is that the role of the Trump administration has been economically negligible as the positive economic trends (pre COVID) were already in place and under his leadership remained confirmed. In other words, no economic miracle is achieved and the affirmation "the best economy ever" must be considered as a political self-censorship.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the value of the goods and services produced by the nation's economy minus the value of the goods and services used in production. GDP is also equal to the sum of personal consumption expenditure, gross domestic private investment, net exports of goods and services and public consumption expenditure and gross investment. Real values ​​are estimates corrected for inflation, i.e. estimates that exclude the effects of price changes - the graphs were generated by FRED -https://fred.stlouisfed.org/

Foreign policy

Analyzing Trump's foreign policy is not easy; in general we could say that it has often been characterized by a lack of coherence, which has not made relations with the European Allies easy.

The salient aspects can be summarized:

- has taken on a strong political opposition with China, but it has not prevented its spreading in Africa;

- has established diplomatic relations with countries governed by some of the most famous autocrats in the world, sometimes assuming an ambiguous relationship and not always obtaining visible benefits;

- tried to redefine relations in the Indo-Pacific by ensuring business and exchange for the benefit of the American economy;

- mobilized the world to exert maximum political pressure to persuade North Korea to abstain from the nuclear program;

- addressed Iran's destabilizing behavior and the threat of its nuclear program;

- encouraged Arab-Israeli peace, also seeking consensus in the Arab world.

As for NATO, Trump continued the policy of his predecessors but with a style that was sometimes less pleasing to the Allies. Reiterating the US requests at the Prague Summit, he firmly called on the Allies to make greater investment in military spending, an action already underway, threatening to abandon NATO.

Conclusions

As Marcello Veneziani wrote in his recent editorial: “Trump did not want to be a global leader but he remained firmly anchored in his America. America first. America alone ... "

With his fall, we Europeans have lost an opportunity to grow and to create our own common European vision, an opportunity that may not be repeated with Biden, who represents the politically correct, of good intentions, sometimes unattainable, but which will face a situation of very serious economic recession, in the midst of a world pandemic, and with complex political balances that will require diplomacy but also a real deterrence capacity, strongly undermined by previous policies. Will you find a solution? We will see ... for now the United States is divided, perhaps more than ever, between conservatives and progressives who cannot fail to take into account the issues that Trump has always raised for better or for worse: the safeguarding of tradition and family issues, sovereignty in national choices that cannot be canceled by a globalist vision based only on gain and defense of a culture politically correct that wants to erase the identity of a nation that has been an example of freedom and democracy for 70 years.

It suggests the fact that, after the assault on Congress, the mass media overshadowed Trump, preventing him from contradicting himself. The United States has always represented the ideal of freedom of expression for the whole world and now, a few days after the new presidency, it has expressed a gloomy Orwellian atmosphere that certainly will not help Biden to ferry the United States out of this crisis, crushed by those transnational powers that Trump, in his rudeness and limited vision, had nevertheless tried to fight.

Trump is finished but not Trumpism. The recent tragic events have a very strong symbolic meaning which denotes how a part of the American people, normally much more framed than the European ones, does not want to accept this regime change. It suggests the fact that among the colorful characters photographed by the press, such as the shaman with buffalo horns (ie not Viking horns as famous journalists of our press claim), there were many veterans with their flags. Men and women who fought for American ideals in so many war theaters, and who now, returning home, find a different America, which does not recognize their sacrifice, almost despises them. An America that does not have work for everyone due to the commercial logic desired by Globalization that Trump had tried to fight in his own way, often speaking with his stomach. A moral pain that, for many Americans, goes beyond the physical pain endured in war.

We Europeans will not regret Trump for his choices on the environment and for his naive, limited vision of a world in continuous development. Some of his "mistakes", which I have briefly summarized, have made him disliked and hated by many, even among the ranks of his own party. As when he referred to McCain, a war hero, who unfortunately died prematurely, calling him several times, contemptuously, "a loser", a loser; he also despised him at his funeral. A stubbornly Gascon attitude that over time led him to fire men of great value to surround himself with more comfortable "Yes Men". Among them Mattis, highly decorated general of the Marines who said about him "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us".

Perhaps Trump's biggest problem was that he was unable to look beyond the horizon, focused on safeguarding an American ideal of life that was perhaps killed by the globalization supported by his predecessors. Of course, unlike them, he did not engage in conflicts, on the contrary he avoided them, favoring a policy of disengagement in the operating theaters.

On January 20, barring any last-minute surprises, Trump will leave the White House. In recent days, he has shown a lack of style that will be remembered even by his own party members. His incitement to defend the indefensible has actually harmed the Republicans, who have largely broken away from his latest claims. A missed opportunity for Republicans and a new one for Democrats to transform the United States to meet the challenges of the third millennium. But how?

Biden inherits an America on its knees, with a divided electorate in which there are immature factions and not available for dialogue, with a deep economic crisis that could last for many years. It will have to face a dynamic world that has passed in 70 years from a bipolar to a multipolar management, with emerging powers that do not intend to integrate, but to obtain economic and military supremacy for the exploitation of energy and food resources.

Will the United States be able to react to this decline and become great again?

Photo: US Air Force / Gage Skidmore / US Navy / US DoD / rabbit presidency of ministers