Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Fear before a ‘Trumpian’ world

By Ian Inkster 音雅恩

The fear that has spread around the globe as US president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office is to be expected. His rhetoric covers almost every aspect of life, from relations between the sexes to relations with China.

For people who live far away from the US it might seem that most of the immediate concerns lie within the civic society of the US itself — chauvinism, aggressive rhetoric, anti-migrant ideology and potential overt racism, depletion in social and health expenditure, the creation of powerful enemies abroad, all such things seem on the cards for Americans if “Trumpian” rhetoric should turn into packages of ratified policy.

For Taiwan and its commercial fortunes, it might be that such elements eventually tend toward a commercial meltdown — as the US retracts from importing, Europe implodes politically, Russia runs amok and growth slows in the developing economies.

However, such forecasts remain only that. Most of the Trumpian world is undefined in terms of actual policies. On Wednesday last week, Trump did explicitly and quite carefully reiterate his Mexican wall proposal, and went on to speculate on the manner in which Mexicans would actually bear the financial cost. He did not specify any political cost. He seems also to be retaining his anti-China aggression. However, in general, it might be hoped that such issues will be controlled by the White House itself as well as US Congress and the more thoughtful portions of the media.

There are two more long-term trends that “Trumpism” illuminates that should be very concerning.

The first is political and global. Trump has brought right-wing radicalism into the very heartland of the existing US two-party system. This is something that would have been very difficult to predict. In most broadly democratic systems that are facing diminishing returns — that is, are achieving only low turnout in national and presidential elections, exhibit a general distrust of politicians, a powerful counterculture of social media lying outside of the established political discourse, and so on — radicalism might be expected to enter the system through the breaking up of established major parties or the direct formation of new parties, or through extra-parliamentary agitation, as in a smaller and newer system such as Taiwan since the 1990s.

In contrast and representing a great danger, Trump represents a right leaning populism within a major party at the center of the US system. The only light in this tunnel is that remaining within the two-party conventions seemingly means that Trump is supposedly subject to the boasted “constraints of reason” exhibited in that system.

However, in the meantime, that same US system has given birth — without much of a period of confinement — to one of the most radical political packages of modern times. However much we might abhor it, in the Trumpian world extreme populism remains legitimate, laws are adhered to, violence is eschewed and there is no direct threat to the commercial welfare of powerful democratic allies. So, it might well be that the new model of change in erstwhile democracies, especially in those with fairly rigid two-party systems, low turnouts in elections and large numbers of citizens who feel left behind in a world of new industries and technologies, is Trumpian.

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