The good, the bad and the ugly – Mr Trump and the Caribbean
Globalisation touchesus all. Its reach extends far beyond economic issues. It has in just a fewdecades made industries, markets, cultures, policy-making and criminalityinterconnected in ways previously unknown. As global networks have spread,trade and investment, communications, migration, the environment andtransportation have made almost every nation virtually borderless. It is aprocess that is organic and unstoppable, but demonstrably has led to vastinequalities between those who have prospered and those who have not.
It has left manyfeeling disadvantaged and marginalised, resulting in a form of rage againstelites, the establishment and those who lead in many parts of the world,although not as yet in the Caribbean.
It is resulting in therise of new forms of politics in Europe, the US and other parts of the world asvoters seek leaders who they feel can address their inability to respond to decisionsbeing taken elsewhere that directly affect their lives.
In the US and Europe,this visceral anger is resulting in the rise of politicians and politicalparties that are anti-elite, seen as authentic, able take back control andrestore the past. The consequence is the appearance of political figures whomake policy pronouncements that suggest a form of isolation, protection, and afuture in which every country will have to fend for itself based on thedemonstration of strength.
Donald Trump andVladimir Putin are both examples of this approach; their behaviour suggesting theemergence of a new form of twenty-first century politics that createsconfrontation before a new equilibrium is restored.
The rise of DonaldTrump illustrates how much alienated voters want this.
Far from being abuffoon, what he appears to be doing is linking entertainment and popularculture to politics by way of TV and social media; creating a strong simple profilethat relates voter rage and a sense of disadvantage to simple messages aboutrestoring greatness.
His opinions may not beto the taste of the establishment, intellectuals, or a world used to nuance andsubtlety in obtaining or exercising power, but there is the real possibilitythat he may emerge by mid-March with enough electoral college votes to securethe Republican Party nomination. It suggests that he and his advisers haverecognised there are new paths to high office.
Although it is clearthat the demographic in the US now places significant influence in the hands ofminorities and particularly Hispanic voters – the majority of whom Mr Trump has alienated byhis remarks about Mexicans – he is bringing in new Republican voters who feeldispossessed by the political elite. Thesuggestion is that if he is able to replicate in the next primaries the supportfrom all categories of voters that he received in Nevada, the Republicanestablishment may find themselves with a very different Party.
Mr Trump’sextraordinary rise has resulted in commentators trying to discover who isadvising him, in order to assess the possible future direction of his domestic andforeign policy, should the previously unthinkable occur, that he becomes the USPresident.
What is now emerging isthat there is method and philosophy behind his brash, antagonistic approach.
For example, it ispossible to see common themes in his thinking about future US foreign andsecurity policy. He sees no value in trying to change other countries systems.For him relationships are about winning, and extracting the maximum value forthe US. As an aggressive deal maker, he places value on strong authoritarianleadership, a huge defence budget and the decisive use of military might onlywhen absolutely necessary. He is adamant that Japan, South Korea, Europe andothers will in one or another way have to pay their way if they expect USsupport. For him the strong recovery of the US economy and the US nationalinterest is paramount. Policy will be pragmatic and not burdened by ideology.
In developing these andother ideas his advisers appear to be the uber-hawk John Bolton, a former USAmbassador to the UN, the former Mayor of New York, Rudi Giuliani, and theformer headof the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Michael Flynn. Although all confirm they speak to Mr Trump, none willyet say that they are on his team.
What, however, becomes particularlyapparent in a fascinating interview by the US columnist and analyst Josh Roginfor Bloomberg with Sam Clovis, Mr Trump’s chief policy adviser, is that there is a clear well thought through andsophisticated strategy
He quotes Mr Clovis assaying: “Thiswhole notion that (Trump) is devoid of advisers is wrong. We have a lot ofsmart guys around us and a lot of smart people helping us. There’s a lot moreto this than what our opponents and the pundits think. We play them like afive-string banjo because at the end of the day, they are going to look stupid.We don’t mind doing that.”
What this suggests isthat having won the nomination he will begin to moderate his bombastic approachspelling out in some detail what he as President might do in relation toforeign and domestic policy.
We will all know moreabout Mr Trump’s future in the coming days after the results of the superprimaries are known. However, it is looking more and more likely that it willbe Mr Trump who faces either Hilary Clinton, the liberal establishment’s hugelyexperienced Democratic Party candidate, or Bernie Sanders, who in a verydifferent way to Donald Trump has tapped into the thinking part of America’santi-establishment anger with elites.
Where regions like theCaribbean without weight or narrative in Washington might fit within any suchnew order is not easy to see. The Trump doctrine would set aside the emollientapproach that the region and its allies have become accustomed to since the endof the cold war. It suggests that only Cuba and perhaps the Dominican Republic willbe able to find ways to exert leverage in a Trump Washington. For the countriesof CARICOM, the implication is that what little influence they may still have withthe US could disappear entirely unless they ally themselves with much strongerregional, hemispheric or international partners.
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council andcan be contacted at
Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org