During the 2016 US presidential election, 14 out of 17 nominees at the Republican Party presidential primaries had rich political experience. But it was Trump — with zero experience — who won the race and became the party’s presidential candidate. Not only that, but he also beat the very experienced Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and became president of the US. This came as a big shock to many US political observers. How did this happen?
People voted for Trump for different reasons. I spoke to many of them who said that they were tired of ostentatious and hypocritical US politicians. A Democrat voted for Republican Trump because he thought that Clinton was vicious: she obviously did not care about the human rights of the Iraqis, Syrians, and Libyans but used it as an excuse to support America’s invasion of Iraq.
Furthermore, Clinton appointed Christopher Stevens as US Ambassador to Libya, who had a hand in inciting civil unrest in the country and destabilising the government. This was part of the US’s modus operandi of bringing endless turmoil to otherwise peaceful countries which resulted in the deaths and displacement of tens of thousands of Iraqis, Syrians, and Libyans. But the US did not make substantial gains as a result of these actions. It did not live up to its reputation of being a beacon of human rights and democracy, and one hailed by dissidents around the world as a great nation at that. Instead, it paid a heavy price in cold, hard cash and incurred massive casualties.
But some politicians talk big about democracy and human rights issues in other countries for the sake of glory and supremacy, as if the US president is the world’s president.
Trump hit the right note with ‘America First’ in 2016
I agree with this train of thought. Americans vote for a president to improve their welfare. But some politicians talk big about democracy and human rights issues in other countries for the sake of glory and supremacy, as if the US president is the world’s president.
Thus, many voted for Trump because he said that the US should stop meddling in the domestic affairs of other countries and instead, place the US’s interests first and focus on its own affairs. Many US politicians failed to understand this simple logic. Trump can be said to be the first US president in modern history to recognise the crux of America’s problem.
After Trump became president, he visited China and forged a good relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he once called “a friend of mine [his]”. He also praised China’s development and the Chinese government’s governance capabilities. However, not only did Trump have zero political experience, he did not have a political team of his own as well. His team was formed at the last minute and did not have a unified governing vision, which led to the firing of many high-level officials in the early stages of Trump’s rule — they were all thinking differently.
The US has always fed the medicine to other people when it was the sick one itself — this is not something unique to Trump.
Will an America in 2020 riven with scars be harder to convince?
In the blink of an eye, Trump’s first term in office is coming to an end. It was disastrous both in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic that has spiralled out of control, and the large-scale Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations. Strictly speaking, the one to blame for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in the US is not Trump but US society. The US lacks grassroots social organisations and many of its people are carefree, lazy, and without discipline. The country simply cannot mobilise society to handle a pandemic of such scale.
In contrast, when the pandemic broke out in Wuhan, the Chinese government mobilised the entire society to deal with the outbreak and imposed a lockdown on the city. I told my Chinese friends then that if the pandemic were to spread to the US, we would have to resign to our fates. The events that followed proved me right. Trump’s mistake was not his mishandling of the pandemic but the way he used far-right Republican forces to shift the blame to China. He should have cooperated with and sought help from China to make up for the US’s shortcomings and also join forces with the World Health Organization in conquering the pandemic. But the US is the world’s leader — how could it possibly lose face by humbling itself before other countries? If something goes wrong in the US, it is always someone else’s fault. The US has always fed the medicine to other people when it was the sick one itself — this is not something unique to Trump.
The BLM demonstrations have long troubled the US and are not entirely Trump’s fault, although his actions and behaviour added fuel to the fire. As the US presidential elections are fast approaching, both Trump and his opponent Joe Biden are giving it their best shot. The BLM protests and Trump’s support for the police could help Trump win votes from the whites. On the other hand, Biden and the Democratic Party have been belabouring the point that Trump has mishandled the pandemic and failed to address the outpouring of grief and anger from the police brutality protests. Nobody can say who is right or wrong.
US on a path of no return
In retrospect, Trump made the biggest mistake of his first term in office when he started a trade war with China. As a businessman, Trump should know that a trade war would ultimately result in a lose-lose situation. Any knowledgeable person knows this. But his trade advisor Peter Navarro, an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Death by China, seems not to know that a trade war is a double-edged sword and considers it Trump’s biggest political achievement. He seems oblivious to the fact that trade wars violate market economy principles advocated by traditional US economists. The US also used all possible means to sanction Chinese enterprises such as Huawei and Byte Dance, further showing the world its hegemonic behaviours and the fact that it does not practise what it preaches. More unfortunately, the US is doomed to be the loser in the trade war, as it forces China to look elsewhere to be free of US suppression.
The wealthy have hijacked the US presidential elections and the general US public are nothing more than extras or spectators in this entire process.
At the moment, the US presidential race is still very intense. While Trump seems to be lagging behind in the polls, this could change at any time. Biden has already announced that should he be elected, he would appoint a special coordinator for Tibetan issues and press for dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama. He has also said that “the United States does need to get tough with China”.
It seems that the Democratic Party has not learnt from Clinton’s failure. The general US public does not care about the Dalai Lama or Taiwan — it is nothing more than a condition put forward by the wealthy when they donate to the Democratic Party. The wealthy have hijacked the US presidential elections and the general US public are nothing more than extras or spectators in this entire process. From this perspective, the US’s democratic electoral system has completely deviated from its original intention, which was to elect a president who represented public opinion. Now, it has become a game between the elites and the wealthy. The elected one only cares about gaining a successful re-election, not the welfare of the country and people. Therefore, regardless of who becomes the next US president, the US is doomed to walk a path of decline.
Related: No country can be the world's policeman: Debt-ridden US needs to focus on itself | Who will win the US election? Chinese vendors at ‘the world’s supermarket’ think they have the answer | America has itself to blame for its decline | What is China's biggest challenge?