Donald Trump Era and American Democratic Ideals
Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States of America, has left White House after completing his term as he failed to secure a second term in office because of the defeat handed down to him by Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, who took the oath of office on 20th of January. Owing to Trump’s peculiar nature, non-serious attitude, utterly impetuous demeanour, lack of diplomatic skills, no understanding of governance methods, unwarranted challenging behaviour in the international politics and a sheer lack of care for democratic ideals that America is known for, his era will be remembered as one of divisiveness and decline of American influence on the world stage.
Four years ago, on January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump took the oath of an office, the President of the United States of America, that had the legacy of taking lead in world affairs and ensuring peace and harmony in the global community. But, soon after his inauguration, President Trump announced to focus on his campaign promise “Make America Great Again”. He went on to build a boundary wall with the neighbouring Mexico that attracted huge resistance and criticism from within as well as outside America. Trump also went on blacklisting some nations and banning the entry of their citizens into America which, according to his rationale, posed a grave threat to the homeland security of the United States. These initiatives created a sense of distrust and hostility among other nations while having any engagement with America during a Trump presidency.
In August 2017, President Trump delivered his policy speech regarding Afghanistan and the region. He announced to use mercenaries and locally-recruited sources to cope with the militants in Afghanistan. But it further aggravated the already precarious situation in the Afghan region. Later, he also advocated for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan —with no stated timeline though—provided the situation in this war-ravaged country become favourable. He also hindered the negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, and it looked like that he is non-serious in resolving the issue through a negotiated settlement. Nevertheless, his advisors, who proved to be more concerned with the Taliban insurgency, prevailed and made him take serious steps for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and appoint an Afghan-born diplomat, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department. Amb. Khalilzad visited many countries in a marathon tour to conclude the task, and he, ultimately, stood successful—Trump had though once suspended the process merely on the killing of an American soldier by Taliban.
President Trump also accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and, in a very harsh and acrimonious tone, threatened that it will have to face the music for that. This was undoubtedly the manifestation of his lack of political vision and impetuous nature. However, he, later, reverted to accept Pakistan’s stance and sacrifices in the war against terror, and sought Pakistan’s help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. This was a great diplomatic victory for Pakistan which responded with sincerity by supporting and stimulating the Doha Talks.
President Trump deviated from the legacy of American ideals on many other fronts also. He withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, which was signed between P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2015. Moreover, he withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord and thus impeded, to a considerable extent, the efforts for preserving the “Mother Earth”. Both these steps were criticized by the Americans themselves. The opposition in this regard can be sensed from the fact that during his election campaign the Democratic candidate—now the 46th US President—Joe Biden vowed to rejoin the JCPOA and Paris Agreement.
During Trump’s presidency, domestic politics, too, saw unprecedented protests against the brutal killing of an unarmed and innocent Black American, George Floyd, thus igniting worldwide “Black Lives Matter’ protests. Public anger at Floyd’s killing was so widespread that the security forces refused to take action against the protestors.
President Trump also faced the charges of illegal links with Russia during his election campaign and was impeached in Congress. Thanks to a Republican majority in the Senate that saved him from removal from office.
In international relations, the most important aspect of Trump’s tenure has been US relations with China. Most American analysts and thinkers blame Donald Trump for mishandling China—a rising economic giant that has challenged the American hegemony through its OBOR and BRI projects. Moreover, Trump hastily stood with Taiwan in an undiplomatic overture, and also supported the Philippines in its issue of territoriality with China in the South China Sea. China withstood American pressure and retained control of the islands involved in the issue. It was an international embarrassment for Trump.
However, Trump’s Middle East policy did reap some benefits for him in the shape of Israel’s recognition by UAE and Bahrain. His relations with Russia, the European Union and countries in other parts of the world failed to attract any memorable achievements, except reinvigorating the Quad alliance that comprises Australia, India, Japan and the United States to encircle and contain China in the Indo-Pacific region. Due to internal issues and coronavirus pandemic, he couldn’t find any chance for interfering abroad in the name of human rights.
Moreover, the international crisis that arose in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic was a test of the preparedness of all nations of the world. The United States, too, was no exception. Nevertheless, being a hegemon and sole global power, it was supposed to take lead in controlling the virus, but it was unable to secure even its own citizens from the deadly virus. On many occasions, he resorted to blaming China for spreading the virus; thus he opted for a blame game instead of paving the way for playing his role as a true leader during a crisis. China owing to its effective strategy and precautionary measures controlled the virus but Trump’s America is still reeling under its deleterious impacts as he failed to come up with a pragmatic strategy to cope with Covid-19. The pandemic-caused internal crisis resulted in huge layoffs, giving an unprecedented rise to unemployment rates in the USA. Economic activities were halted, thus giving rise to internal chaos, anarchy and robberies of shopping malls in many cities.
In the 2020 presidential election, his main rival, Joe Biden, defeated him, negating him a second term in office. This defeat was another test of his political acumen which he failed badly. In the very beginning, he refused to accept the results and incited his supporters to resist the results. It was for the first time in American history that the voters turned violent and stormed Capitol Hill, the building of American Congress. Being the stimulus behind this attack, President Trump once again faced impeachment for an unprecedented second time. In the House of Representatives, 10 members of even his own Republican party voted against him, and it proves that the way he had opted for was against the established American democratic ideals, norms and values.
To sum up, it’s very difficult to compare his tenure with any other American president in terms of leadership, political competence and being a flag-bearer of American ideals and democratic norms. History will remember him as a man of mercurial behaviour, mysterious nature, impetuous utterances, unhealthy approach towards international engagements, lack of respect for human rights and, last but not least, frequently violating democratic norms and values on the national and international stage.
The author teaches at the Department of Political Science, University of Malakand, Chakdara, Dir Lower. He can be reached at email@example.com