America’s era of anger

Despite the belligerence and rhetoric of his campaign, some had hoped that Donald Trump, in his inaugural address, would seek to heal the wounds created by a divisive campaign. But the 45th President of the U.S. trumped those expectations with a speech that was resonant of campaign rhetoric rather than one that should have been a vision statement for a united future under his leadership. Certain omissions in the speech were stark. The humility that American Presidents usually embrace in their first address was missing. So was the historical emphasis on American values. No word of thanks for the work of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Instead, Mr. Trump continued his attacks on the Washington establishment, vowing to end the “American carnage”, put “America First” in all policy decisions and eradicate “radical Islamic terror” from the “face of the earth”. These remarks, along with his first set of decisions in the White House, offer an indication of the priorities. Mr. Trump has already issued an executive order to roll back certain aspects of Obamacare, a health-care programme which the former President fought long and hard to get passed in Congress. Pages on LGBT rights, climate change and Obamacare are already removed from the White House website. The administration is also planning a missile defence system that could trigger a nuclear arms race. Put together, the Trump team is likely to pursue a hardline social conservative agenda buttressed by economic protectionism and passionate nationalism.

This poses a new set of challenges, for the U.S. and the rest of the world. First, American liberalism faces a major crisis. The hundreds of thousands of women who thronged several cities in the U.S. on Saturday to protest against him show how divided the country is. Second, if the world’s largest economy, the main pillar of the global economic order, turns protectionist, it would have far-reaching impact on other major economies. This means the current crisis in globalisation, which in a way helped Mr. Trump’s rise, is likely to deepen. Third, Mr. Trump’s foreign policy direction, especially his disdain towards multilateralism and unfriendly approach towards China, is confrontational. He has repeatedly said he is a deal-maker and will get the “best deals” for the U.S. But in international diplomacy, his business logic may not work. Finally, how Mr. Trump is going to meet the tall promises he has made to rally supporters, largely the anxious, angered, anti-establishment white working class. He has unleashed forces of extreme nationalism which many hoped belonged to a bygone era.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 12:51:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/America%E2%80%99s-era-of-anger/article17078531.ece

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