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America stands still for Trump

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor (with agency reports)
20 January 2017   |   5:19 am
Today, January 20, 2017, Donald John Trump, born June 14, 1946, is scheduled to take office as the 45th President of the United States of America.
 US President-elect Donald Trump. PHOTO: JIM WATSON / AFP

<br />US President-elect Donald Trump. PHOTO: JIM WATSON / AFP

Today, January 20, 2017, Donald John Trump, born June 14, 1946, is scheduled to take office as the 45th President of the United States of America.

At age 70, he becomes the oldest and wealthiest person to assume the presidency, the first without prior military or governmental service, and the fifth elected with less than a plurality of the national popular vote.

In June 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 election, he was dismissed, as a rabble-rouser and Willy dealer. However, opinion quickly changed after he recorded a string of victories in the Republican primaries and emerged as the front-runner among 17 contenders. His final opponents suspended their campaigns in May 2016, and in July, he was formally nominated at the Republican Convention along with Mike Pence as his running mate.

Trump’s campaign received unprecedented media coverage and international attention, because they were either controversial or false: statements of focused megalomania, which gave a clue to the direction of his policies.

Sean Spicer, his press secretary, however, says Trump’s address today will “be very visionary and lay out where he wants to take his country.”

Kellyanne Conway, a senior aide, also said his speech would echo his post-election pledge to be a president who stands for all Americans.

Already, the Secret Service and FBI are preparing a $100 million “ring of steel” around Washington amid fears of clashes. In fact, an unprecedented number of protesters are expected to descend on the capital, with a historic Women’s March due to hold tomorrow.

An estimated 200,000 women are expected to protest in what has been described as the largest of many demonstrations to be held in the capital.

The Women’s March is expected to be the biggest inauguration protest in history, and the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Katy Perry and Cher all plan to take part. There will be a “sister march” in London, and several other cities around the world.

Only in November 2016, as U.S. voters and international leaders began to come to terms with a Republican White House led by the former reality television star, people opposed to Trump took to the streets criticising the racism, sexism and xenophobia that they say the president-elect has made mainstream.

In Seattle, city councilwoman, Kshama Sawant, a socialist politician and avid Bernie Sanders supporter during the presidential primaries, told a crowd of activists that people should plan to disrupt Trump’s inauguration in January. “We are going to shut it down,” she said.

While Trump has been trying to wrangle some A-list talent to perform at his inauguration celebrations — the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, America’s Got Talent contestant, Jackie Evancho, and the Rockettes are some of the performers who have taken the bait so far — many other musicians have spoken publicly about declining an offer to celebrate the president-elect.

The likes of Elton John and Andrea Bocelli, two of Trump’s favourite performers, Céline Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Kiss, Garth Brooks, David Foster, Rebecca Ferguson and Jennifer Holliday have reportedly declined to join him at the Capitol steps.

Holliday, a Broadway star, backed out after receiving threats and abuse. In an open letter to her fans Holliday, a Tony award winner for Dreamgirls, apologised for “causing such dismay and heartbreak to my fans”.

The biggest concerns relate not to what Trump might do in office, but rather to the consequences of the tensions stirred up by what has been, by any measure, an extremely bitter and divisive campaign.

Scholars and commentators have described his positions as populist, protectionist and nationalist. Many say restoring America’s standing as the global alpha male should be the apex of Trump’s agenda. But he is doing so with a strange mix of anti-militarist isolationism and militarist unilateralism.

The U.S. and world order
Amid the euphoria and self-aggrandisement of a Republican president after eight years absence, the pressing issue is that the ‘world order’, which was built on US military, economic and ideological power, after the Second World War, has become obsolete and threatened.

The renowned Historian, International Relations expert and the 32nd President of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Emeritus Professor Michael Omolewa, told The Guardian, “we should be aware that there has been a shift in world governance in recent times. China has emerged as a silent key player. Japan remains there with its economic power and potentials; Russia seems unwilling to be ignored as the country has demonstrated with the Syria crisis. The United States is no longer the world power that had the capacity to influence world developments as in the early years of this century. It is imperative; therefore that the US has to act with caution, get its house in order, and ensure that the minorities are given a voice and that African Americans do not lose the battle that they have fought for centuries in human rights movements. It will be left for the new administration to consider all the options open and make the right choice. We shall pray for world peace, equality, respect, and social justice.”

Beginning in the mid-20th century, the United States created and gradually expanded a world order that provided much of mankind with unparalleled levels of security and prosperity.

The US was the essential member, and de facto leader, not just of NATO, but of multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. The United States has also paid more in blood as well as treasure, suffering much higher casualties in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan than most other members of the international coalitions that joined in these fights.

The country has also benefited as well, but not as much as some, and America has also borne disproportionate costs for sustaining this order.

At the end of World War II, the United States produced and consumed nearly half the world’s wealth. Over the next quarter-century, this share was reduced to a quarter, largely to the benefit of America’s former adversaries and European allies.

These countries grew faster than the United States, and by the late 1970s there was growing alarm in America about their rising strength, particularly that of Japan, which enjoyed a massive and persistent trade surplus at America’s expense.

Trump’s victory was forged in part by his stated desire that the US should no longer be the world’s policeman and arbiter – and that victory, in itself, shows that, whatever the new president’s intentions, the US is no longer in shape to play those roles.

The Iraq war and its hubris created huge fissures in the facade of American leadership.

The hesitations and confusions that characterised the US responses to the Arab spring reflected the new realities of the inability of the US to shape a messy world to its desires and the unwillingness of Americans to let their sons and daughters die trying.

His position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a wildcard for cataclysmic events in the region. Ultimately, however, foreign policy – particularly in the Middle East – is very unlikely to be among Trump’s key priorities.

After the last conference on peace in the Middle East hosted by France, major powers sent a clear message to Trump that a two-state solution is the only way to rescue the Middle East peace process, with France warning Donald Trump that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem could derail efforts.

However, There is a danger that Trump’s presidency could embolden extreme elements on the right who have already been energised by his incendiary rhetoric on the campaign trail, leading to an increase in aggression and violence targeting groups such as Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics, and members of the LGBT community. The ethnic nationalists whose logic brought the world to such a state by 1945 that a whole new order had to be built may just reemerge.

Trump has questioned the value of some of the U.S.’ longstanding alliances. However, for some of these alliances that Trump has questioned, such as NATO, critics fiercely contend that he underestimates the benefits flowing to the United States.

They believe there are increasingly complicated foreign-policy relationships that the Trump administration would do well to reconsider: Middle East countries that simultaneously act as U.S. allies, adversaries and enemies.

Analysts say for Africa, Trump presidency is unlikely to impact trade relations between the US and the continent; it is believed that aid budgets would be slashed with major implications for economic growth and public debt levels.

East African countries in particular benefitted disproportionally from US aid, but might be spared due to their importance for regional security and the fight against terrorism.

Nevertheless, cuts to the $7.1bn package that the US plans to deliver to Africa next year would chime with Trump’s populist rhetoric. Trump has claimed that “every penny” donated to Africa is “stolen”, and in 2014 he criticised Obama for helping fight Ebola.

Domestic scene
It is highly likely within the first 100 days of his presidency Trump will issue an executive order prohibiting U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that perform abortions. This would have an effect on women around the world who depend on services that come from US aid. With a Republican controlled house and senate, Trump may also pass new legislation that restricts abortion access for women in the US.

Trump has said that he would strongly consider appointing judges to overturn the marriage equality ruling. There is the possibility that the Supreme Court could reverse the same sex marriage decision at the federal level. This would leave the issue of marriage equality to the individual states and may result in reduced protections for same sex couples.

Repealing “Obamacare” without a replacement could leave 18 million Americans without health insurance within a year and 32 million by 2026, according to a new estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The estimate, prepared at the request of Senate Democrats, is based on the partial repeal bill Republicans sent to President Obama’s desk in 2015. Obama vetoed the measure, and Congress was not able to override it.

The office also estimated that individual health insurance premiums would increase by 20 to 25 percent in the first year of a repeal and would hit 50 percent after the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

Up to 3 million jobs in the health sector and other areas would be lost if certain key provisions of the Affordable Care Act are repealed by Congress.

It is likely that Trump will be restrained – to some extent – by career officials in the State Department from implementing radical changes to policies.

Be that as it may, many believe what has sustained America’s democracy is the strong institutions that have curtailed excesses of the government.

The founders put into place a system of checks and balances to help ensure that there would always be such a struggle. They went to great lengths to balance institutions against each other––balancing powers among the three branches: Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court; between the House of Representatives and the Senate; between the federal government and the states; among states of different sizes and regions with different interests; between the powers of government and the rights of citizens, as spelled out in the Bill of Rights … no one part of government dominates the other.

The institutions of Congress and the presidency are designed such that only rarely can one institution dominate policymaking. Their interdependence is so strong that most of the time they must find ways to compromise or get along.

On the other hand, the president has veto power over legislation and is the head of the executive branch (bureaucracy), so Congress has to work with the president to avoid time-consuming roadblocks and conflicts. So, they work together and compromise. Most of the time.

Beyond the wars that were officially declared by Congress—the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, and the two world wars—the relatively small peacetime standing military left the president with limited options for use of the military.

During the Cold War era, however, presidents were able to initiate and sustain a deployment of troops anywhere in the world, sometimes leading directly to conflict, as a result of the increased size of the military.

These involvements were often quick—for example, President Carter’s failed attempt to rescue hostages from Iran in 1980, or President Reagan’s 1983 invasion of the tiny country of Grenada. However, the president’s asserted war powers under the commander-in-chief clause have also been the basis for controversial, protracted conflicts such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the current war in Iraq and its aftermath.

At the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1973, a large congressional majority believed that presidents Johnson and Nixon had far exceeded the presidential war-making authority envisioned by the founders under the commander-in-chief clause.

To restore what it viewed as the proper balance, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution over Nixon’s veto. The resolution requires the president to report to Congress within 48 hours after deploying U.S. troops into direct hostilities, or into “situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.”

During the late 19th century, President Grover Cleveland aggressively attempted to restore the executive branch’s power, vetoing over 400 bills during his first term, although historians today view Cleveland as exhibiting merely “boring, stolid competence.”

The 20th and 21st centuries have seen the rise of the power of the Presidency under Theodore Roosevelt (1901–09), Woodrow Wilson (1913–21), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–45), Richard Nixon (1969–74), Ronald Reagan (1981–89), and George W. Bush (2001–09) (see Imperial Presidency).

Only two Presidents of the United States have ever been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both trials ended in acquittal; in Johnson’s case, the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction. In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from office after impeachment proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee indicated he would eventually be removed from office.