2020 – Systems failure in the global village – Part 2
It is in the interest of these key drivers and the world that system failures are resolved. In the US the Republican Party must move away from Trumpism, a populist concept without coherence or logic, and return to normalcy. This means a move away from the populist dogma, antipathy towards democracy and rule of law, conspiracy theories, lies, aversion to science and the unhealthy antagonism towards the rest of the world that Trump has championed, and return to its traditional path of free trade, the rule of law and democracy, cooperation with other democratic countries and the promotion of democratic ideals. Somehow the Republican Party must find ways to deter, at an early (primaries) stage, the likes of an unqualified demagogue like Trump ever becoming a candidate for the highest position. This may sound undemocratic but Trump’s rise and actions in office are out of synch with the foundations of the country, an assault on the democratic process which may have been the result of what could be characterised as a Manchurian plant.
He bludgeoned his way into leadership position by spewing hate, insults and falsehoods. He publicly called for foreign help in accessing Hilary Clinton’s emails and refused to provide his tax and financial statements which some observers have noted would have shown that he is beholden to foreign backers. In office he has repeatedly sided with a foreign adversary, even contradicting his own officials, notably most recently, his refusal to accept the conclusions of intelligence officials and his secretary of state that Russia was responsible for the most comprehensive hacking of US government departments and top corporate brands. Trump’s rise and governance can be viewed as America democratic infrastructure being hacked, files corrupted and repositioned to render the country impotent, fractious and weak, not great. Under Trump, America has a leader who is absent, at war not just with the Democratic Party but also with the country’s democratic norms while foreign adversaries have wreaked havoc on its digital infrastructure which underpins governance and business in the 21st century. The system needs to be overhauled and repositioned. Hopefully Biden, with the support of the Democratic and Republican leadership, can recognise, accept and take the relevant measures for the benefit of America and the world.
It is not an easy task as Trump won 74 million votes, is still supported by 90% of Republicans and the majority of Republican members of the House of Representative are still backing dubious claims that the “election was stolen”. To cap it all, Trump’s National Economic Council Director, Larry Kudlow has announced he is setting up a policy group to promote Trumpism, namely, “the legacy and consequences …ensure those ideas continue and are defended”, and Trump is considering running in 2024. This bizarre development is a reflection of its two key backers, Kudlow and former Trump Energy Secretary, Rick Perry.
Kudlow who presided over the worst economic record in modern times, inheriting a healthy growing economy from Obama and exiting with much higher unemployment, plummeting economic growth and national debt that has ballooned not just because of COVID-19 (a Trump legacy), but also tax give-aways to the rich and corporations, has praised Janet Yellen and Jared Bernstein, Biden’s Treasury Secretary and member of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) respectively. Absent from the praise is Cecilia Rouse, Biden’s chair of the CEA who will replace Kudlow. It just happens that unlike the other two, Rouse who holds a PHD from Harvard University, currently dean at Princeton University and has served in that body under Presidents Clinton and Obama is unlike the other two Black. Rick Perry former Trump Energy Secretary, as presidential candidate could not remember the (Energy) department he had vowed to eliminate when interviewed by the media. As Energy Secretary, even though he caused a lot of damage, he was stymied because of his inability to overcome the roadblocks Obama and previous administrations had put in place to protect the environment. He had repudiated Trumpism as “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition.” The leading torch bearers of Trumpism are therefore incompetents, somebody who like Trump obviously does not believe in diversity (as far as Blacks are concerned because he supports a woman and an ideological foe acknowledging his difference with Bernstein who he noted was left-wing) and a turn-coat who had correctly predicted the damage Trump would cause.
The EU has taken a hit with Brexit and it must make sure that other countries do not follow suit which means a fine balancing act of enhancing cohesion but also avoiding measures that makes members yearn for their sovereignty. The key factor in the UK leaving was the feeling that its sovereignty had been emasculated, a crucial issue for a proud nation that had ruled a quarter of the world and always felt not quite European, frequently called upon to sort out problems of the continent and then removing the drawbridge over the moat (English channel), a luxury that the continentals don’t have. The EU will no doubt constantly review new UK’s new trade agreements and take actions to ensure that they are broadly align to standards that it holds dear and do not make the club unfairly uncompetitive.
The troubling authoritarian trends in Poland and Hungary need to be addressed with firm opposition, particularly from leading states and net contributors to the EU budget. Unlike the UK, Poland and Hungary and other countries that have exhibited authoritarian tendencies latelyare generally net beneficiaries of the largess of EU paymasters. The liberal democratic ideals and policies do not only protect the group from authoritarian trends but also showcase and promote liberal democratic norms around the world. If those countries that are trending towards the authoritarian path want to play hard ball, then the alternative for them, being kicked out of the club is dismal, being shut off from the huge market, subsidies and having to revert to the embrace of Russia is not exactly enticing. The UK is unlikely to veer away from the liberal democratic norms it has always championed.
COVID-19 has hit Europe hard and it could have done better through the centre of excellence concept and better coordination.
In the case of the former, it would have helped if the measures and infrastructure of countries that have done very well in Europe and beyond had been adopted and with open borders, if there had been better coordination and cooperation among member states.
China’s march towards the premier super power status it craves requires a change of course. While it can be argued that the disciplined approach of Mao rescued that proud country from the humiliation and ravages it endured in the 19th and much of the 20th centuries, it has got to this remarkable stage over the last four decades, poised to take that mantle by liberalising its markets. It is getting to the stage where it needs to apply a similar approach on the political front.
This means a more open forum on health issues and allowing its scientists to take the lead if a similar incident was to occur – this is one of several covid-19 type diseases that have originated from that country. The country also needs to take a more open approach to Hong Kong and other areas because at this stage, soft power will be far more productive as it marches towards the global leadership it craves. Other countries will feel less threatened and supportive, and this does not mean just being bought off but rather aspiring to follow the path China has blazed, by most accounts a phenomenal feat.
Rogers is principal consultant of Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO).
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