The Trump Phenomenon

Donald Trump won the Presidency of the United States of America for the Republicans back in 2016. Back then, he rode on his opposition to anything and everything that had anything to do with the Obama administration. He continued his vitriolic tirade against the democrats whenever he was criticized.  Criticism was almost always met with criticism- he criticized the press, he criticized his own officials; he even criticized his saner colleagues in the Cabinet as well as the Republican Party. His term in office appears as if he misunderstood the Presidency of the United States to be the Presidency of People United against Democrats. His views and actions in office, and after the defeat and are now collectively known as Trumpism, a term now made popular by the mainstream media as well. The sheer magnitude of hate which manifested in the USA under Trump, and the failure of Trump to rein in his supporters make him fit enough to be called an incompetent president.

Constitution of the United States/ Image source: State Symbols USA

The Preamble to the US Constitution states thus:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Section 1 of Article II of the US Constitution lays down the oath of office for the President.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”

In the aftermath of his electoral loss, he acted in contravention of the US Constitution in many ways. One, while the Constitution declares “We the people of the United States…”, Trump, in his characteristic rant-filled rhetoric reduced the narrative to us versus them. He inherited a more perfect Union but left for his successor Biden, a more imperfect Union, a Union divided by hate, a union which yearned to regain its lost prestige in the international system.

That he did all that he did because his constituents wanted him to, is no excuse. The US constitution is above the constituency of any president. He may have escaped the impeachment, but his refusal to provide for the common defence in wake of the Capitol insurrection shall forever haunt him in his future endeavours.  He will surely go down as the only American President who behaved as the President of his ever-shrinking followers first. So essentially, America first transformed into followers first. His actions and reactions were almost always a knee jerk reaction to the whims and fancies of his electorate. And when his actions were resisted by the pillars of democracy, he labelled them as “fake”, “sold out” and “traitors”.

Image source: Reuters

That Trump rendered political correctness useless is something that was dangerous in itself. Political correctness in a stable country may not be that necessary. However, in a country already on the brink of civil war due to actions by his own administration, Trump could have displayed the much needed political correctness by not instigating his followers. Instead, he went on to lend his support, and thus legitimize the insurrection by his followers. Trump was able to convince his followers that the elections were indeed stolen by Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Rather than being politically correct, he chose to speak of the world as it is.  He highlighted the fact that there are a sizable number of people who have been thinking the same way as Trump but have never dared to speak out, because of public morality and decency. Trump legitimized the stereotypes against Muslims, Afro-Americans and Asians, something very unbecoming of any POTUS.

Trump presupposed that his constituency adhered to the minimum standards of common sense– a common sense that was superimposed from the top. Common sense prevailed in the times of Copernicus that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Clearly, this common sense is wrong. Common sense may not always be necessarily correct, and thus, should never be used by those in power to further their propaganda. This is where Trump erred majorly.

Trump set out to make America great again. However, he undermined the US stature in the world community by unsettling traditional allies such as the EU. Trump threatened to withdraw from NATO. He withdrew from Paris Climate Accords. All this threatened to reduce America into a meagre power. Donald Trump had never been a leader of all of the USA. He behaved as the President of his fringe followers, who thrived upon Trumpism’s notion of white supremacy.

As the US President, Trump refused to be cowed down by mutual checks and balances laid down in the Constitution. He was a president who aimed at fulfilling his whims and fancies. In the process, he held the utmost contempt for established principles, using the President’s personal rights and emergency rights rather precariously. He had always played into the hands of the political fringe and always expected the fringe to play into his. This is certainly not what the American Presidency is all about.

That America is fully willing and prepared to maintain a prominent position in global politics is because the American public understood that they had been bluffed, and they made amends by refusing another term to a President who many have alleged was himself propped up by outside forces. Trump used Russia to come to power. He used China to tame a volcanic North Korea. His bromance with both China and North Korea ended on a sour note. That he faced serious diplomatic setbacks with China and North Korea. The United States of America under Trump attempted to reset ties with Russia, primarily based on the understanding that it is in the interest of the United States of America and Russia that they should ally against China.

Trump misunderstood the limits of America’s power. American power is not only about “policing”. American power is not limited to hard power only. American Soft power capabilities (in the form of cultural influences like McDonald’s and blue jeans, for instance) have played a major role in establishing America’s global hegemony.  And because he misunderstood this, he could not make America great again.

Supporters of the former President have often called Trump as the greatest POTUS till date. They hail the President for legitimizing white supremacy. As President, Trump fulfilled his promises one by one, legitimizing the voices of the fringe elements hitherto rightly ignored by previous Presidents. That he solved quite a few international problematic areas and reset American policies in Israel and the Gulf cannot be taken away from him.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump/ Image source: Getty

Statements made by Trump throughout his public life should have alarmed an illiberal liberal American society. Some statements are almost like a premonition to what his followers almost did after his defeat.  Take for instance this statement given to the Playboy Magazine in 1990:

“I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it’s literally going to cease to exist.”

His hypocrisy is exposed by another statement in the same issue –

“Well, if I ever ran for office, I’d do better as a Democrat than as a Republican – and that’s not because I’d be more liberal, because I’m conservative. But the working guy would elect me. He likes me. When I walk down the street, those cabbies start yelling out their windows.”

In an interview to MyFox New York in March 2015 he lied when he appropriated Ronald Reagan’s popular punch-line.  

The line of ‘Make America great again,’ the phrase, that was mine, I came up with it about a year ago, and I kept using it, and everybody’s using it, they are all loving it. I don’t know, I guess I should copyright it, maybe I have copyrighted it.”

These are two, out of a plethora of falsehoods and hypocritical statements by Trump which merit a separate opinion piece. The point which I drive home is that people should have known that Trump is both a hypocrite and a liar.

Trump is a sour loser too. In his head he realized quite early on that he may not succeed this time. However, he tried to put up a brave, stubborn face by alleging instead that the elections were stolen from him by the Democrats. He tried every trick in the book to ensure that he stayed on as the President. This is certainly not how the POTUS should be behaving in the first place. He certainly did not make America great again.

That the President has escaped impeachment the second time should not be seen as any vindication for Trumpism. The second impeachment was deemed unnecessary by many as Section 4 of Article II nowhere states that a President may be impeached even when out of office:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Nonetheless, the real power to punish a president lies with the people of the United States- they still have the ever available option of striking out a Presidential hopeful in the Primaries and then again in the Presidential Run-Off.  Notwithstanding his acquittal by the Senate, Trump will always go down in American history as a liar, a hypocrite, a sour loser and an incompetent President-a complete misfit for American politics any day. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Siddharth Khatri

Siddharth Khatri is a PhD Scholar at the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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