Analysis by Reporting San Diego
June 1, 2017 (San Diego) One of the critical errors made by many a pundit on television is to say that President Donald Trump has no political center. They have gone so far as to claim that he has no ideology. This mistake was also made by many of his opponents during the primary, who in some cases share elements of his ideology. It was also a mistake made by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton, and it is one reason it cost her the White House.
The president and those who believe in him are part of a core of right wing American nationalists, committed to the United States as myth. In this vision the country has lost its way, and has become a weaker nation. The ideology has many things in common with the America First of the 1930s, espoused by among others, Charles Lindbergh. This is a nationalist, inward looking, white and Christian belief system.
If you wonder why sections of the American right have become enamored with all things Vladimir Putin, it lies in this toxic ideology. Russia under Putin has gone through its own version of this after the fall of the Soviet Union. The country was in shambles and Putin looked at the past to restore the nation to its former glory. In the United States, this ideology has existed, just under the surface, for decades. It was, until the last 10 years, something most Americans were not aware of. At the policy level, none believed these reactionaries could take power. Neoliberalism and the economic consequences for the working class fueled the resentment that allowed this to ooze out from the shadows.
This is similar to the beliefs of the America First Committee and currently the White House. The first step is to return the country to the traditional values that once made it great. Among others, religion has a critical role to play. Not just any religion, but in the United States the white Christian Protestant faith. This is one reason for the Islamophobia that has infected the administration. It is not a calculated measure to please a political base. It is core to the ideology. It is not just Muslims that need to be removed from the body politic. Anybody who is not white or Christian is part of that other that needs removal. This is why Mexicans are also the other groups that so far are safe, are included, though in not open ways, yet.
This is also a form of nationalism. It is authoritarian, and it is dangerous. Unlike the 1930s America First Committee whose central tenet was to keep the United States out of World War 2, this version may get us into more wars, while at the same time it pulls us away from the rest of the world. It is a central contradiction of the ideology. It seeks withdrawal from the world, but at the same time to grow the military into the largest military force ever to exist.
It is critical to be able to look at how this prism affects foreign affairs. The way the America First followers looks at foreign affairs is primitive, simplistic, you could even say naive.
Multilateral agreements are fundamentally bad in this view of the world. So do multilateral organizations. They take away sovereign rights from the nation and our right to carve our own path. International affairs become a zero sum game.
Parts of the speech telling the world the United States is getting out of the Paris Climate Agreement were peppered by this sense of hurt, and victimhood.
As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.
Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund which is costing the United States a vast fortune.
Bilateral agreements are preferred, when necessary, by these nationalists. Which the president hinted at, but did not state in full.
Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord — (applause) — thank you, thank you — but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.
In this, we see clearly the belief that all transactions, all treaties, are transactional. All human relations, are seen through the prism of winners and losers. Why when Trump speaks of bad deals he always refers to multilateral agreements. Also, the ruthless world of construction works this way.
How damaging is this for the United States? Trump’s legacy is already set. At the very least this will be a diminished role in the world. The worst case scenario is that the United States not just needed leadership to China, but that we just became global pariahs.
The irony that his sincere intent to better the country is diminishing our role in the world, is truly an American tragedy. It is also a fine point that neither he or his followers will understand.