Matt Frei is Leading Britain's Conversation.
10 November 2016, 12:26
David Mellor wonders if all around Trump Tower, people are asking one simple question this afternoon: "What do we do now?"
In the final moments of Robert Redford’s "The Candidate", a charismatic guy almost as “uniquely unqualified” as Donald Trump wins a surprise victory. He turns away from the cheering crowds, and hisses to his campaign manager, “Well what do we do now?”
A fly on the wall at Trump Tower might well be hearing a similar conversation. All yesterday people were asking me, what will Trump do? I couldn’t answer for one totally persuasive reason: I don’t suppose Trump even knows himself.
The problem is going to be turning Trump’s crude, populist language into actual policies, when he neither has a proper team with him, or a united party behind him.
The Good Book sayeth: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. And Mystic Mellor predicts, the Republican Party is about to prove God right.
Trump has real problems at home, and even more abroad.
At home his support is a mile wide, but only an inch thick. Trump voters know what they don’t like, but aren’t so sure about what they do like. For them, Trump was a bucket to spit into, to express their contempt for Washington.
Trump’s facile campaign promises to his blue collar constituency will return to haunt him. For instance, promising to make the United States a centre of manufacturing. In a world where China is no longer competitive in wage rates as a manufacturing centre, that can only be achieved by bearing down on blue collar wage packets. Is that what they voted for?
Trumpanomics makes Reaganomics, of blessed memory, look sophisticated. I mean, how can you massively increase government infrastructure spending, and still cut taxes?
It was said (wrongly in my view), of Reagan, “You could walk through his deepest thoughts and not get your feet wet”. But it’s certainly true of Trump, who made policy pronouncements as readily, and with as little intellectual effort, as most of us break wind.
Trump has other problems as well. He not only lacks the moral authority a leader should have, because of the way he has led his life, but he lacks real political authority as well.
After all, he didn’t actually win this election. He won because of the weird voting system, where the States, and the votes allocated to each State, finally decide. In fact he polled less (47.5%) than Clinton (47.7%).
Trump’s lack of real authority, or leadership credentials in politics, means his Presidency will be dogged by civil unrest. It’s already begun with thousands gathering outside Trump Tower last night. Indeed, he is perhaps the most hated and divisive President since Lincoln was re-elected in the middle of the Civil War. And we know what happened to him.
Abroad, ironically, the people who will do best out of this are us Brits. Trump kept talking about America’s Brexit. And he kept saying we were American’s staunchest ally, and would always be at the front of his queue. Put that in your fag and smoke it, Mr Juncker.
But elsewhere, his biggest fan Vladimir Putin – and Trump's election was greeted with widespread applause in the Duma – is now officially off the leash. With Nato under threat, what will Putin do? Even more pertinently what will he expect Trump to do in return for all that Russian money, that for some years now has backed Trump’s business activities. And what does he have on Trump, to make sure Trump stays in line? Murky stuff, my friends.
Then there’s that little ticking time bomb of another promise, so easily made, so hard to keep, and so potentially damaging in its consequences, to immediately impose a 45% tariff on Chinese imports.
Having a bust up with China in his first few weeks may not be his wisest move, when China under President Ji is more nationalist, and potentially aggressive than at any time since the demise of Mao.
Which brings me to that cunning plan to give the countries around North Korea nuclear weapons to take on Mr Kim. Another bit of verbiage, that slipped out so easily, but whose consequences are more dangerous to the world than anything any President has said in generations.
Probably Trump the deal maker supreme, will drop a lot of these causes as readily as he took them up. But, make no mistake, electing Donald Trump is the political equivalent of letting a teenage hooligan loose in the world’s biggest fireworks factory, with a suitcase full of matches.
Robert Redford would have been a far better bet.