Tag Archives: Donald Trump

“Americanism not globalism”

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The unenlightened self-interest of Donald Trump

When you visit the magisterial Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC you can read not just the words of the 16th US President himself, but also buy copies of all the great speeches made there. Perhaps the most famous being Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech made in 1963. Donald Trump’s oratory in Cleveland Ohio last night, accepting the nomination for US President from the Republican Party (the Party of Abraham Lincoln), will be in many books about speeches – but perhaps not in the same section as you might find Lincoln or King.

Trump’s speech was no less effective than a King speech but its purpose was to divide not to unite. For whenever Trump talking about coming together and making America strong it was, implicitly or explicitly, at the expense of others – Mexicans, Muslims, and – one would assume from his one-sided take on recent violence in the US – African Americans too. For the rest of the world the message was also clear: American interests to come first. But of course, every US President must put their country’s interests at the heart of their policy, but this was not the “enlightened self interest” of Alexis de Tocqueville but a different variety – perhaps more the self interest of Donald Trump himself.

Some today have already compared his effect on the audience to that of European dictators of the 1930s who also rose through democratic systems (no names necessary here). I would not go so far perhaps, but parallels with Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan only take us so far: Trump goes beyond into deeper more visceral territory. That many of his claims are not supported by any facts apparently matters little at all to many of his supporters. We saw some of this in the recent Brexit debate in the UK. During a CNN interview broadcast globally shortly before the speech, Trump’s own campaign manager dismissed the FBI’s figures on falling crime rates, not by providing better figures but by questioning the integrity of the FBI itself. It is a Presidential campaign that has now started to attack the foundations of the US state itself – the police are “good”, federal agents are “bad”.

Such was the hatred directed towards Hilary Clinton that it is almost certain that her security detail will have been reviewed this morning. As we saw in the UK with the murder of one of our own politicians recently, shouting “Britain First” as he plunged the knife, “America First” will have its own looney and violent fringe that now feel increasingly legitimised.

So when Trump says “Americanism not Globalism” it is not really clear what he means – which seems to suit him fine. But it suggests less free trade, less solidarity with other nations and that a Trump administration will be less bothered by upholding international law. Trump’s comments on NATO have already sent shock waves amongst the NATO periphery from Kiev to Helsinki about what might be in store. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that something small and symbolic might happen even next month if Russia is barred from the Rio Olympics.

Trump’s “Americanism” also reminds me of another speech, one made by a head of state in Geneva in 1936 as his country was being bombed and invaded by Mussolini. Haile Selassie begged the League of Nations to uphold international law and save his small country from aggression and invasion. It fell on deaf ears. The USA was not even there to hear it, having never joined the very organisation that Woodrow Wilson had helped create as it retreated away from internal affairs for nearly two decades (1920s and 1930s). So far, Trump has done much to embolden America’s enemies and very little to keep either America or the World safe. The USA has played a very important role in maintaining the balance of power in Europe and East Asia. Trump’s “Americanism” might throw this all away.

Donald Trump: the joke is over

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Sometimes it is best to ignore bad things. A buffoon businessman, who makes silly remarks to enhance his (and yes it almost always a ‘his’) public profile. They exist everywhere. But we are right to be concerned when the buffoon decides to run for the nomination to be a candidate for President of the United States of America. And concern must shift into alarm when he decides to incite religious hatred and propose a discriminatory policy that is the anathema of the values upon which the USA is based. To advocate for an embargo on all Muslims entering the country is analogous to the kind of thing that a silly little Austrian man was banging on about in the 1920s – and many laughed at him then.

I don’t think anyone reading this commentary will be a Donald Trump supporter – so we might feel this is all obvious – best to go back to ignoring the clown. But I propose that his comments of last night have crossed the Rubicon. And more important, it is of all our responsibility to act, even if we are not Americans.

It is unlikely he will be selected as the Republican Presidential candidate but the impact of his remarks will outlive his presidential ambitions. The joker’s legacy will have been to legitimize religious hatred in the eyes of the world – one of the richest men in America, a TV star, part of the establishment. As with Marine Le Pen in France, “Daesh” (also known as ISIS or “Islamic State”) will be delighted – extremists feed off each other. Trump is not genocidal, but he is violating the norms of international law: the very discrimination that the US opposed in apartheid South Africa, Northern Ireland or during the country’s own Civil Rights movement. Has Trump never heard of Muhammad Ali (voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the millions of average Americans who read Sports Illustrated)?

So Trump has become not just America’s problem, he is now a problem for the whole world. We might never ever know the first victim of his rhetoric – the frontline of hatred against Muslims is often hidden from the cameras, it might be dark night at a Hungarian border crossing, a fishing village in Myanmar or in the woods of Republika Srpska. But Trump will have delighted Muslim-haters everywhere. The trial of the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Brevik reminds us all that we don’t have to be Muslim for our children to feel the wrath of Muslim-haters. Trump is another face of the new fascism that stains our world. If Trump was a devout Muslim instead of being a devout Christian, which he claims he is, Muslims would be asked everywhere to distance themselves from him. We do not ask Christians to apologise for Trump – and rightly so – but we should not ask Muslims to apologise for extremists that claim to follow their faith.

Any finally, although we might not live in the USA, it doesn’t mean that we cannot take a stand. Trump is a very rich man, and he loves his sports. He loves to buy sport and to associate with his peers. At a time when we are looking at how best to clean up Mega-Sporting Events, lets also make sure we are not tainted by the islamophobe. For those who love their golf, do not play at a Trump owned golf course, be it in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere. One of these, in Scotland, has frequently hosted the British Open Championship – so this is not an academic point. A muslim golf player at this event might feel about as welcome as Jesse Owens did in Berlin in 1936. If you are a sponsor, do not sponsor events held at these courses, do not supply the hotels, the bars and so on. If you are a golf fan, do not attend.

Trump has the right to play his hand in American politics – even if his campaign is now morally bankrupt. But business and sport are different. Not everyone has the right to own a business or a sports club – it requires a certain level of responsibility and due diligence. Trump the politician cares nothing of ethics, but ethics should be concerned about Trump the businessman. I note that one of the websites of a Trump owned Scottish golf course lists Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Rod Stewart and Jack Nicholson amongst the famous visitors. I suggest they might like to think again before visiting again and perhaps to have their names removed.

Sport is for all, even if the USA is not (according to some).