The unthinkable has happened: Trump has been elected the next president of the United States.
The Americans have chosen as the leader of the most powerful country in the world a pathologically lying, narcissistic, bigoted, racist, mentally unstable, unhinged reality TV star who has boasted of assaulting women; who would kill the innocent family members of terrorists; who thinks global nuclear proliferation is a great thing; who has insulted women, Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, veterans, people with disabilities, journalists and the parents of a dead soldier; who is the first president-elect not to have released his tax returns in forty years; who is the first to take over the White House with over thousands of lawsuits and dozens of bankruptcies under his belt; and who is the first to declare he would not accept the results of the election unless it went his way.
Americans, you deserve what you got. He said he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, New York, in broad daylight, and you would still vote for him. He obviously knew his people better than we did. But the rest of world, which is in shock and awe, should not feel smug. What a Trump presidency does will affect us all. There are two ways to view the coming apocalypse: an optimistic one and a pessimistic one.
The optimistic scenario is to imagine that Trump is just another fraud and con man who has preyed on the gullible, ‘low-information’ voters of the US, and now that he is taking charge of the levers of power, he will, in cahoots with the Republican-controlled Congress, try to feather his nest by using the power of the presidency to enlarge his family empire, while allowing the same Republican establishment/elites that he railed against during the campaign to run the country in the interests of the ‘one per cent’, while destroying the Democratic machine by coming up with new ideas of voter repression nationwide, and while stacking the Supreme Court with Justices who will empower the super wealthy and take away the rights of women and other minorities.
Under this scenario, the main victims are American women and people of colour. The rest of the world can breathe a sigh of relief.
The pessimistic scenario, however, is one in which Trump, in fact, is hell bent on pursuing the fascist agenda that he announced with his entry into the campaign, and which created his core base of white supremacists and the extreme right. It is this core of white racists and bigots that Trump lured out of the shadows and brought into the mainstream of American politics. He ignores them at his peril.
If theirs is his agenda, he will forcibly deport millions of people, build an expensive wall along the border with Mexico that the American taxpayer will have to finance, start trade wars with China, dismantle existing trade agreements, and maybe even withdraw from the World Trade Organization.
This will create economic havoc in the US and across the world (the present situation is creepily reminiscent of Germany in the 1920s and 30s, where Hitler was originally dismissed as a pathetic clown by the elites who totally underestimated the appeal of an authoritarian megalomaniac – ‘I alone can fix it’ – to masses of ignorant people with a burning sense of economic grievance).
Trump, faced with economic chaos of his own making, will find a scapegoat, as Hitler did with the Jews, and will turn his white supremacist supporters against people of colour within the US. The next step, as Hitler discovered in his ‘Make Germany Great Again’ campaign, is to wage war, including nuclear weapons, against any country that does not unequivocally support Trump.
And, of course, Trump’s victory will empower other authoritarian ‘populists’ across the world. Watch and see how they come out of the shadows and multiply.
I do not know which scenario will prevail. If I were younger, I would be building a fall-out shelter up here in St John. However, I will tend my garden and wait peacefully in my old age for the end times.
But trust me, Barbados will not remain unscathed from the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. So don’t make any long term plans, keep your head down, and mind your own business.
(Dr Peter Laurie is a former Barbados ambassador to the United States, retired permanent secretary and head of the Foreign Service)