The 45th President of the USA Donald J Trump is in office for more than 500 days of a four-year term, and still many in and outside the USA remain upstaged, angered and literally shaken by him. Not a week has gone by without him being in the news for some act and form of controversy, unorthodoxy, unilateral defiance and breaking with all conventions that define politics as a trade. That understanding of politics as a trade of win-win is not just limited to the internal USA community but from the start included the globe. Trump gave us what we came to accept as twitter- diplomacy where he prefers this medium as the appropriate and official means to share USA policy in day to day running commentary on a variety of topics. Trump’s nationalistic politics and praxis from the start ventured where his predecessors feared to tread, For Donald Trump its always about the grandiose.
USA President Trump has arrived in Singapore and will in a few hours shake hands and sit down with Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, in what remains a historic moment. While the meeting at a fundamental level remains very personal for both Trump and Jong-un, it is clear the latter has the better control hours before the event. We have all opined as to how Trump is really trumped by the manoeuvring of a Jong-un who clearly has thus far gained much more at personal, regional and global levels.
There is a further consensus that both Jong-un and Trump’s appreciation for what denuclearization means remains miles apart and in the final analysis that’s what will matter if the meeting will continue or see Trump get up and walk away as he so often has warned. We can only guess how this proverbial cookie may finally crumble, and we certainly have ample time to engage that in the aftermath. We learned that Trump’s hard-line position with the G7 is also a means to show he is not weak as he gets to sit down with Jong-un.
Beyond the theatrics and ego-tripping of both Trump and Jong-un, a more pertinent question remains, is the problem with Trump or with those who only know a traditional setting of world politics understood in what is termed conventions? By the same token will the USA and the globe ever get used to the politics, diplomacy and the communication style of Trump? Why do the rest of the world continue to hold the hope that the known conventions they have hitherto upheld will somehow become respected by Trump? There is the general consensus that Trump in every sense of the word is the antithesis of what diplomacy in the last 70 years have come to mean.
At national USA level, Trump has succeeded to blur if not obliterate decades of red and blue politics. Politics understood in frames of liberal and conservative. This, decades-long distinction real or imagined is now bull-dozed in more than blurred lines with Trump’s graphic signature all over it. He has thus cast a new frame of what politics may look like in the future? Trump the Republican President’s behaviour left the decorated Senator McCain so disturbed that he retaliated in his own tweet with the words: “Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.” One is not sure when before a senator had to reassure the USA allies that America supports them, despite its president.
Not only did Trump manage to blur red and blue internal politics, but he also has left long-standing allies befuddled and visibly annoyed with his redrawing of global politics and economics often in knee-jerk practice of politics and diplomacy. After withdrawing the USA from the long-crafted Iran deal, with threats to the very allies should they continue to support the Iran deal, he threw the world into turmoil and caused much anxiety as he singularly attempted to recast the Middle East politics when he pushed ahead to move the USA embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump’s recent attending of the G7 meeting in Canada remains his latest upstaging of these long-standing allies. Not only did he arrived late and left earlier, but he is now in open hostile war of words with the USA’s closest trade partner immanent in the Canadian Prime Minister. The background for this, Trump before leaving the G7 Gathering, endorsed the joint statement of the G7, then in a fit of rage over the presser of Prime Minister Tredaux went on his usual tirade and reneged on what he committed to and instructed his officials not to endorse the joint statement.
Trump dropped two bombshells one en-route to the G7 summit, and one at the summit. Firstly, he openly called for the reinstating of Russia as a member of what was the G8. When Trump did this he again defied the standard practice of this body which upholds a code of private lobbying before public statements are issued. Trump had shown little respect for this subculture and practice. Secondly, Trump, threw down the gauntlet when he proposed a free trade with no tariffs, no barriers and no subsidies. Those who know say this is too simplistic and devoid of the hidden details of practicality. In Trump’s prism, if a trade is not reciprocal it can only mean “fool trade”. Clearly, the G7 is not ready for this and do not know what it means in a space where all these members in their own way seek to score from tariffs barriers and subsidies.
Day after day Trump continues to send tremors of shock that reverberates on both national and global scales. Yet, the expectation for Trump to be un-Trump equally remains. It is perhaps time to ask why is Trump continuing to shock the world? Is it the reluctance on the part of the world to accept that the world has changed by this one man? Could it be that the world has come to accept its practice of global politics as the accepted standard and is not ready to move on to embrace a new dispensation? Is it possible that the world still holds the hope that the 45th USA president will come around and adjust into their frame of world engagement, politics and diplomacy? If so why does the world continue to believe this about Trump?
Trump, after all, is consistent for having acted in this unpredictable and unorthodox fashion. He forewarned us that he was not going to be what was so far seen in USA presidencies. The USA voters knew exactly who they voted into power to occupy the White House and lead them. Trump has consistently focussed on his constituency at a local level, in his prism and reality, these ultimately constitute those he remains answerable to since they voted him into power. Expecting Trump to be a USA president is perhaps an erroneous expectation, he simply will not cross the proverbial railway line to become a USA president and fit the mould. He is and remains a president of those who voted him into power and his unpredictability remains his functional currency and relevance.
Is it perhaps here that the world continues to miss it because when it continues to be disappointed by Trump it is because it somehow has the hope that Trump can live up to the expectation of being other than the existential Trump.
Has Trump in his own way, therefore, shifted to a paradigm that the world is not ready to accept? Is he redefining what we came to know as the USA and global politics? Do we continue to blame Trump, or are we not responsible for our own disappointment, since we continue to hope Trump will wake up one morning and act in line with what we have come to define as matured, moderate, sensible politics informed by a frame of diplomacy we had until now come to share as the standard?
The Singapore summit between Trump and Jong-un will come and go, and nothing significant as it relates to denuclearization may be attained, yet the expectation to have a Trump fit into the conventional paradigms of global politics, diplomacy and ally-thinking will continue to occupy our global conscience for much longer so it appears.
Political Commentator and Writer