It’s no easy job keeping up with the 45th presidency. Events occur in a perpetual whirlwind. Presently, the shock of President Trump’s decision to impose a 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent tariff on aluminium jostles for attention, in our 24-hour news cycle, with his decision to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ‘by May’. One explanation for all this, as I presaged back in December 2016, is that Donald J. Trump happens to be a revolutionary.
The term revolutionary is an anathema to many conservatives but maybe we need to re-think that. The memory of Madame Guillotine and her victims is, admittedly, a salutary one. That said, the concept of revolution – which might be defined as a popular revolt against oppression – has been clearly misappropriated by the Left. Take, for instance, Russia’s Year of Revolutions. Were not the democratic and patriotic liberals of February/March 1917 who led the overthrow of Tsarist autocracy the real revolutionaries of that year? Lenin and the Bolsheviks, in sharp contrast, turned out to be nothing more than a homicidal coterie of millenialist fantasists who snuffed out freedom. These fanatics reintroduced censorship and a bloodthirsty secret-police force, while dispensing with parliamentary democracy and independent unions.
Communists were not so much the ‘future of mankind’ as straightforward counter-revolutionaries. Joseph Stalin, after all, was no less a Red Tsar than Mao Zedong a Red Emperor.
President Trump’s ‘America First’ creed is revolutionary because it pits the forces of unreconstructed patriotism and economic nationalism (including domestic capitalists and their employees) against a well-connected Left Power Elite, characterised by the internationalism of Wall Street, the supra-nationalism of world-based corporations, the multilateral preferentialism of both Congress and the Managerial State, and the post-Americanism of the PC brigade. Hillary Clinton, notwithstanding her dreary showing on the political stump, represented a picture-perfect candidate for the anti-populist side of a nascent American civil war. She and her husband actually lived the globalist dream while she was the Secretary of State between 2009-13. The worldwide reach of the Clinton Foundation and Bill’s speaking engagements flourished during Hilary’s stay at the DOJ as never before – and never since.
The wealth of Team Clinton might only constitute some 2 per cent of Donald Trump’s reputed value, and yet that is mostly beside the point. The key difference between the two money-making enterprises is the source of their prosperity. Trump made his original fortune from American real estate and 23,000 (mostly) American workers. He is, despite the Italian suits, the private jet, the Scottish golf course and so on, essentially a local boy with blue-collar tastes, from American sports to American fast food. Gauche, for instance, is the only way his progressive and oh-so urbane detractors would describe Trump Tower’s Gold Room. The current incumbent of the White House seems to be a provincial-at-heart who has never appeared fussed if fellow Americans and, just as importantly, foreigners considered him a politically-incorrect vulgarian – so long as they deemed him a fabulously wealthy, politically-incorrect vulgarian.
On the other hand, the subtitle of Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash might go some way to explaining why the Clintons are less keen on walls (literal and metaphorical, economic and cultural) than bridges: ‘The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Make Bill and Hillary Rich.’ To be fair, Candidate Clinton began to take a tougher line on trade in the lead up to the 2016 election – ‘When countries break rules, we won’t hesitate to impose targeted tariffs’ – but a WikiLeaks exposé showed her heart wasn’t really in it: ‘My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders…’
It is an open question as to whether President Trump’s tariffs will spark an international trade war and usher a period of chaos into the world. It is no less certain that, at least in the short term, the American consumer will benefit from his newly installed tariffs, given that American businesses will pay higher prices for imported steel and aluminium. What Trump’s decision does mean, however, is that the America First creed continues to challenge the business-as-usual economic orthodoxy of the Republican Party, a development that does not sit well with a large number of GOP Congressmen, not to mention a majority of free-trade economists. Trump’s disparagement of Kim Jong-un as ‘Little Rocket Man’ played no better with those who uphold the orthodoxies of diplomatic protocol. Trump’s insistence that North Korea either denuclearise or find itself on a ‘suicide mission’ sent the professional peacekeepers into apoplexy. Declared UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in September 2017: ‘We must not sleepwalk our way into nuclear war.’
President Trump is a revolutionary because he’s prepared to endure the uncertainty that results from upending the status quo, be it calling out radical Islamic terrorism, securing the border, cancelling multilateral trade deals, slashing taxation rates, imposing tariffs or threatening to use overwhelming military force against an opportunistic rogue. Donald Trump may well be an agent of chaos but what is the alternative? A deindustrialised United States that in places looks like a set for a post-apocalyptic movie and cannot possibly provide gainful employment for blue-collar workers? A nation that longer competes with the economic, technological and military clout of an emboldened China, now ruled by the dictator-for-life Xi Jinping?
Back in August, 2017, President Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, offered up this unsolicited advice to President Trump: ‘History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.’ There are many things – to borrow from Antonio Guterres – that we must not sleepwalk into, and I would have thought a nuclear-armed Kim Jong-un might be one of them.
Subverting the status quo can be a risky business, but then a softly, softly or steady-as-she-goes mentality is not without its risks either. The theme of Donald Trump’s revolutionary America First doctrine is that the United States, the irreplaceable leader of the free world, should not be beholden to anyone or anything.
It sounds a little immodest – like Donald Trump himself – but I’m guessing it will turn out to be far less chaos-inducing that Barack Obama’s ‘We are the World’.
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