Axel Conradi

Let’s get this out of the way up front. Donald Trump is a sexist, a race baiter, a vile, repugnant, vulgar and mean-spirited man who demeans and attacks or sues all who disagree with him. He is a narcissist who thinks that only he has the answers to the nation’s ills some of which he has invented out of whole cloth. Yet.

He is the President-elect of the still free world and he won fair and square. He won because of the distemper of our times and the votes of millions of Americans who are by no means all like him. Forty-nine percent of college educated women voted for Trump.
Trump beat an intelligent, highly qualified but ethically challenged leader of a Democratic party out of touch with its blue collar base and unable to see that Americans want real change and are fed up with the machinations of Washington with its hordes of richly paid lobbyists and cash ready political donors. Hillary Clinton was the ultimate establishment candidate. Bernie Sanders might well have done better. He at least spoke clearly to some of the structural and democratic reforms needed in a great nation only just beginning to come to terms with a multi-polar world.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, America got drunk on its own success. It was not The End of History as Francis Fukuyama trumpeted in his book. The US blindly marched to war in Iraq, joined Europe and Canada in unseating Gadaffi in Libya and as the leader of NATO expanded its borders so far east as to alarm a wounded and resentful Russia. Starting with Bill Clinton, it deregulated its financial institutions who repaid the favour by giving us The Great Recession of 2009 with a strong assist from woefully regulated, heavily indebted and underfinanced European banks. The West is living with the consequences to this day, not least in the massive, destabilizing migration to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.
Throughout this sordid election campaign globalization was much blamed for America’s ills. The impact of technology was barely mentioned. I read recently that for every American job lost to freer trade fully eight are lost to technological change. The same would almost certainly hold true in most developed countries. I have also read that America is manufacturing more today than ever but is doing so with fewer jobs.
The nature of work is radically changing. The Digital Revolution is going to be every bit as disruptive as the Industrial Revolution. Just think driverless trucks and cars and how platforms like Airbnb and Uber are shaking things up. Electric cars have about one tenth the moving parts of a conventional one. Imagine what that will do for employment. Further down the road 3D printing promises to be even more earth-shaking. Creating new jobs to replace those lost will be challenging in the extreme. The uneducated or undereducated will be the first to suffer. In addition, global warming will dislocate more people and exact a great price. Our politicians and our democratic institutions will be tested as never before
So far the political response to such a tumultuous time has been underwhelming. Fear is being pumped up. Anger and lashing out are winning the day. Nigel Farage led the charge in the UK, Marine Le Pen in France. There are intolerant leaders at the helm of populist parties in other parts of the EU, Eastern Europe and Turkey. Many have authoritarian leanings. Putin is cheering them on hoping for a weakened and fractured Europe. An increasingly isolated Angela Merkel is desperately trying to hold it together
Mass migration, job markets roiled by unprecedented developments, growing populism rooted in blood and soil. Wars and revolutions have been fought over less. Add in a rearming former superpower, a touchy China flexing its muscles and an American public tired of its global responsibilities and the prognosis is not good. Meanwhile, sitting in the wings to assume the leadership of the free world is Donald Trump, quite possibly the least prepared President ever.
Still, I do not yet despair for America. Its people are resilient and innovative and a clear majority of them did not vote for Trump. The U.S. economy remains a powerhouse and its institutions are strong. There is much we do not know about how Trump will govern and what his policies are. Besides, Liberal contempt is not always right.
But fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

November 2016

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