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Foreign Policy

Trump’s March to the White House

Nov 15 , 2016
Despite Trump’s lack of “qualification” to be the US president, he has been elected as America’s command-in-chief. The market was initially shocked but has quickly returned to business as usual.
There must be some reasons why this seemingly erratic business tycoon would be elected. These are clues to the answer – the Democrats’ out of touch of the grassroots, Hillary Clinton’s obvious failing, and most importantly, Donald Trump’s own compelling though controversial campaign rhetoric. Actually, some of Trump’s remarks are quite attractive.
First, the public’s dissatisfaction of the Obama administration is much deeper than commonly expected. Though the unemployment rate has been smoothed at the time when President Obama will soon step down compared with when he was sworn in, the average family income has long been contained. The cost of Obama’s social programs such as medical reform, has forced him to push through more tax on the rich, and even the middle class sees less income after taxes. The obvious resentment has caused a backlash ever since Obama became president, as evidenced by the Democrats’ losing control of both chambers of the Congress over time and, by the complete success of the Republicans to retain control of both the executive branch and the legislature in this election.
As a comparison, Trump’s promise to cut taxes and abolish Obamacare has earned him increasing support. In his Gettysburg speech right before the election, he vowed to simplify the taxation system and lower the highest-level tax from 39% to some 35% must have been welcomed by the middle class as well as the rich.
The immigration and Muslim issues are the other two controversial matters between Trump and his rival. These issues have much to do with public perspective on jobs and national security, especially when many jobs have been taken by illegal immigrants.
Trump’s initial remarks to repatriate all illegal immigrants and disallow all entry for Muslims as security threats were widely viewed as politically incorrect. However, his modification of such remarks has worked. At late stage of his campaign, Trump has shown tolerance of illegal immigrants and only threatened to repatriate them if they were to commit new illegal acts after illegally entering the US. On Muslims’ entering the US, he has later demanded to have a better security background check before allowing them in. Such moderation of positions seemed to lift his chances to be accepted.
Second, Hillary Clinton’s own failings have much helped Trump. Given his insult on veterans, minority and women, Trump would have no chance under normal circumstances. However, Clinton has been persistently haunted by scandals such as her handling of email and interaction with the Clinton Foundation. Her insistence to communicate through private server has made national security vulnerable.
Despite her claim that her emails from private server were irrelevant to national security, the FBI investigation has pointed out otherwise – hundreds of them are virtually at the level to be classified. Given her lack of ability to judge, her deletion of some 30,000 emails before the FBI investigation has invited infinite suspicion. Even if she has lost the election, this “email-gate” could linger as an issue.
Third, Trump’s “controversial” rhetoric is not all nonsense. For instance, he has called to impose terms of service on the members of the Congress, and doesn’t allow the White House officials and members of the Congress to lobby within five years after leaving office. Such commitment to reform shall invite popular support.
Some brand Trump as anti-globalization. This may be untrue. In terms of trade, Trump may be anti-regionalization or ala carte regionalization, as he is against NAFTA and TPP, but it is hard to term that as anti-globalization, since he doesn’t seem to be opposed to WTO. It can be predicted that like his predecessors, he would first resort to WTO arbitration in Geneva, before imposing any punitive tariffs on Chinese exports to America.
Understanding Trump and his success doesn’t justify his improper view such as threatening to withdraw GIs from Japan and ROK. Such unthoughtful policy, if implemented, could lead to unpredictable adverse consequences. Other erroneous ideas such as rejecting climate change are neither scientific nor constructive. Last but not least, Trump has much to do to reconcile his relations with those traditional Republicans, and to heal the divide that was exacerbated by this election.
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