Trump: Populism and Isolationism

Along with my fellow bloggers Noemi Lardizabale-Dado and Jane Uymatiao we watched the US Election at a viewing party hosted by the United States Embassy in Manila and it was an interesting experience. In a mock vote, Clinton beat Trump. However, By the time the viewing party it was clearly a Donald Trump win, much to the consternation of a number Filipinos at he back of us and as the news spread the congratulations came in and nearly all the stock market across the world plunged. So what does the near future hold with the ascent of the Trump Presidency?

Now for all intent and purposes Trump is a populist president a creature made possible by the years of neglect by the political elite. However, He is also an isolationist whose policy can be summarized in the phrase America and Americans first. So if Trump stays true to his campaign rhetoric what does this mean for us?

Will the outsourcing industry fold back into the United States? In the immediate time it will probably not. Such businesses are by forces stronger than Trump the company’s bottom line: The company will only leave when it no longer profitable for them to operate here — which means only two things they found a cheaper place to outsource or they have to make expense cuts.

As for trade treaties and agreements, Although Trump has made pronouncements about renegotiating or revoking them this will not happen immediately. It will take time and much effort to unravel all trade deals, treaties and obligations.  No, Trump will most likely focus on something easier to implement — domestic policy.  Two of the things Trump will most likely do is be more stricter in granting work visas and illegal aliens. Expect less employment and more deportations from the United States under President Trump.

Trump is an isolationist so one of the areas that will be significantly affected will be foreign affairs. The default mode of Trump will most likely to stay away from international conflicts. If the US does decide to join a coalition to resolve international conflicts it will not back roll and ask other coalition partners to contribute in the cost.  In the expected diminished presence or even absence of the US it will be interesting to see when (not if) the other super-powers — Russia, China, Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and India  — will fill in the void.

In Europe questions will arise: (I) The future of the European Union and NATO/OTAN; (ii) The fate of Ukraine and the other Baltic States; (iii) Will Great Britain play a large role in continental Europe or will it be truly an isle in the true sense of the word? (iv)Will their be a Franco-German Alliance against Russia? Will Europe close its doors on immigration?

What about the other parts in the world? (I) Will  the continent of Africa come under the influence of China? (ii) What will rise in the Middle East? I am almost a 100 percent sure that US will not leave the Middle East and its oil, unless the US learns to properly shift to oil from South America.Or improve the technology of fracking; (iii) As for the immediate neighbors of the USA — Canada and Latin American countries — will the relationship also change?

In East and South East Asia a sample pf the questions that haunt us includes (but not limited) to the following: (I) How will North Korea be handled? (ii) How will the South China Sea be handled? (iii) What role will China and Japan play in this? What about Russia? (iv) Will Asean be more than an economic alliance? (v) Will we see the rise of a Japan-Philippine Alliance?

Actually, This is are interesting scenarios but will Trump cause this? We know how strong a personality Trump has but will it survive the pressure from not only his supporters but also from the different groups and institutions The business groups; The Department of State; The Department of Defense; The political parties and a host of other groups.  How will Trump react to these groups and institutions? Again an interesting scenario.

A South East Asia without the US can you imagine it ? The more you look at it the more you see the wisdom and the timeliness of Duterte’s pursuit of a more dependent foreign policy. Without the US it has become more important to strengthen the Philippines economic , agriculture and military capabilities — army air force and of course the navy. The development of our naval and coast guard forces is vital given that we are an archipelago; a nation of islands similar to Great Britain. The time  to strengthen ourselves has arrived.

We have no choice but to accept that the United States, based on the result of the elections, will follow the path isolationism. It will almost immediately be felt by those working in the US and those illegally in the United States. When we accept this reality then and only then can we move forward.

Again all of this depends on how stubborn and how much Trump will be tempered by those around him. Those individual and groups

Anyway, Trump is but one of the series of leaders around the world whose ascension has stunned analyst and the media.  Our own Duterte is but one. In France Le Pen is showing to be a very strong consider and in Germany Merkel is going to fight her toughest election yet.

On hindsight, during the U.S, elections one storyline stood out and it is not the vehement fighting between the Clinton and Trump supporters but the stubborn resiliency of the Trump supporters who placed back again and again and again Trump signs on their lawns despite being destroyed or stolen. At one point  one Trump  supporter placed the Trump sign on an elevated platform surrounded by an electric fence.

Barring intervention, influence, external pressure or Deus Et Machina, and Trump stays true to form we will see the reboot of a post Woodrow Wilson isolationism. The United States after World War I entered a phase of isolationism under Coolidge, even not joining the League of Nations.  This isolationist policy started to erode with the onset of World War II despite the efforts of isolationists like Charles Lindbergh.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor shattered the remaining resistance to depart from isolationism.  So despite what the trend is now, down the road we might see an event or a build up of events that will again alter the stand of the United States.

In the meantime,  The Trump Presidency and its implications provides the Philippines a very strong reason to embark on a path of nation building. This means building a strong economy. A strong agriculture and a  strong defense/military capability. In other words it is an opportunity for the Philippines to grow and grow strong.


This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)