Outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned that his country is in danger of becoming a “fact-free nation”. In his speech on Tuesday he also echoed growing concern over an expected shift in direction of American foreign policy under Donald Trump.
Over the past three weeks, the president-elect has made a series of dramatic claims without supplying any evidence. Countering data and fact-checks have done nothing to stem the flow of bluster.
Kerry knows full well that America after President Barack Obama will be a very different country. As the nation’s most-travelled secretary of state, he has assessed the position and power of America in the world and can sense the real danger presented by a US president who speaks without recourse to facts, in a desire to appeal to struggling blue-collar Americans. Kerry points out, for instance, that US economic growth and jobs are dependent on the 95 per cent of global consumers who live beyond America’s shores.
Trump, though, sees global trade as a villain “stealing” American jobs, and plans to secure his economic house by hiking taxes on imports and dismantling existing free-trade deals. If implemented those plans would indeed have a profound impact on the US economy. Given the stark global economic reality, Trump’s “America First” could well become “America Last”.
For the US to avoid that fate its next state secretary must match Kerry in terms of calibre. The politically amateurish characters currently being lined up for jobs in Trump’s administration do not meet that standard.
Perhaps the president-elect knows the potential dangers that lie ahead but prefers to coast on the emotional appeal of the America First slogan that helped carry him to power. Taking advantage of a degraded American political scene, Trump was able to say pretty much whatever he thought would get him elected. Since securing his victory, he has softened on some of those pledges. But his true colours have shone through in his appointment of new officials for his coming administration, which has proceeded like a game show.
Kerry is both pragmatic and optimistic about his country’s future. Citing America’s strong system of checks and balances, vigorous civil society and independent press, he has expressed optimism about his nation’s path. But the problem is, Trump does not fit the mould of previous US presidents. There is little sign he is guided by a strong morality or ideology, instead acting in line with self-defined interests. His presidency will mark a radical departure in American politics. When Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, the world hailed the ascension of the first black politician to the world’s most powerful office. His efforts towards social justice were swiftly acknowledged with a Nobel Peace Prize.
By contrast, the elevation of Trump has generated international concern his administration will ditch the ideals of multilateralism, democracy and freedom and usher in a harsher and more protectionist global scene.
The fear is that Americans have elected a demagogue. Cited as evidence of the nationalist fervour unleashed by Trump is the spike in “hate” crimes, with 876 cases recorded across America in the 10 days after the election. This is a bad sign indeed for the “melting pot” of the world, and the situation could worsen after Trump takes office in January, when extremists both inside and outside the country will look to prise open the divide even further.
Never before has an incoming American president stirred up such controversy and generated so many doomsday predictions. The world will be watching closely next month when Trump walks into the White House to become the most powerful leader in the world.
Published : December 01, 2016