There is one week left till Donald Trump will be USA’s next president, taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017, in front of the powerful and famous in his land on The Mall in the park in front of the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington DC. The rest of us, at home and abroad, will watch the special event on TV, and there is certainly something very special about the inauguration of the superpower’s president – the banquets and ball parties that follow, irrespective of whether we support the incumbent’s political persuasion. There is a nimbus of power, wealth, glamour and more about the event, emotions that we logical and matter of fact people may not quite want to admit that we have in a world where democracy is meant to make us all equal and ordinary human beings.
In many European countries, and some other countries in the world, they still have the royals to help boost festive events like this, making the events more special and a bit surreal, too. In America, they have to make the president and his family special, not only close to royals, but maybe even above the royals, since the real power forms part of the president’s brief, something the royals have little of in our days. If the president has an attractive Hollywood-like wife and family members, that helps in creating that nimbus that we seem to like about the American president and the presidency. The incoming president Donald Trump has the right family, and maybe that will rub off on the man himself, since he lacks most of the refinement one would have wanted to make the fairytale more believable. I am sure the spin doctors and marketing specialists are busy finding ways of puffing up Trump’s image.
On second thought, though, maybe the ordinary characteristics in our leaders, presidents and others in high office, is exactly what we should expect to get in the democracies of our time, certainly when more populist leaders get elected, and we seem to be on that road now. Politicians will be ordinary people, or should we say, average people. We want them to be ordinary so that we can more easily relate to them, and at the same time, we also want them to be above average and say and do things that are daring and dramatic – like those leaders we had, or think we had, before.
To be honest, there are very few leaders in our time and in recent decades, who seem to have been extraordinary leaders. I could list some impressive ones, though, but even they are not faultless. Often, they may have grown into their role, being helped by events and issues that came on their agenda more or less by coincidence and not a working of their own. Leaders may sometimes have taken risks and gambles, and they may almost by luck have won the ‘battles’. But if other events, which they had little control over, had happened, they might have come out as political villains rather than heroes. Besides, most of the time if not always, politics is teamwork, with a president or prime minister almost just a figurehead. And that is much safer than letting individuals take decisions.
Heroic leaders are rarely or never really the semi-saints that our history books at school made us believe. They were not faultless and maybe not really central in the decisions that were made. They were usually, probably always, parts of teams that led up to the decisions that were made. Politicians also rely heavily on the civil servants, experts, interest organisations, and even ordinary people around them, to draw conclusions and make decisions. I suggest that more often than we think, big-headed and erratic politicians would not even be allowed to make decisions, or draw the final conclusion about essential matters on their own. They would be controlled by ‘the system’.
Sensible and deeper-thinking politicians would not like to make decisions without their advisers’ and experts’ considerations, their several alternative possible conclusions and the consequences of each of them. I also believe such politicians, or the teams and sub-teams around them, would listen to many politicians and leaders, including opponents, before finally ending up with what they would think was the best solution, even if that were not ideal.
Decisions are made based on considering many pros and cons, party manifestos, ideology, principles, and belief. Decisions may be good for certain groups, but not for others. If one thousand new jobs are created in one city, it means that other cities would not get those jobs and the advantages, and disadvantages, attached to them. It is important that we realise that no political decision is just good or bad.
When Donald Trump wants jobs to be created in America, not in China or Mexico, it is based on a set of interests that can benefit America. Yet, in a broader perspective, maybe the human needs would be greater for creating or keeping jobs elsewhere, in poorer countries than the world’s richest one. Besides, America’s wealth and success was and is based on exploitation of other countries; all wealthy countries want to keep their part of unfair trade, not fair trade. True, America and other rich countries are not only exploiting others, they also create wealth at home.
Let me state, too, that even America’s president is not the world’s president. He is only America’s president in spite of it being the only superpower of our time. The United Nations is cushioning the international system, including with development aid and monitoring or rules that are meant to be, or said to be, good for all. In actual fact, the UN may rather just help maintain the existing world order, which is good for America and the West, less so for developing countries.
This is the land, world, and political culture that Donald Trump will enter into. He won’t make any decisions alone, and his opinions in his tweets at four in the morning will be inconsequential, except for keeping the media busy and in the general public, making the president sounding like a common man. Decisions are made elsewhere, but cabinet members, experts and politicians, with the elected members of the Congress to play key roles. If the president could make most decisions alone, America couldn’t be termed a democracy.
In his impressive farewell speech in Chicago the day before yesterday, President Barack Obama said that the president’s role was having a moral leadership, placing key themes on the political and public agenda, for debate and eventually for decision, sometimes after a very long time, especially in social and cultural fields.
Donald Trump may not quite be seen as a traditional moral leader, yet, he will represent the Zeitgeist and many of the values, good and bad, in his country and beyond in our time. Obama had relatively limited success in making his beautiful visions for change into reality. Trump will experience the same – and good is that. We will chatter a lot, and many red herrings will swim in the sea of politics, diverting the politicians and public from talking about real issues. Internationally, I believe that Trump’s term might even be good. USA may meddle less in international affairs they have no business in; they may become more inward-looking and perhaps even improve life for many people who need better living conditions in the land.