Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend a great housewarming party in Islamabad, with the rich and the wealthy, the educated and thinking, and others. It was a mix of people, mostly from Pakistan, at least looking Pakistani, but some had spent as much time abroad as at home, for education and holidays, and for business and travels. Many of these Pakistanis are as at home in Islamabad, Karachi or Lahore, as they are in London or New York. They are cosmopolitan and global citizens – at home everywhere, or nowhere.

The conversation quickly switched to contemporary issues, indeed the surprise outcome of the American presidential election. All had wanted Hillary Clinton to win. But two said they wanted to be positive about the ‘new situation’, though fearing the worst, yet hoping for the best. One was a mother of a young many studying in New York, and she seemed a bit worried about how he would be treated as a foreigner in the land, and what opinions and attitudes he would develop there. Her friend said she shouldn’t worry too much, because Donald Trump had already taken softer and more inclusive views on issues were he had been extreme and outrageous in the election campaign.

“Don’t you ever take a positive view to Trump”, said a third woman, a known Pakistani human rights activist. “We have a duty to analyse the world around us, and not be sleepy and dreamy”, she said, and then she added that it was well and good to be positive, and she also wanted to put on ‘rosy glasses’. “But the world is grey, misty and unpredictable. Let us not lull ourselves into believing anything else”, she said.

I agreed with all three, especially the last one. We must not see the world the as we wish it were; we must be realistic and see it the way it is.

Obama said that he was convinced that everyone who moves into the Oval Office would like to do well and make America, and the world, better. Yet, that statement is quite typical for the American level of political analysis; it is superficial and simplistic; it lacks any touch of definition of what we mean by ‘good’ – for whom, where, and when? With the myriad of first class social scientists, the politicians ought to be able to know more, and speak truthfully.

The Democratic Party presidential contestant, who gave in to Hillary Clinton, notably Bernie Sanders would be able to put words and make a simple analysis out of what I am saying. In Europe, most politicians, not only those on the left, would be able to make advanced social science analyses, not just talk about issues without being critical or methodical. In America, politicians love to talk about people rather than issues, encouraged by TV hosts, and they like to talk about personal friendships and common achievements by fellow politicians rather than what they actually stand for – and this sells in the private America media, hence, the journalists often surrender their real duty.

When President-elect Donald Trump and his candidate for Vice-President Mike Pence now work on composing their cabinet and find their candidates for many other key posts, I hope they go for moderate ones rather than some of the populist, eccentric and extreme cronies, in whose company Trump himself may actually look quite reasonable. They include Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor and businessman, Senator Chris Christie, and Senator Newt Gingrich. That Steve Bannon could be chosen for Chief Strategist and Senior Counsellor, is indeed worrying, considering his chequered background and hate statements on race, migration and other issues.

Many of the appointments are mainly important to Americans and to the country’s image in general. They would have little direct impact on the rest of the world. Some of the things that Trump said about foreign policy may actually promise well for the outside world, including our part of it. If NATO becomes less powerful, that would be good; if Russia and America (and Europe) develop normal relations, that would be good; if America reduces its international ‘control role’, that would be good. But all these things were coming even if Trump had not spoken about them.

Trump spoke about a lot of things, including many very questionable and half-baked ideas, such as what he said about reducing migration and building a wall towards Mexico (which would probably not help much in keeping illegal immigrants out anyway).

The media, politicians, social scientists and other opinion leaders focus on the election in America as if it were a ‘game changer’, the beginning of a new era in politics, and that Trump somehow saw what ordinary people wanted. There is only a grain of truth to that; it is far from an accurate and comprehensive analysis of the outcome of America’s election. Besides, Hillary Clinton, won the majority of the votes, not Trump, but was short-changed by the archaic electoral college system that will decide on the number of candidates for each party on December 19. In any other democratic country, Hillary would actually have been the winner.

I also believe that in USA, Europe and other countries, we hopefully realise, more than ever, that we need professional politicians, not demagogues and amateurs. True, politicians are often advised by technocrats and experts, and may feel they too should learn ‘everything’ themselves. That takes them away from focusing on being leaders, true politicians. But then to let the pendulum swing entirely to the other side and accept populist politicians, who are both ignorant and with little understanding for how our complicated world functions, that is ostrich politics, and it will not solve any country’s problems.

What about the women at the Saturday-party I quoted at the beginning of today’s article? Did they have important points? Yes, all of them did, especially the one who said we should not become too positive to Trump, almost feeling sorry for him, so we have to help him. At the same time, we should also stay optimistic and do what we can wherever we are, and that means participating in social and political forums in Pakistan, so that we get steady progress rather than interruptions through populists. Reality isn’t a ‘reality show’ on TV. It is much more serious, and it needs all of us to participate, not just watch and opine.

In America, I hope they have elected a president who actually wants to be president! He must indeed have been very surprised at the outcome; he faces a steep learning curve. Obama and many others can help him to moderate and define his views, and the Congress must wake up and play their role better as elected people’s representatives. It is they and the people around the American president that are important, more so than the man who will move into the White House on January 20, 2017.


The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience in research, diplomacy and development aid.