By Vijay Darda | 14-11-2016
The American establishment and by its extension the rest of the world was preparing for an era where a woman would be the president of the oldest democracy. This was supposed to be a natural transition in a modern country that had elected a ‘black’ Barack Obama for two terms. There is a feeling of regret that this historic opportunity to make this big change has been lost. The pollsters and pundits were all predicting her victory, although the FBI announcement over fresh emails did dent Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. But on polling day she was still in the lead.
Well, the pundits can now chew on the reasons for Hillary’s defeat and the surprise win for Donald Trump who ran an utterly divisive and vitriolic campaign. In terms of lows, he touched two marks – one when he said that he would lock-up Clinton for the email scandal, and two when he said that he would accept the results only if he wins, otherwise he would maintain a suspense.
But now is the time to forget all those negatives and accept Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America. This is the people’s verdict, and never mind that it has been delivered by an electoral system, that Trump had described as ‘rigged’ during the campaign.
The entire world is waiting with bated breath as to what would be Trump’s stance on divisive issues that brought him electoral victory but have huge consequences for millions of people and can cause untold sufferings. For instance, during the campaign he promised to deport all illegal migrants. Now there are 11 million illegal migrants in America; will he fulfill that electoral promise at a huge cost in terms of human misery that will result due to deportation? Or will he soften his stance?
Then there is the issue of health care reforms, the spiking of the nuclear deal with Iran, the pronouncement that the entry of the Muslims would be banned, and of course the issue of prosecuting Hillary Clinton and locking her up in jail? Besides, there is the promise of building a wall along the border with Mexico and making Mexico pay for it.
Let us not forget that these are the promises which brought him to power and drew millions of Americans to vote for him. Although going back on electoral promises is nothing new for politicians, Trump’s USP in this election has been that as a complete outsider in the corridors of power he stood for a change in the way Washington works. In fact, he blamed career politicians like Hillary Clinton and others for all the woes of America and promised to change all that. The people believed in this promise.
Indeed, this high-pitched rhetoric that appeals to the sentiment of a large number of people has often been chosen as the route to power by politicians. They make such promises to woo voters, with the realisation that the voters also know that such radical moves cannot be implemented without causing costly disruption. This rhetoric is seen by the people as a proof of the politician’s desire to be different and unconventional.
In so far as these ‘hot button’ poll promises are concerned, in the short span of time that has passed since his election as president, his advisers and to some extent Trump himself have been suggesting that they have no intention of following up on some of the more radical moves. But the clarity on these issues would emerge only after January 20 when Trump takes over as president and his cabinet is in place.
From an Indian standpoint, a Trump presidency could see a further up-swing in the India-America strategic partnership as he tries to keep China in check. His strong stance against Islamic jihad should see that he reins in Pakistan. But the most important aspect of this relationship would be the convergence of ideas between president Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as both belong to the rightist spectrum. If Modi shared a personal chemistry with the outgoing president Obama, he would quickly develop an ideological affinity with president Trump. The Indian-origin Americans who campaigned vigorously for Trump would also act as catalysts in strengthening this bond.
This prevails notwithstanding, the view held by policy experts on both the sides that over the past decade beginning with president Clinton’s visit to India and the role he played in taming Pakistan over the Kargil episode, all presidents – Democrats (Obama) or Republicans (Bush), have built upon the progress that has been achieved by their predecessors. So, it is expected that a Trump presidency would also carry the momentum forward.
There are some concerns about Trump pronouncements regarding limiting of scrapping H1B visas that allow Indian professionals to go to work in America. This is in the context of his remark that described “Indians and Chinese as job stealers”. It is hoped that this was just a part of the campaign rhetoric as he also said that he would welcome Indian investors and students. Now investors do not come without the people who work for them. So, his policies would have to change.
The world expects a leadership role for America in almost every walk of life. Its idea of the sanctity of individual freedom and the rule of law coupled with its liberal ethos is a cherished ideal for the rest of the world. It is hoped that whatever be his campaign rhetoric, Donald Trump as president would live up to this ideal. He may have trashed women in his campaign, but he cannot afford to forget as president that women constitute an important segment of the society and have to be given their due.
The same holds true for immigrants. It cannot be forgotten that America is a country built by immigrants. It is the willingness and openness of the American society and its people to absorb and assimilate the immigrants that makes the country a melting pot of everything that is divisive. For someone elected on the promise of making America great again, Trump has to internalise these features into his presidency.
Before I conclude…
Laudable as the Modi sarkar’s move is to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in the attempt to end the menace of black money, it is also incumbent upon the government to ensure that common masses are not put to too much discomfort in the process of exchanging their old notes for the new ones. The first few days after the demonetisation have left much to be desired from the banking system, and it is hoped that this is just a temporary phase, and after a few days (not weeks) the normal system would be back.