This week a whole nation was inaugurated into the unknown. We don’t know what Donald Trump will do once in the White House. But we do know how he got there. Everyone of good faith must hope that the new president will succeed in his promised aim of lifting up the left behind, which the political establishment he ousted could not do. Yet, anyone with the slightest sense of history must also worry how his path to power will define what he does with it.
The debasement of the democratic discourse introduced during Trump’s election campaign and since has already inflicted damage that cannot be easily undone. The level of xenophobic demonization of the world outside and enemies within, like his impulsive invective unleashed against even marginal critics, has been unprecedented for any presidential candidate in memory. Perhaps most dangerously, his effort to delegitimize any media, and even denigrate official intelligence agencies, that won’t play along with his fast and loose use of facts or distortion of reality aims to make all information suspect. In this Orwellian universe, truth then becomes only what the self-anointed tribune of the people, speaking on their behalf, declares it is.
Fortunately, the Trump electoral mandate fell far short of a majority in a country that has a more diverse and pluralistic civil society than other times and places (such as 20th century Europe) where demagogues have risen to power. Robust cultural resistance will be part and parcel of the Trump years. Whole swaths of the nation, even entire states like California, will stand up and push back. Several polls already show that there is more popular opposition than support for Trump as he enters office.
Outside the U.S., concerns abound over what the new president will do next. Angst is probably the greatest south of the border, in Mexico. In grappling with Trump, Sergio Muñoz Bata advises Mexico to look back to its proud history of standing up to the “colossus of the north.” James Zogby predicts that if Trump follows through on his promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it “would ignite a spark that would set the region aflame.” Writing from Australia, Helen Clark says the possibility of an American retreat from Asia and rising tensions in the South China Sea are putting the region on edge.
Nick Robins-Early interviews an independent Russian journalist who says Russian media coverage of Trump is so sympathetic, “it’s getting bizarre.” Peter Wittig, German ambassador to the U.S., asserts that we need a robust transatlantic alliance more than ever to counter terrorism, deal with Russia and create growth and jobs.
Within the U.S., Juan Escalante, an undocumented immigrant, lays out his emergency plan in case the Trump administration tries to deport his family. A Pakistani Muslim immigrant whose visa is up for renewal this summer, Mahira Tiwana tells us that despite feeling “other” in Trump’s America, she is not ready to give up on the “American dream” yet. Sina Toossi worries that Iranian-Americans will lose the voice they gained under Obama and that the Iran nuclear deal will be dismantled, worsening U.S. relations with Iran.
Richard Eskow addresses Americans who voted for Trump because they felt left behind, saying Trump will let them down and that then, the working class should create a “grand alliance,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advocated. Filmmaker Ethan Coen pens a Dr. Seuss-style poem about Trump, saying, “He’ll change some people used to say / Calm down after Election Day / But Putin and the KKK knew / Trumpet always be that way.”
Jon Deutsch suggests the plus side of a Trump presidency could be the disruption of a political system that is long overdue for reform. Ivan Eland argues the U.S. intelligence community ― comprised of 17 huge agencies that don’t communicate effectively ― needs a shake-up, and Trump― who criticized intelligence officials after the release of reports about Russians hacking the election ― may make it happen. Howard Fineman reflects on Obama’s legacy, maintaining that his presidency worked “moderately well in domestic affairs, less well in the world … is likely to be regarded more as transitional than transformative … and … feels oddly more like the end of an era than the beginning of the one he promised.”
As Obama and his world order said goodbye, this week also saw China’s President Xi Jinping looking to fill a global power gap. Xi became the first Chinese president to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, and he gave a speech with strong messages on globalization and climate change. Jane Cai and Frank Tang responded to his presence at the summit, writing, “With choking smog, a weakening currency and a widening wealth gap at home and a fragmented global capitalist system abroad, President Xi Jinping is determined to take advantage of an elite forum to assure the world that China is doing fine and is ready to help pull the world together.” From Beijing, Akshay Shah and Carole Bernard paint another picture, sharing charts they made using new data that show warning signs that China could be headed for a financial crisis.
In a WorldPost feature, Danielle Mackey reports from San Salvador that a U.S. program meant to help Central American refugees is leaving most in danger. Saskia Sassen contends global firms and local elites who take land from farmers are partly to blame for skyrocketing violence in Central America. Edward Alden explains why, if Trump wants good jobs and investment, he needs to shape rules for foreign investment competition to avoid a race to the bottom in wage, consumer and environmental standards. From Helsinki, Heikki Hiilamo explores the potential of Finland’s new program testing out basic income for unemployed citizens. “As the world begins to see the impacts of globalized society with the elections of new leaders ― including Mr. Trump ―” he writes, “the answer to the fears of declining economies may just be a basic income system.”
Finally, our Singularity series this week looks at how cellular reprogramming boosted the lifespan of mice by 30 percent.
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