‘Their Triumphs Have Not Been Your Triumphs’: Trumpism and the Global Revolt

27.01.2017

An entirely unexpected dimension of Trumpism may begin to unfold, which has received scant coverage to date – namely, the formation of a kind of “Trumpist International” in Europe and around the world to promote a more or less unified “redneck value” program for global revolt. The global revolt would have its global leader. Not in some obscure place, but in the White House. As a result, the West and the entire world may be reshaped to fit the Trumpist mold. Leon Trotsky would have called that a global revolution.

“Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another − but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People. For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished − but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered − but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes − starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”

This lengthy quote sounds like it could have been uttered by a boisterous revolutionary, such as Fidel Castro, had communist Cuba taken over Washington. Or if Leon Trotsky, who was in the United States exactly one hundred years ago in early 1917, had staged a Marxist revolution there. Or if, in a strange confluence of circumstances, a candidate from the US Communist Party in its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s had won the presidency. None of that happened, and yet there’s not a bit of historical fiction in this quote. It is absolutely real. It is from the inaugural address by new President of the United States Donald Trump on January 20, 2017.

America has never heard anything like that in an inaugural address by a president. It was met with shock and criticism. One of the most common (and perhaps the mildest) descriptions of this speech was "populist," which can also be seen from a selection of opinions expressed by the Valdai Club’s leading experts which was posted on the Valdai Club website shortly after this speech.

No matter what you think about the ideology underlying Trump’s speech, the US and global politics are clearly undergoing major changes. The fact that Trump is effectively doing what he promised during his campaign can be seen from the very first days of his presidency. This includes the United States pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, starting to dismantle Obamacare, and saying at the CIA headquarters that the majority of its employees voted for him, which got a round of applause. All this goes to show that the “redneck revolution” holds much more power than a mere electoral strategy and has become overnight the official ideology of the new president, and that “redneck values” will determine Donald Trump’s real politics. How these “redneck values” exist side-by-side with his billions of dollars is a separate issue.

Is that populism? Of course, it is. But it is a natural kind of populism that arguably represents a long-awaited response to the growing alienation of the establishment from broad sections of society not only in the United States, but also many other countries that are part of the “golden billion.”

The “global revolt” discussed as a research concept at Valdai Club’s recent meeting in October 2016 is becoming a reality. But why?

For one, the dramatic aggravation of conflicts across the world (as well as the escalation of information warfare) since 2014 has gone hand in hand with a profound internal sociopolitical transformation in Western countries. The growing mistrust in society of mainstream political elites and the same old establishment at the helm of the country for many years has led to open protests. The dissatisfaction of citizens with their elites in the West manifested itself earlier in anti-globalist movements, such as Occupy Wall Street and similar protest movements in the EU. These protests gained the greatest popular support in Greece, where a revolutionary situation has, in fact, taken shape. However, changes in the world after 2014 sharply exacerbated these issues. Rejecting the existing foreign policy rules led to an unprecedented increase in information and media pressure from Western elites on their respective societies. Often, the inability to effectively address the internal security challenges in Western countries, such as migrants, terrorism and racial stratification in the United States (Ferguson), was due solely to external factors. All that has led to a situation where, in 2016, we saw a growing rift between society and government in the United States and the EU.

This resulted in large-scale popular protests that took elites completely by surprise (the UK voting for Brexit, Trump’s victory, and the outcome of referendums in the Netherlands, Hungary and Italy, to name a few). Thus, the conflict between the government and society in the West has entered a fundamentally new phase. As a result, as President Putin mentioned in his remarks at the Valdai Club meeting held in the autumn of 2016, the contradictions between “globalization of the elites,” “globalization for the benefit of the chosen ones” and the growing demands for “globalization for everyone” have resulted in what can be referred to as the “global revolt” of citizens. This “global revolt” was a recurring motif of global politics in 2016. It started a process of a major and long-term internal transformation of the West, which, of course, will also have significant implications for the rest of the world.

Trump’s bombastic inaugural speech and his first steps as president of the United States took this global revolt above and beyond the marginalized "redneck" strata and, in an ironic turn of events, this revolt has received support from the world’s most powerful political leader – the US president. Therefore, it is not an overstatement to talk about a qualitative change in the global revolt today, which quite possibly could become a formidable power structure. Clearly, there has been more than one protest leader from outside the system coming to power and radically changing (or trying to change) the situation in their respective countries and their relations with the world. To cite a few recent examples, there has been (despite ideological differences) Lula da Silva in Brazil and Alexis Tsipras in Greece. Of course, these examples are nothing compared to what’s going on in the United States.

The fact that the "redneck revolt" won in America will, of course, be reflected in US domestic policy, but it will likely be particularly important for global politics. Clearly, to be successful in achieving his stated objectives, Donald Trump will need partners in other countries who share his priorities and also rely in their respective countries on “redneck values” and promote them. Let’s take Russia off the table for a moment and talk about traditional US allies in Europe. Clearly, almost all current EU leaders profess an ideology and values ​​that differ sharply from those of Trump. They are unlikely to entertain "redneck values."

Therefore, it is easy to assume that the first talks between Trump and the EU leaders and heads of the leading European countries will be fairly complex. Quite possibly, the latter will urge Trump to rethink and abandon much of his election platform in order to preserve the status quo. Also, it is quite possible that this pressure may annoy Trump and push him to start looking for another foothold in Europe. And this is the critical moment: Trump may decide to start promoting “redneck values” in Europe in defiance of the old mainstream establishment and supporting corresponding political groups. Thus, an entirely unexpected dimension of Trumpism may begin to unfold, which has received scant coverage to date – namely, the formation of a kind of “Trumpist International” in Europe and around the world to promote a more or less unified “redneck value” program for global revolt. The global revolt would have its global leader. Not in some obscure place, but in the White House. As a result, the West and the entire world may be reshaped to fit the Trumpist mold. Leon Trotsky would have called that a global revolution.

Of course, this scenario is mostly fiction. But didn’t Trump's victory seem an unlikely proposition just a few months ago?

Notably, leaders of the European right-wing nationalist parties quickly embraced these new horizons of Trumpism and saw the opportunities presented. Right-wing parties from five EU founding countries (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands) met in Koblenz, Germany, a couple of weeks ago to seriously discuss the potential of this new “Trumpist International” in Europe. Of course, Trump’s support (if any is forthcoming) will greatly improve these parties’ odds in their struggle for power in their respective countries. The defeat of the old establishment in the United States may set in motion a powerful domino effect that could sweep away the mainstream European political elite one after the other. We are already seeing the first signs of that in Francois Fillon’s victory in the primaries in France, and the failure of Matteo Renzi’s program in a referendum in Italy, to name a few.

We have seen how the inaugural address and the first days of Trump’s presidency have opened new global horizons for Trumpism. They can turn the “redneck values” of Trumpism into an ideology of global revolt. Of course, this trend seriously scares the old elites of the West. This was openly stated at the recently held World Economic Forum in Davos. The fight will be brutal and fierce.

Finally, where’s Russia’s place in this setup? I believe it’s right beside Trump.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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