The Trump Presidency (1)


Johan Galtung - from Washington DC, 9 Nov 2016 – TRANSCEND Media Service

The 45th President of the USA, Donald Trump, delivered a highly presidential acceptance speech.  The words chosen, how he spoke them, his body language, all belied the idea that he could not be presidential.  How good a president, remains to be seen.

What matters now in his concrete action coming January. For instance, will he do as he promised, cancel out-sourcing, “trading” of industries to Mexico and “in-sourcing” them back to the USA, to recreate jobs for US workers?

However, the media are still too anti-Trump to realize he is their President, maybe hoping for some reversal.  Also too struck by how wrong all the polls have been predicting an easy Hillary victory. They will probably go on with that for a long time.

I do not think there was any objective basis for predicting a Trump victory. Clinton had all criteria in her favor: president’s wife with influence, secretary of state, senator etc. Trump: not even office.

But Clinton’s criteria were elitist and status quo, Trump’s smacked of populism and basic change. The wind was blowing toward populism, which is, actually, what democracy is about, catering to the people.

And vast categories had suffered what the Greeks call a-timia, the loss of status, white-male-workers-Americans.  5-2 in favor of Trump. And the rust belt, the big mid-Western de-industrializing states, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Trump catered to their interests in revival, indeed also in hitting their negations in very unacceptable ways: women, colored, elites, immigrants.

But all of that does not a victory make.  There is more to it.

Some idea of a “normal American”, in a “normal America”.  Say Spain, that idea brought Franco to power.  Answer: we do not know. We need more information. But a revolution it was.

Be that as it may.  Much more important: his concrete actions.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Nov 2016.

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4 Responses to “The Trump Presidency (1)”

  1. Gary Corseri says:

    Thank you for this excellent analysis (and provocative questioning!), Professor Galtung.

    As I wrote a new Indian-poet-friend, “I generally feel good about the election, but, I’m sleeping with one eye open!”

    There are many imponderables. We used to have a saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” In this election, many Americans turned that around!

    There’s a lot of noise on the Left and the Right now! There’s been a lot of morphing in recent years! Neo-liberals have become Neo-cons, etc. (Paul Craig Roberts often writes about such!) People on all sides of our many divides are arming! That’s a large part of the problem here! Not about white vs. blacks, but definitely about huge demographic changes! A large part of our “migrant” crisis–and Europe’s–has to do with forced changes that undermine the white working classes! We are a Police State, there have been policies of police repression, but there have been ambushes of cops taking place, too. (I had Sicilian cousins who were cops! Not all cops are evil!) We are approaching Anarchy nationwide, and the old definitions need a lot of re-thinking. Worldwide population growth has been a major factor in our current miseries, but few want to admit this since the major religions all encourage more and more births so that their constituents can outnumber the others’. Dividing among conventional lines here won’t solve anything, can only make matters much worse. We need a Global Vision! And we need a Peaceful way to get there!

    The major question now is: “How do we talk to the Other? What language can we use?” Buddhists have wondered about this since Gautama’s time!

    I taught in prisons for years. Not educated people. Black and white. They had done some terrible things. But, they wanted to learn. They were more eager to learn than many of the students I taught in universities. And I learned from them…. Back in the 1970s, noted poet Adrienne Rich wrote a fine book, “The Dream of a Common Language. What is the “common language” of humanity? How do we talk to each other, lead ourselves and others out of the Babel and out of the Wilderness of fears, misperceptions, illusions and delusions? We had better find that common language or we shall contaminate the world!

  2. hans beukes says:

    Donald Trump as the World’s Bogeyman

    The front- to backpage wrap with which last Thursday’s (Nov.10) Aftenposten – Oslo’s premier newspaper – hit the stands, provides an idea as to the hysteria which the election of the 45th US president has unleashed in the Scandinavian media.
    The frontpage is taken up by a globe in the shape of Trump’s contorted image uttering a growl as might be heard throughout the universe in the background.
    A cri de cour from political editor Harald Stanghelle is all there is to read on the first page, “We are afraid now. That we have all grounds for – noww that the world is becoming unhinged”
    The backpage carries an oracle in similar vein, with Jonas Gahr Støre, the leader of the Labour Party and the country’s putative Prime Minister in waiting as medium. To wit: “It is no longer a matter merely of fear propaganda to compare our time with that of the inter-war years”.
    (This incidentally from a politician who supported France’s putsch in The Ivory Coast that left thousands of Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters and family members dead, to have Gbagbo kept in limbo at a thoroughly compromised ICC, and who as Foreign Minister supported his PM and now NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg’s decision to heed Hillary Clinton’s call for help to destroy Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime…)
    Arriving in Gothenburg on Friday for a weekend visit at a friend’s, I saw Svenska Dagblad (SvD) with a similar heading on the debate page: “We have reason to be afraid”, with the following underlines: “If you aren’t disturbed, frankly afraid, mabe you ought to be”. The writer is identified as Professor Staffan I Lindberg, who warns his readers about the possibility of democratic countries descending into dictatorships. Stockholm’s premier newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, has been carrying reams of articles with the word fear in the headings.
    The cause of all their fear? While the Swede points to the apparent affinity of the movement unleashed by Trump, with the growth of rightist parties in Europe, including in Sweden and in Russia, the Norwegians evidently fear that Donald Trump might reach out to Vladimir Putin, who is now demonised beyond redemption in this country as well.
    Clearly in anticipation of a Trump victory and presumably to make the anti-Russian policy irreversable, the US Defense Secretary (an avowed advocate of regime change in Russia) turned up here some weeks ago to sign an agreement with a compliant Norwegian counterpart for the stationing of 300 US soldiers in Mid-Norway– an eventuality the Norwegians had been resisting since the Second World War, keeping their allies at arms length from their bilateral relations with the Soviets/Russians. This had made it possible for them to work out mutually beneficial arrangements and cooperation with their neighbour in the Arctic region – to the extent of coming to an amical agreement about how to divide a contested region offshore.
    In response to the overt demonstration of bellicosity towards them, the Russians last week made it known that for the first time ever, they were now targeting “the poor Norwegians” with their “strategic weapons”.
    In Sweden, there has recently been a growing demand to break with the country’s 200 years of neutrality so as to join NATO – to fend off alleged Russian aggression. A rapproachement between the US and Russia (Trump-Putin like Nixon-Mao) would of course make plain for all to see that NATO, yet again, needs to find a raison d’être.
    Which bring me to Sunday’s reports about Jens Stoltenberg “warning” Trump about “going it alone not being an option”. I can just imagine the response in Washington to his reference to the blood spilt in support of the US’ wars, coming from a man whose application for the NATO job was to send his nation’s air force to carry out the major part of the destruction indiscriminately wreaked apon targets military and civilian in Gaddafi’s Libya – in response to a call from Hillary Clinton and France’s Sarcozy – and whose closeness as NATO’s political head to the bellicose American SACEUR reportedly worried even the Germans. He defended the by now almost complete NATO encirclement of Russia with military bases. The strategy is of course as clear as daylight: to compel the Russians to keep spending resources building up their military defenses instead of seeking to alleviate the grinding poverty of the great majority of their people by pursuing the economic development of the civilian sector. It is the policy that succesfully brought the Soviet Union to its knees…
    That the policies followed for decades in the US had gutted its industrial capacity and left millions equally destitute in what used to be the steelmaking districts (through which my wife and I travelled by train some years back), and that Trump’s promise of rejuventating the nation’s delapidated infrastructure, might also be priorised, and would indeed bring hope – to Russians as well as to Americans – still doesn’t seem to be entertained by minds inured to warmaking on reflex.
    In other words, it would appear that the fear that Trump might possibly end the rekindled Cold War, is greater here than the fear of being incinerated by nuclear weapons should the carefully orchestrated baiting of Russia go from bad to worse.
    Also very interesting, while the Norwegian PM noted DT’s appeal of unity to his people, (but was clearly tone-deaf to his almost literal quotation of Lincoln’s call at the end of the Civil War), neither she, nor any of the papers I’ve seen, appeared to have noted his stated assurances to the rest of the world: to deal fairly with everyone, get along with all other nations willing to get along with the US, to seek common ground, not hostility, and partnership not conflict.
    The image that all of this willful obtuseness conjures up in my mind is that of DT as a Lemuel Gulliver with all the Western world’s Lilliputians scrambling to tie him down.
    Whatwever else Trump might mess up, and he might indeed be bad news for the Palestinians, not to mention is denial of climate change, I take comfort in the reported likelihood of a General Michael Flynn being appointed US Secretary of Defense in the new administration. Look at this quote from the article Seymour Hersch got published in The Guardian early this year (but nowhere in the US, according to the Guardian,
    “General Dempsey and his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs of Staff kept their dissent out of bureaucratic channels, and survived in office. General Michael Flynn did not. ‘Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria,’ said Patrick Lang, a retired army colonel who served for nearly a decade as the chief Middle East civilian intelligence officer for the DIA. ‘He thought truth was the best thing and they shoved him out. He wouldn’t shut up.’ Flynn told me his problems went beyond Syria. ‘I was shaking things up at the DIA – and not just moving deckchairs on the Titanic. It was radical reform. I felt that the civilian leadership did not want to hear the truth. I suffered for it, but I’m OK with that.’ In a recent interview in Der Spiegel, Flynn was blunt about Russia’s entry into the Syrian war: ‘We have to work constructively with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia made a decision to be there and to act militarily. They are there, and this has dramatically changed the dynamic. So you can’t say Russia is bad; they have to go home. It’s not going to happen. Get real.’”
    I also noted that Trump was the only one of the candidates for the presidency who said “we destabilised the Middle East”, who called Bush junior a liar, and who lamented the destruction of Saddam Hussain and Muammar Gaddafi’s regimes, with the statement that the world would have been in better shape with them still around. It put under the searchlight those who unleashed, aided and abetted the destruction of lands and societies in West Asia, the Middle East and Africa. With us as imprisoned standers-by.
    As to the charges about Trump’s racism: having grown up in South Africa of apartheid and dwelt in western countries, I have long since become inured to the language and pretensions of racists; as to Trump’s alleged misogeny, why, he strikes me as a child of his time and culture: outdated and offensive but now vulnerable to shaming and embarrassment.

  3. Leejah Singh says:

    My understanding is that Trump is planning on making the warmongering nutcase Flynn his National Security Advisor. It can hardly get much worse thna that.. :(

  4. Akifumi Fujita says:

    What I understand from five mini-columns is as follows. The Trump Presidency was a sudden revolution because there was no objective basis for predicting it. (Can it be called a ‘structural revolution’?) Trump catered to the interests of white-male-workers-Americans, hitting negations of women, colored, elites, and immigrants in very unacceptable ways. But in spite of all those things about him, it must be realized that he is the President. His concrete actions come first. Old maps to US politics are invalid. The situation reminds me of a Marx’s phrase “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” (“The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”) Hence my questions. Is Trump a right person for that? Can he hear the voices of people who supported him? I am rather pessimistic about him because of the experience of ‘the tyranny of the majority’ in the politics of Japan.