Transpartisan Note #106
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
Throughout the election, both primaries and general — and then into the first months of his presidency — major political figures raged against Trump both for the content of his policies and his tone, which often seemed only motivated to win media attention and dominate the news. Up to this point we have focused our attention on the intellectual and social forces that we think brought him to power (see, e.g., The Transpartisan Effect: Understanding the Political Turmoil from The Transpartisan Review, Vol I, No 2).
Many people cannot get past his tone, which continues to be a mixture of vulgarity and open aggression against ‘victim’ groups. ‘Hatred’ does not seem too strong a word to describe how many people feel toward him for what seems like a conscious crusade to tear the country apart.
The President’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly seemed like more of the same: a deliberate provocation to push countries, both friend and foe, away from us; a very explicit declaration of independence from the world, isolating the U.S. It all seemed on behalf of a narcissistic, egocentric vision of our country, which he asserted wanted no part of its past leadership role.
Trump supporters tend to acclaim his policies, but never his street-fighter tone. Statements supporting him almost always acknowledge the obnoxious price we must pay for his successful policies, especially on the economy. (We know the economy must be flying when President Obama starts taking credit for it.)
Given Trump’s unpredictability, one can only imagine what he might say or do next. He is only predictable when (as in the U.N. speech) he is making up facts to support assertions about his own greatness. (How can he be surprised when audiences laugh in response to his spectacularly risible claims?)
Let us muse on some possible, hidden objectives he may have and some possible, future behavior changes that could have really interesting consequences. (These thoughts reflect, in part, our recollection that he is, first and foremost, an entertainer and that he is observed to employ instruments that are commonly associated with inducing hypnotic trances.)
On Abandoning the World Leadership Role
Let’s consider the U.N. Speech. Every president in recent memory has tried to encourage friendly countries to ‘do more’ (especially military spending) and unfriendly countries to be more friendly. All efforts added up to the same result: absolutely zero — feckless ‘arm-waving’.
What if Trump is testing a new form of global leadership: ‘withdrawing’ from global engagement in order to encourage other countries to abandon their roles as U.S.-dependents and step up as adults in addressing real problems? This in contrast to largely-theatrical but mostly motivational exercises such as the Paris Accord on Climate Change. (Think of the emerging form of leadership as ‘quantum’ instead of the old ‘Newtonian’.)
This approach to withdrawal preserves the right to intervene when judged important.
On Savage Criticism of ‘Victim’ Groups
Trump personally likes self-reliant ‘winners’. What if he made a conscious theatrical commitment to embrace successful local, black initiatives in schools, drug rehabilitation programs, and health clinics? Examples from other times would have been the educational reformer Marva Collins in Chicago and Harlem District Four from the end of the 70s for a decade.
What if he wandered the country embracing four-quadrant models in these and other areas? How would the mainstream political ‘actors’ respond?
On the Trade War
One action that seems well within the realm of possibility and, if it happens will happen soon, might be a Trump announcement that ‘The trade war is over, and WE WON IT!!!’ This would be followed by abrupt rescissions of all tariffs recently instituted. The stock market would boom — with what effect on the mid-term elections?
Trump and the Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix
One way of viewing Trump is as someone who embraces three of the four quadrants of our Transpartisan Matrix — Order Right, Freedom Right, and Freedom Left. He theatrically and aggressively hates the Order Left, and we understand how those who identify with the Order Left hate him for it. Where would they — or our larger political narrative — be if he started celebrating positive initiatives run by ‘victim’ groups, which would effectively integrate all four quadrants?
We know, as far as can be seen, it will not happen. On the other hand, we continue to be cautious about anticipating what Trump will not do next — or what the forces abroad in the land will encourage him to do.