Right now, it’s impossible to say who will be victorious in America. But after being served Trump’s destructive, polarising, and frightening rhetoric for four years, it might be appropriate to ask the question of whether he has accomplished anything that could render him even an ounce of acknowledgement.
During dramatic periods in world history, the holder of the American presidency often earned the role of western democracy’s defender.
If Trump leaves the post in January, one question remains: How did he contribute? The obvious answer is that he weakened and hollowed out democracy. At the same time, you could point out that he did democracy a favour by bringing us insight into its fragility and vulnerability.
Already the Athenians were aware that demagogs could seduce and mislead the people, and thereafter proclaim themself despot. Even if the American constitution offers impediments, Trump has purposefully tried to stretch the limit of his powers and been partly successful.
Therefore, let us hope that Americans, as well as supporters of democracy everywhere, have seen the signs: Liberal democracy can never be so liberal as to allow itself to sheepishly be led into an authoritarian trap by a populistic or charismatic leader. Other mini-Trumps stand at the ready: They thank Trump for showing that a Machtübernahme is within the realms of possibility, even in a democracy. The rest of us can thank Trump for hopefully opening our eyes and forcing us to strengthen the foundations of democracy.
I could actually end my so-called thanksgiving right here, but the question of the balance of power in the world leaves many worried. When Trump now challenges China and demands that the rules of trade and international relations are respected, a whole host of consequences might befall us, beyond the four years of his presidency. Even if his motives are more in line with what’s good for US trade and power politics than for democracy and altruism, his successor would be able to keep building constructively on the opening he has created. America is still needed to recreate and keep the balance between the superpowers; ideologically, economically, and militarily.
America, despite its many flaws, must ally itself with the EU to create a democratic counterforce.
One can obviously discuss his methods, as it is doubtful if they would lead to a lasting improvement in the way the game is played? He has focused on questions of trade and cybersecurity, as well as sharpening the tone regarding Taiwan and Hongkong. Beijing hasn’t yielded in any way worth mentioning and now lay in wait for the outcome of the American election, like many other actors.
One detail remains: The outcome of the election on November 3rd. Every ounce of guarded `acknowledgement` will vanish if Trump instigates chaos after losing. If not now, his reputation will be tested then; if he refuses admiting defeat and tries to cheat himself into victory with the help of the courts and the republican-governed states.
Pär Stenbäck is a former Finnish politician who has been a MP, Minister of Education and of Foreign Affairs in the years before 1985. For a period of twenty years he held leading positions in the Red Cross movement, among these as Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Geneva). He is a founding member of ICG and the European Cultural Parliament ECP. He received the honorary title as Minister in 1999. Today he is chairing the New Foreign Policy Society in Finland (NUPS) since 2017. He contributes regularly to news media.