NEW YORK – U.S. President Donald Trump started his administration with dazzling speed, albeit with some confusion, issuing one executive order after another to repeal the policies of his predecessor. He signed his first executive order for the repeal of Obamacare hours after he took office on Jan. 20. Trump has since issued some dozen or more executive orders to carry out his campaign promises, including withdrawal of the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, construction of a wall along the Mexican border and the temporary restrictions on the entry of visitors from seven Muslim countries.
Pledging to bring back power to the hands of the American people from the Washington establishment, Trump seems committed to shake up everything conventional and create a climate where business is no longer conducted as usual and perceived common sense is no longer considered common sense. It is a political revolution launched by Trump, a business tycoon and political outsider, to grab power from America’s traditional political and business elites in the name of the American people who he declared in his inaugural address should be “the rulers of this nation again.”
In so doing, Trump has employed Twitter, a social networking service that allows users to post messages, known as “tweets,” of up to 140 characters, as his primary weapon. He has skillfully used Twitter to disseminate his messages directly to the people, rather than through the media, which he has criticized as “dishonest.”
Though his speeches were not as classy and sophisticated as those delivered by his eloquent predecessors, Trump’s messages — short, simple, and sometime blunt and even rude, were powerful enough to win the hearts of his supporters, particularly white blue-collar workers, his main constituency. Trump supporters find the new president to be less beholden to political elites, not afraid of speaking his mind, free from the constraints of political correctness, and a successful businessman who can do something positive to make America great again.
Trump’s demand for business leaders to manufacture their products in the U.S. and create more jobs for Americans, combined with his pledge for tax cuts, deregulation and massive investment aimed at improving the nation’s infrastructure, has already brought about positive spins for the U.S. economy, as highlighted by the Dow Jones stock index topping the $20,000 mark for the first time. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Trump supporters, including Republican leaders in Congress, endorse the policies of the new president, who they think is effective in carrying out his campaign promises.
On the other hand, Democrats and their supporters feel that the core values and the long-standing practices enshrined under the Obama administration, including tolerance for diversity, are threatened and that they should stand up to defend them. Regrettably, Trump has not been successful in implementing his inaugural pledge to unite the country — America remains seriously divided and anti-Trump demonstrations are almost daily occurrences in various cities across the nation.
A recent poll from CNN showed that 53 percent of those surveyed disapproved the way in which the president handles his job, while only 44 percent of them approved it. Furthermore, his latest executive order effectuating a temporary ban on the entry of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East has led to a legal battle between the White House and federal courts over the constitutionality of his order.
The slogan of “America First,” which won the White House for Trump, is also spreading a sense of uncertainty and concern over the future course of U.S. foreign policy among foreign leaders, both America’s friends and foes alike. Trump has vowed to pursue a strong and tough foreign policy so that America will be respected more than before. Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, was quoted as saying recently that the U.S. would from now on “take names of those who don’t have our back” and that the U.S. “will make points to respond to that accordingly.”
Trump made headlines for his recent telephone conversations and tweets that have reportedly alienated some of the U.S.’ traditional allies and friends, including Australia and Mexico. His repeated praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be not synchronized within his team, as some of his key Cabinet members, as well as Republican leaders, have said that they regard Moscow as a threat. The U.S. needs not only allies but also friends if it is to retain its unmatched influence in the world of global diplomacy, not to mention winning more respect from the international community.
The art of diplomacy is to find ways in which to create a win-win situation for the U.S. and its partners, rather than a situation where “America takes all.” How to balance Trump’s “America First” slogan with the need to secure the U.S. strategic influence in the global diplomacy by winning support from its allies and friends remains a challenge for the Trump administration.
Only a month into his presidency, it is of course too early to pass judgment on Trump’s performance. He may be an unorthodox and unconventional leader, but the fact remains that he is a legitimate president duly elected through a free, fair and credible election. As such, he has a mandate and responsibility to carry out what he has promised to the people.
Whether he will succeed in making America great again as he has promised or will be sidelined as an ineffective and controversial leader depends on whether he will secure the support of American people in the coming months. And if the American people disapprove of what he does, they can and should resort to the democratic means ensured by the country’s constitution to dislodge him from power in four years’ time.
In the meantime, America should remember the very motto under which its people had made it one of the most free and prosperous countries on Earth: “United we stand, divided we fall.”
A former United Nations official, Hitoki Den is a commentator based in New York. He is the author of “Kokuren wo Yomu: Watashino Seimukan Noto Kara” (“A Story of the U.N.: From the Notes of a Political Affairs Officer”) and many articles on U.N. and Asian issues.
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