America and the world will not be the same again. Donald Trump left no doubt about that with his speech on Friday. First of all, he is different. He rode the anti-establishment wave that has swept the West; and it appears that he didn’t simply do it “professionally” using extreme rhetoric and slogans as tools.
The rage, emanating from his pre-election rallies and his notorious late night tweets, was also on display at the moment of his ultimate triumph. Many believed he would stretch out his hand to everyone standing opposite him. He didn’t. That’s perhaps because he’s not made of the same stuff as other presidents.
The way he sees America’s global role, trade, the security grid, US obligations, is radically different to what we’ve known since the end of World War II. Europe and the world will go through four difficult and adventurous years.
Protectionism will cast doubts over the system of globalization. America’s disentanglement from its basic obligations will create a new situation; one which we can’t even begin to imagine now. For us in Greece it means that there will be no one in the White House who cares about Europe, and who will pick up the phone to speak to Angela Merkel about the need for Greece to remain in the euro. He’s not interested in a united Europe, which was a fundamental pillar of American policy. At the same time, we will also have a new war to root out radical Islam. And this change will impact us.
Some believe that America needed a reboot; that, in other words, it needed a leader who would liberate it from the excessive constraints on business and lay emphasis on production and the creation of infrastructure. According to this theory, Trump may annoy us Europeans and half of America aesthetically, ideologically and in terms of perception, but he will serve as a catalyst for changes that are needed. Maybe they’re right and he is a rougher-round-the-edges version of Ronald Reagan.
But there’s also another theory, whereby America enters a phase of decline reminiscent of Rome in its twilight. Trump promises a return to an ideal grandeur but he will be the president that will make America small, inward-looking and isolated. Besides, he represents the “plastic” and superficial aspects of the Middle America beyond its two coasts.
It’s too early to draw conclusions. Trump may be the angry and unpredictable politician but he will govern with executives of Goldman Sachs and Exxon. The deep establishment in Congress and in the security apparatus will remain. America is a country that, up until now, respects its institutions.
What is certain is that the West will enter a new phase. And we will all feel the repercussions, especially in Greece, the West’s weakest link.