Donald Trump thrives because Americans now only care about themselves – not America

Published: September 9, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hugs a U.S. flag as he takes the stage for a campaign town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire August 19, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

With the rise of Donald Trump and the politics of pandering to people’s baser instincts, the following question becomes more crucial; can the current wave of racism, anxiety and cultural despair in American society accelerate America’s decline?

Of all the factors that are causing the decline, cultural despair and politics of cultural despair are the most threatening.

America’s decline has been stirring quite a debate worldwide for a few decades now. This topic cannot be answered in a plain yes or no; rather it merits a multi-layered analysis. With the rise of the rest, the shade of this debate has gotten gloomier.

Joseph Nye, in his book Is the American Century Over? adds a rather optimistic shade to it. He believes that “leadership is not the same as domination.” Nye also believes, “Influence matters more than military might.” He is right as the most potential rival to American dominance, (China), can compete with its military and economic might, but not in its influence in the international institutions (global power structure) and advancement in education, science and technology.

Analysed by this perspective, no other country appears to be in a position to challenge America’s global influence. Yet the greatest threats to its global pre-eminence are domestic. Of these domestic threats, Trump has been viewed as the largest and the most lethal. Behind it, there is many a reason – his egregious lack of qualification, disgusting rhetoric and absurd policies. The worrisome factor is not Trump, but his rising popularity in America.

Something similar happened in Germany a century ago.

Trump played the same card Hitler had played. Hitler played the card about Germany being a victim, whereas Trump played the card about America being a victim. Hitler fed upon this cultural despair, during which Germany was defeated in World War I – but that was only one factor.

As coined by Fritz Stern, the term Politics of Cultural Despair fits best. It is more dangerous than just pandering the basic sentiments of voters, which is more common in the developing world.

The problem is the culture, values and attitude that are at the heart of Trump’s support. It is this pessimism that is gripping the American nation. For the first time in America, the CNN/ORC indicated that a significant proportion of Americans (56%) believe that their children will be worse off.

JD Vance, in his insightful book Hillbilly’s Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis explains the alienation and anger of America’s white working class. Based on their life experience and daily observations, the cohort believes that their incomes have stagnated, cities crumbled and dreams vanished. The cohort is in crisis – the children abandoned, drug abuse sky rocketing, violence increasing. To this significant segment of American society, the country is doing poorly and abandoning its own citizens for some good-for-nothing overseas issues. Americans are pragmatic and realistic people; therefore, it is the Americans who should come first – not the foreigners who are snatching jobs from them.

Whether Trump wins or not, this segment of American society is going to stay in the United States of America and so are their concerns. If Republicans win, over-trenched policies and the US-domestic-centric policies will be defining its foreign policy. America’s decline is possible either due to its ‘maximalist’ or ‘over trenched’ policies. Trump’s policies are over trenched, but if he does not get elected, we may safely presume that the American decline has reversed.

If Hillary wins, through being hawkish, she won’t be able to shift the focus from domestic affairs to foreign affairs either, unless a catastrophic event like 9/11 happens.

This is for two reasons.

First, given the pessimism prevalent in the country, America’s economic well-being will remain a top priority for the next US president. Second, even if Trump loses, the Republicans will sit in the Congress and give a tough time to the Democratic president. After all, the US foreign policy is not what the US president says standing in the Rose Garden of the White House, but what the Congress approves.

America ruled the world because it extended its influence in the global arena, established its overseas military bases, hunted down its enemies, and assimilated people of every identity from world over. Thus, it became the most attractive country in the world. To sustain its global supremacy, it must continue its assertive policies. It is how America gained strength over the years.

America’s power is its alliance system, which will shrink, if it focuses on domestic politics. Right now and for the next five years, America’s well-being is of top concern. This is the reason Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great,” is selling like hot cakes.

Americans want to see the Americans great again, not America. What is accelerating America’s decline is not its declining political influence worldwide, but the nourishment of culture of despair and its eventual outcome, politics of cultural despair. The end product of politics of cultural despair is over trenched policies and a shrinking sphere of influence on the world stage.

Ghazanfar Ali Garewal

Ghazanfar Ali Garewal

Ghazanfar Ali Garewal is Lecturer in International Relations department NUML Islamabad and Coordinator of the department. He has been writing on Politics, Social Issues and Education for an English newspaper, Pakistan Observer.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • javed Chinka

    Pakistan dont care for themselves neither do they care about others !Recommend

  • http://tribune.com.pk/ p r sharma

    Tough times ahead.irrespective of which party wins in USA.Recommend

  • Kushal

    And who else they are supposed to care about? Pakistanis?Recommend

  • curious2

    Author doesn’t have a clue about how the USA works and using stereo types of Republican’s demonstrates he doesn’t know much about the candidates either. Trumps policies are an anathema to the Republican leaders – in fact an argument could be made that Hillary is more Republican than Trump – especially on foreign policy matters where Trump is much more reserved.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I think you’re reading too much into the outcome of this election.Recommend

  • Uzair

    White America is the right America according to Trump and his posseRecommend

  • Imran Grewal

    Great writter sir ghanzafar Ali grewal Recommend

  • Gulchand Mehta

    Still sitting on the fence. Your permanent position.
    Pray they don’t ban you from entering or re entering
    the Land of Liberty.Recommend

  • rationalist

    No true. Hundreds of Jihadis and jihadi sympathizers have been caught in the last five years alone.Recommend

  • Farwa Akbar

    The author’s prediction is logical as super power status cannot be sustained if a state adopts over-trenched policies.Recommend

  • Asmara Ali

    Excellent analysis of contemperory situation…Recommend

  • abhi

    were you expecting ang logical statement from him?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Aaah !…..the Phoenix rises ;-)Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Typical response from ignorant Pakistanis who can’t back up their delusions about America!Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    The logic for Muslims seem to be exactly what it is not for non Muslims.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Most Muslims were as oppressed under the Muslim rule,as other Indians.Recommend

  • siesmann

    GOP has lost its way. Its conservatism has essentially become racism and nativism. Like Trump,bigotry has become its essence.Recommend