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.

  • vinsin

    America failed to assimilate Muslims. Muslims in America practice love jihad and demand sharia. Jinnah thrived because Indian Muslims cared about themselves not subcontinent.Recommend

  • javed Chinka

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

  • Patwari

    Here, another hindu from the Land of Gandhiji.
    Making his Rs.12.50 by leaving his poison in
    Pak papers. Pathetic. Something you can only
    expect from a nation ruled by Muslims for 1300
    years. Then the British for 300 years. And God
    knows who else ruled them, before the Muslims.Recommend

  • 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

  • Critical

    Something you can only
    expect from a nation ruled by Muslims for 1300
    years. Then the British for 300 years.

    When I add them,it comes to 1600 years but Islam was supposed to be born 1400 years ago…

    From which madrassa did you learn Maths?Recommend

  • curious2

    I would argue that most Muslim’s have assimilated rather well into the USA. The recent Muslim immigrants have the same issues that the Italians, Irish, Mexicans, Vietnamese etc experience – assimilation doesn’t happen overnight.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    The author might note that Pakistanis view themselves as Muslims first and as Pakistani nationals somewhere down the list!Recommend

  • vinsin

    Can you prove your statement or are you a Muslim who cannot prove anything? How your statement connected to my comment.Recommend

  • pathanoo

    Reallly? And, who made you the authority on America, Sherlock?Recommend

  • Gingerman78

    Your reply reflects poorly on you, Patwari. If your ideology is so great, why are they migrating in great numbers to kafir lands?Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Islam has a very bad name in America. The new generation who were kids during 911 have all grown up now and are leading this movement. Forget about liberal YouTube videos, the on-ground reality is the exact opposite, which shows how popular Trump is.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Bullpucky in triplicate. Hogwash. The Republican Leadership
    is to be blamed for this ongoing fiasco. The leadership subscribes
    to racist bigoted policies. They passed laws in Republican controlled legislatures, making it very very difficult for African Americans and Hispanic
    Americans to vote.Trump is the end result. Their hero.
    As in the 1920’s and 1930’s they required Black American should be able to read, to be certified to vote. Then they conducted reading tests for Blacks,
    which were in GERMAN !!! Making sure Blacks will not be able to read !!!
    The Party of Ronald Reagan did this. [REPUBLICAN PARTY]
    There no minorities in this party. Only whites/caucasians.
    Oh! By the way, hindus love Trump. Even though he calls them Dot Heads.Recommend

  • Parvez

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

  • numbersnumbers

    And just where can find references to back up your conspiracy theory where “republicans….conducted reading tests for blacks in German”!!!!
    As for making it difficult to vote, the early voting and registration times are the same for all races, and the requirement of a voter id (As required in Pakistan along with almost every single country) is a fraud prevention measure.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

  • Swaadhin

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

    Sir of all the people you should be the last one to say this, when did a Muslim care about a non Muslim. The Muslims can be so concerned about ummah which is based upon religious texts but a group of people who have come together and dreamt of an idea and have been living it for four centuries cannot be selfish about it, is not that hypocrisy?

    The Muslim reaction to a Donald Trump is so vociferous while living in their own backyard, just imagine the reaction if there was a non Muslim Osama.Recommend

  • Rau

    References for who? For some ignorant Indians who infest ET?Recommend

  • Irfan Grewal

    Agreed with the writerRecommend

  • Razwan Grewal

    Very Well writtenRecommend

  • Parvez

    Aaah !……the rise of the Phoenix. :-)Recommend

  • Furqan

    The writer has drawn true picture of US election campaignRecommend

  • Ali Asghar Bajwa

    I fully endorse the authors’s view point that without US involvement in the world affairs, US cant sustain and continue its powerful status in global affairs. Great power status also requires great responsibilities.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

    You are right about the Republican party of recent times,and their policies of exclusion. But it was the Democratic party before civil-rights era,that instituted segregation,and disenfranchised Blacks. Not that Republicans did anything to rectify it. Citizens-tests were indeed extremely difficult for Blacks,But they were in English.There might have been isolated instances of their being in German.
    But after 1960s Republicans resorted to gerrymandering and putting obstructions in the path of minority voters from exercising their rights.
    And most Indo-americans,just like other minorities ,are anti-Trump.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Voter-ID laws might be reasonable if Republicans don’t put obstructions in the path of minorities getting IDs easily.unfortunately voter fraud is not the real motive behind ID laws.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Right.Muslims like others assimilate well. Unfortunately Mullah and Mosque work constantly to dis-assimilate them.And some take the bait to the detriment of most 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

  • irfan king

    Very Well writtenRecommend