Miloš Zeman’s 1998-2002 term as prime minister didn’t amount to much. To tell the truth, his administration was one of the Czech Republic’s worst, but then again it didn’t differ fundamentally from other administrations in the region. It was led by a man who threatened to “bind party pamphlets to the skin of Civic Democratic Party members,” who wanted to “lock up” a school headmistress over high tuition, and who mentioned Václav Klaus* and Adolf Hitler in the same sentence.
That madman knew exactly what he was saying and why: to get the votes of the angry and disaffected. Then, with a certain dose of tolerance, he functioned as a normal prime minister. It’s similar, but by no means the same, with Donald Trump. Things uttered in the campaign often only count during the campaign – and Trump completely changed his rhetoric and demeanor the moment he was elected.
No, there’s no need to dread Trump outright. Although he built his whole campaign on a fight against “the establishment,” in reality he’s very much part of it – a bit like Czech businessman and politician Andrej Babiš fighting against “the Matrix.” Although there’s been an earthquake in the American political landscape, and although half the party turned away from him, now, by all indications, comes the time for healing wounds. Republicans will have a majority in both houses of Congress – the president will need the party and the party will need him.
No, there’s no need to dread Trump outright. In the campaign he promised to have Hillary Clinton “locked up.” Yet his first sentence after his election was an unexpectedly big thanks to his rival, not only for the campaign, but especially for her lifelong work on behalf of the United States. This is a great signal that from this point forward he wants to behave like a great American president.
Unfortunately, however, it’s not true that he’s entering the White House because of poor white American voters. To the contrary, they voted for Democrats. The median income of his voters is $72,000, significantly more than that of Clinton voters, and significantly higher than the median income for white Americans ($62,000). No, Trump’s supporters are not predominantly white working class people who lost their jobs to globalization. Although there certainly are such people among them, there are not 59 million, the vote count for the billionaire. The people Trump got to the polls are white voters fearful of becoming a minority.
While there’s no need to dread Trump outright, some qualms are obviously in order. Not just because of well-known matters, already written about a million times, but especially because the wave that elevated Trump reeks of latent racism. That wave—by no means Trump alone—is dangerous for America’s internal cohesion.
For us, one other thing is important: Trump casts doubt on NATO’s Article 5** with the argument that other alliance members must invest a “fair share” of their wealth in defense. The first half of that statement rightly alarms us, but the second is more than true. Because of Trump we will have to invest more in defense.
Which is only to our advantage.
*Translator’s note: Václav Klaus was then speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, and later Czech president.
**Translator’s note: NATO Article 5 concerns the mutual defense obligation of members.