The Trump era began with the destruction of the twin towers in 2001. No one seems to think about it this way. However, failure to accept this makes it difficult to explain (let alone justify) why Donald Trump has resided in the White House for almost two years, and more difficult still, to explain why the support he received in 2016 is unbroken.
It would be reasonable to a certain extent to question the connection between the twin towers and Trump. The attack was tragic but isolated, and is firmly in the past. Furthermore, at the time, there were no large-scale reactions or displays of xenophobia or Islamophobia. But the “America First” policy began to incubate as the towers crashed to the ground. Until this moment, the United States had felt invincible.
The world wars of the 20th century did not affect this policy. It only suffered one attack: the one waged by Japan on the island of Hawaii, some 7,000 kilometers (approximately 4,350 miles) from Washington. Four years later, as though in a disproportionate act of revenge, the U.S. wiped two Japanese cities off the map with two atomic bombs.
Those wars burned Europe to the ground, but not even a spark reached American territory. Moreover, the United States went to put out the fires in Europe and emerged, in both cases, as the savior of freedom. Its later defeats occurred in remote places, like Korea or Vietnam. But neither Nazism nor communism dared to attack it on its own territory.
Although there was a period of fear of the Soviet Union when the Soviets deployed missiles in Cuba, John F. Kennedy got rid of them with ease. Eventually, this other superpower collapsed of its own accord. With its great enemy gone, the United States felt as though it owned the whole world. This was the end of history.
However, one day, a handful of suicide terrorists, armed only with knives, seized control of two U.S. planes and demolished those towers in New York, which, with 110 floors each, were the two tallest buildings in the world. The enemy was no longer a giant nation. It was a man, Osama Bin Laden, who had used those suicide terrorists to make the master of the world tremble. The United States set out to assassinate this man and achieved this soon after. The president and the secretary of state followed the private execution of this lone terrorist on television from Washington. There was a sense of relief and pride in the United States. The superpower had killed a man. Nevertheless, the sense of insecurity did not disappear.
Additionally, the issue of China’s unstoppable growth emerged, coinciding, moreover, with the loss of America’s industrial supremacy. Even though Ford continues to be the leader of the automotive industry, Americans and the rest of the world increasingly drive more Hondas, Toyotas or Hyundais. Screens for the iPhone – the smartphone designed by the new U.S. giant, Apple – are, oddly enough, manufactured by its South Korean competitor, Samsung, which has already overtaken Apple in the world market. In terms of the percentage of units sold worldwide, Samsung possesses 20.8 percent of the market, Apple 19.7 percent, and the Chinese company Huawei is peeking in with 9 percent.
The resounding success of Google, Facebook and WhatsApp does not, as far as most Americans are concerned, compensate for the decline of industry. The global economy is turning toward services, but this is no consolation to the U.S.’s large unqualified workforce. In the West, where immigrants total 43.7 million and come predominantly from Mexico, there are fierce complaints that immigration allegedly steals jobs and overwhelms health and education services. Trump emerged as a populist leader saying things like he would not allow China to destroy the U.S. economy, that he would impose tariffs to curb importation, that he would protect U.S. companies and the jobs of the American people, that he would build a wall to end immigration from Mexico, that he would not allow Europe to impose its rules on the U.S, and that he would not allow claims of climate change to halt U.S. industrial development.
This was what granted him his victory.
He has fulfilled some of these promises. He imposed big tariffs on Chinese imports. He withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He abandoned the Iranian nuclear deal. He brought about reforms to NAFTA through coercion. But his rhetoric, which for now is music to the ears of the nationalists who voted for him, is becoming dangerous. He described the European Union as a foe of the United States, and did the same thing to China and Russia, albeit less emphatically. His rhetoric could easily give way to force. He has not dismissed the possibility of a military option in Venezuela. So far, Trump has maintained his political power.
When he was elected in 2016, many of us predicted that, during his presidency, Republican legislators would diverge from one another; a sector would withdraw its support of Trump and he would end up without a majority in Congress.
Last week, Trump managed to get the entire Republican bloc to confirm his extremely controversial candidate Brett Kavanaugh as a justice on the Supreme Court. Next month the outlook could change. On Nov. 6, legislative elections will be held for seats in both houses of Congress. Presidents usually lose these midterm elections. According to the polls, Trump will not escape this curse, although the Democrats could defeat him in terms of votes and not reach the number of seats necessary to form a majority.
A victory for the Democrats would also be a victory for those (with exceptions) who advocate for world peace, those who believe that international competition increases efficiency and benefits consumers, those who stress that technological development creates more jobs than it destroys and those who think that immigration (but not the indiscriminate sort) brings diversity in terms of ideas, talent and workforce.
These desirable ideas are likely to be imposed. But Trump will continue to represent a large part of current U.S. society whose stance is diametrically opposed to this progressive model. A defeat next month would not mean his destruction. In 2010, Barack Obama lost 63 seats and two years later, he was re-elected.