“Mexico’s court system is corrupt. I want nothing to do with Mexico other than to build an impenetrable wall and stop them from ripping off the U.S.” According to those who claim to know, Trump declared this out of frustration and rage after his third failed attempt at doing important business in Mexico. He turned this anger into a campaign platform, adding that Mexicans should pay for the construction of the wall themselves, something like making a victim dig his own grave before he’s executed.
Fortunately, for the United States and the rest of the world, Trump’s 15 minutes of fame may be coming to an end. Nevertheless, the Trump phenomenon deserves special attention. What’s happening in the mindset of Americans that allows a businessman — a politician in no correct sense of the word — to lead the Republican electorate polls for so many months?
The end of the 20th century coincided with the end of the Cold War. To many Americans and other Westerners, the U.S. was the indisputable winner. The bipolar system became unipolar. We came to “the end of history”; the values of the West had triumphed. But the triumph didn’t last long. In 2001, al-Qaida dealt the U.S. a stunning blow, changing the paradigms of security in the 21st century. “How do we make this go away?” Americans wondered. Facing an enemy with no nation or territory, clandestine and fleeting, the most powerful military machine in history could do little to nothing to counter this threat. And then, China appeared in all its glory, matching the United States as a first world economy.
In this new era, the U.S. opted for the safety of the status quo in its old answers to new questions, which in turn led them into two undeclared, conventional wars — Afghanistan and then Iraq — for a decade before finally finding their enemy (Osama bin Laden) in Pakistan. Instead of adapting to the new state of the world, they tried to safeguard themselves against the new threats with old strategies. Fear acted as a detonator for a new ethos that soon led to polarization. Anything and anyone from outside became a threat to the American way of life.
During this time, the U.S. went from having a fiscal surplus in time of peace to an unprecedented deficit in two wars with no winner or apparent political benefit. Their country lagged significantly in the areas of health and education, fell behind in immigration administration, and experienced the worst financial crisis since the crash of 1929.
The climate created by the Bush administration and the arrival of President Obama led to greater political polarization, which first manifested itself through the tea party, the Republicans’ most conservative wing, and then through Trump, who put intolerance and fear at the center of his narrative.
Despite the very probable death of Mr. Trump’s political career, the phenomenon leaves much in its wake, and we should take it very seriously in order to evaluate our current strategies and role in our relationship with the U.S. Besides defending Mexicans in the U.S., we must propose more efficient and respectful ways for different sectors of our two countries to interact. Otherwise, we would be contributing to the polarization ourselves. If we do not modify our current strategies and strengthen the framework of our institutions, the promotion of Mexico’s interests and those of Mexicans in the U.S. will remain a low priority for Hillary Clinton, if she wins.