President Donald Trump has been the worst American president in memory. He pushed away allies when it was most vital to have them, divided the country so that he brought it to the edge of a near civil war on the eve of the election, and revealed an absolute lack of consideration for the institution of the presidency, behaving like a barbarian at the gates. For these reasons, he deserves to lose. But that is not all there is to say regarding these times.
The fury Trump has provoked has kept us from seeing much else beyond the ideological battle — a battlefield which, incidentally, works to his benefit.
During the last five years, the current president of the United States has been covered by the news media as if his actions could evoke only a sense of horror or mockery. Many times with good reason — after all, Trump seeks confrontation and benefits from it. Someone with his personality invariably comes across as the president of some pitted against others, but this is often only because that is also the version the other side wants to highlight.
Any analysis of the Trump presidency needs to understand what motivates a portion of the electorate, and to be cognizant of the country’s economic performance up until the beginning of the pandemic and the results of his foreign policy. Focusing only on the fanatics and barbarians, armed and maskless, and contrasting them to the urban, educated elite that opposes them is as reductive as are the president’s speeches. The America of CNN and The New York Times is as distorted as that of Fox News, even if it appears more sophisticated.
For years, Europe, or least a part of it, asked that Americans leave the Middle East, that they not act like the world’s policemen, and that they abstain from promoting regime change and democratization in faraway places. Well, now that is what they have: Trump is ending the process begun by Barack Obama, turning to the Pacific region, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, brokering agreements between Israel and a number of its neighbors. Plus, America has stopped being obsessed with Russia, which it now views more as a regional power than the global threat of the past. The American world is changing.
Those who think America’s role in the free world is fundamental, and, at least for now, irreplaceable, regret what they see happening. But those who wished for it — and, like it not — those who now govern, will have to live with this change.
Sweden, not even a member of NATO, is rearming; Russia boldly threatens its neighbors all the way to the European borders; and Turkey, in spite of its membership in the Atlantic alliance, aggressively seeks to establish its own prominent role between Europe and the Arab world.
There are many Europeans who feel that, once Trump is defeated, the world will become a convivial place that in reality it never was. Fanaticized by their hatred of the American president, they don’t want to acknowledge that they must make choices, starting with China, and that they must assume the responsibility of managing the threats at their own borders. Trump did not invent Putin, did not create the tensions in the Middle East and Iran’s ambitions, nor did he fuel China’s global expansion. Hatred of Trump is a state of mind, not a policy.