Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar – the End of the Age of Liberalism?
Have we reached the end of the liberal dream? Donald Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton could well be the last nail in the coffin of the liberal optimism that had ruled the world during the 90s. Trump’s campaign was marked by xenophobia, racism and misogyny and yet he won.
Several political analysts are comparing him to Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and our own prime minister Narendra Modi. And indeed there are some strong resemblances between Trump and Modi. Both were outsiders in their party with their respective parties not in favour of their bids for the numero uno job. And yet, both leaders succeeded in out- manoeuvring their political opponents and launching strong campaigns that ended up defeating their rivals in the elections.
Both leaders have understood the power of the media especially television and used it to their advantage. Trump as a reality TV star understood the power of television. Trump knew only too well that TV allows a candidate to get away with preposterous and false statements and that is what he did with great aplomb.
Both Modi and Trump bear another uncanny similarity. When Modi became prime minister, he dismissed all talk of climate change as being little more than doomsday bombast. Trump also believes climate change to be a hoax being pushed through by a group of scientists with their own vested interests which is why the environment lobby in the US is afraid he may end up appointing a climate change denier to head the Environment Protection Agency.
Modi’s appointment of the present Minister of State for Environment and Forests Anil Madhav Dave hardly inspires confidence as can be seen in his handling of the smog that has blanketed the entire NCR region.
Both are leaders adhering to a right wing ideology and while it is too early to say how the Trump governance will unfold, most analysts believe he too will follow the style of centralising power as have his other presidential colleagues in the past.
But unlike Modi who had been chief minister of Gujarat for three successive terms, Trump was a rank outsider who has held no elected office till he won the presidency. According to the exit polls, 6 out of 10 voters felt he was unqualified for the job. He was also a man who has not paid tax for the last 20 years.
Trump ran a campaign of ethnic and religious polarisation targeting the Hispanics and Muslims in the US. And yet 60 million Americans voted for a man who made no bones of being a racist and a sexist. Modi did not make such misogynist remarks though he has tried to sideline the Muslim voice in a carefully orchestrated manner.
The advantage that both Trump and Modi faced is that their opponents came with too much political baggage. Democrat leader Hillary Clinton was perceived as being an establishment figure at a time when the average American had moved away from the interventionist policies that were epitomised by Clinton and earlier American leaders.
Clinton also spoke in favour of immigration at a time when factories were being relocated to other countries and more and more Americans were facing unemployment. Being part of the elite, Clinton failed to understand the economic insecurities being faced by the poor.
Modi, in the same vein, promised to create millions of jobs. He also promised to ensure crores of rupees of foreign investment to shore up the Indian economy. The run –up of this bitterly contested elections saw Trump attending a Hindu Republican coalition in New Jersey where he said, ` I have great respect for Hindus. I have so many friends that are Hindus. They are great people, amazing entrepreneurs.’
The world is witnessing a revival of nationalism as a reaction to heightened economic insecurity. Brexit saw the common worker in the UK want to opt out of the European Union as his disconnect with globalisation. Similar right-wing fronts have been formed and are close to sweeping power in France, Germany, Austria, Poland and Hungary. This inward-looking nationalism is set to dominate the politics of our times.