By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Donald Trump stepped up, and not on the right foot. In the 20th and 21st centuries, no United States chief of state has taken over with less popular support. Only 40 percent of surveyed Americans say that they’re satisfied. The three latest presidents — Clinton, Bush and Obama — each exceeded 60-percent approval.
Maybe that’s why there are so many demonstrations against Trump. More than 60 members of Congress, all Democrats, said they would not attend the inauguration ceremony. Trumpists defend themselves with a historical argument: in 1973, for Nixon’s second inauguration, despite his sound victory in 49 states, 80 Democratic House members boycotted the event.
It’s true. But Nixon was opposed because of his handling of the Vietnam war, while Trump generates personal hostility. He is not rejected for his deeds, because he has never been a politician, but for his statements, his behavior, his character, his projection as a bully.
He is criticized for his rebellious hair, resembling the nest of a mad and unkempt bird, and his edematous ankles, typical of a sedentary 70-year-old whose daily exercise is to send 10 aggressive tweets against anyone who contradicts him.
Trump is not going to get the 100 days of grace that traditionally are granted to presidents. A few hours before taking the oath of office, three psychiatric doctors declared that he is a narcissist who met almost all the symptoms with which the DSM 5 (the latest edition of the profession’s diagnostics manual) describes that pathology.
What will his government be like? Four tense years of disputation await us. Trump is a practitioner of the variant known as “locus of external control.” When things go wrong, he blames someone else, never himself.
No doubt he will try to do many things from the start. He is an entrepreneur with initiative and will try to bring his zeal and work habits to the affairs of state. As he sees it, that’s another way to defeat his enemies.
He will begin with the immigrants. The cause is popular and they are weak. The easiest thing to do is to build The Wall on the border with Mexico. He will do that, even though the drug traffickers will later mock him. He will expel undocumented migrants with all the fury he promised from the campaign rostrums.
Together with the Russians, he will probably launch an aerial offensive against ISIS. Some experts assume that the site chosen will be the battered city of Palmyra in Syria, recently retaken by blood and fire by the Caliphate fighters.
Simultaneously, he will tell his advisers to draft at once a health plan that replaces Obamacare, while explaining to the Chinese that they must open their markets to American products or suffer economic reprisals.
He will correct Obama’s blunder in Israel, restoring and improving relations with his Jewish ally, the only effective and reliable democracy that exists in that tortured region of the planet.
But none of this will be easy for him. The great difference between the activities conducted by businessmen in the private sector and functionaries in the official world, elected or appointed, is clearly described in the Public Law. Politicians and functionaries can do only what the law allows, and within the limits established by the law. In contrast, private businessmen can carry out all the projects that the law does not forbid. The gap is abysmal.
Added to this is the modus operandi of the two spheres.
In private enterprise, the initiative of executives is rewarded. They are remunerated if they’ve done a good job and they are promoted. They are praised when they act with efficiency but they’re fired when they make frequent mistakes or when their results are negative. In addition, it’s easy to judge them. All that’s needed is to check the bottom line and other details.
For their part, functionaries have no initiative. They obey orders but do so (when they do) slowly and parsimoniously. It is not possible to hail them on for doing a good job; supposedly, that’s their duty. Nor is it feasible to fire them when they work little or badly. Most government jobs are irremovable.
If Trump tells them “you’re fired,” they’ll laugh in his face.
I haven’t the slightest idea of how the adventure will end of electing president an outsider without the slightest experience in the public sector, armed with a clear discourse of right-wing populist, protectionist and isolationist, intent on “making great again” the nation that has been the world’s leading power for about one century.
I do know, however, that the world order that F. D. Roosevelt and later Harry S. Truman created in the 1940s is in danger — and that can generate a grave international disturbance.