The Trump triumph in the US Presidential elections was a most unexpected outcome for political watchers across the globe. All the pre-poll analyses of a post-Obama America ran on the assumption that Hillary Clinton would clinch the keys to the White House. However, the world must now deal with the inevitable reality of President Donald Trump. To ponder upon the possible consequences of the business magnate’s ascent to power, the Bangalore International Centre, in collaboration with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), organized a discussion between historian Ramachandra Guha and former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Renowned playwright Kiran Nagarkar, former Governor of Bengal and erstwhile National Security Advisor M.K.Narayanan, entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar Shaw were among the who’s who in attendance.
“He has started his own reality show which has of course, now become the ultimate reality show. Never has there been a transition of this kind when it was absolutely imperative that the President-elect has his own transition. He has to, above all, change from being a divider into a uniter,” said Talbott in his opening remarks on Donald Trump. He believes that dividing the party and the country may have worked in his favour during the campaign but the same would be a losing strategy during his presidential tenure. Talbott also cautioned against Trump’s scornful attitude towards the US Constitution. “He has, not only during the campaign, but since he won the election, at least rhetorically, trashed the Constitution,” he pointed out.
Guha veered the conversation towards the aspect of the several military officials who came forward to support Trump during elections. He wondered whether the masculine image of the armed forces had led them to choose him over a woman candidate. “I haven’t thought of it in the context of the military but I have thought of it in the context of women. 53 % of American women voters went for Trump,” Talbott responded. According to him, these women were possibly turned off by the feminist aspect of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Talbott played down the President-elect’s phone call to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In a remark that elicited laughs, he said, “Trump would call up pretty much any leader on the planet with the exception off maybe, Kim Jong Un”.
According to Guha, elections have been historically fought catering to either fear or hope. Quoting an article he said, “Trump had a narrative. Hillary had a resume.” Adding to that, Talbott said that the politics of fear is trumping the politics of hope. Having known Clinton for many years, Talbott referred to her lack of campaigning skills as a major drawback, something which she herself admitted.
Drawing a comparison between Trump and India’s PM Narendra Modi, Guha said, “Both are domineering personalities, impatient and bulldozing.” Similar to the situation in America, there is a battle between the individual and the institution in India as well. He cited the example of demonetization to highlight Modi’s silence in Parliament. “But Modi did have a resume. He was also the Chief Minister of a state for several years. Unlike Trump, Modi offered the rhetoric of hope,” added Guha, drawing the difference between the two “alpha males”. He also saw similarities between Trump’s voters and the conservative voters in India who longed nostalgically for a Hindu nation.
Talbott echoed what Clinton had said in her speech on the day after the election results: Give Trump a chance.