Article

Trump Has Made the Whole World Darker

Published

30th October 2020

Trump Has Made the Whole World Darker
 
There is no escaping it: America is on the ballot on Tuesday — the stability and quality of our governing institutions, our alliances, how we treat one another, our basic commitment to scientific principles and the minimum decency that we expect from our leaders. The whole ball of wax is on the ballot.
 
The good news is that we’ve survived four years of Donald Trump’s abusive presidency with most of our core values still intact. To be sure, the damage has been profound, but, I’d argue, the cancer has not yet metastasized into the bones and lymph nodes of our nation. The harm is still reversible.
 
The bad news is that if we have to endure four more years of Donald Trump, with him unrestrained by the need to be re-elected, our country will not be the America we grew up with, whose values, norms and institutions we had come to take for granted.
 
Four more years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a TV network without integrity, and the cancer will be in the bones of every institution that has made America America.
 
And then, who will we be? We can explain away, and the world can explain away, taking a one-time flier on a fast-talking, huckster-populist like Trump. It’s happened to many countries in history. But if we re-elect him, knowing what a norm-destroying, divisive, corrupt liar he is, then the world will not treat the last four years as an aberration. It will treat them as an affirmation that we’ve changed.
 
The world will not just look at America differently, but at Americans differently. And with good reason.
 
Re-electing Trump would mean that a significant number of Americans don’t cherish the norms that give our Constitution meaning, don’t appreciate the need for an independent, professional Civil Service, don’t respect scientists, don’t hunger for national unity, don’t care if a president tells 20,000 lies — in short, don’t care about what has actually made America great and different from any other great power in history.
 
If that happens, what America has lost these past four years will become permanent.
 
And the effects will be felt all over the world. Foreigners love to make fun of America, of our naïveté, or our silly notion that every problem has a solution and that the future can bury the past — that the past doesn’t always have to bury the future. But deep down, they often envy Americans’ optimism.
 
If America goes dark, if the message broadcast by the Statue of Liberty shifts from “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to “get the hell off my lawn”; if America becomes just as cynically transactional in all its foreign dealings as Russia and China; if foreigners stop believing that there is somewhere over the rainbow where truth is still held sacred in news reporting and where justice is the norm in most of the courts, then the whole world will get darker. Those who have looked to us for inspiration will have no widely respected reference point against which to critique their own governments.
 
Authoritarian leaders all over the world — in Turkey, China, Russia, Poland, Hungary, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and elsewhere — already smell this. They have been emboldened by the Trump years. They know they’re freer to assassinate, poison, jail, torture and censor whomever they want, without reproach from America, as long as they flatter Trump or buy our arms.
 
I asked Nader Mousavizadeh, a former senior U.N. official who now runs the London-based consultancy Macro Advisory Partners, what he thought was at stake in this election. He said: “It’s the sense that ever since F.D.R., despite all kinds of failures and flaws, America was a country that wanted a better future — not just for itself but for other people.”
 
While that may seem like a banality, he added, “it is actually unique in history. No other great power in history has behaved that way. And it provided America with an intangible asset of immense value: the benefit of the doubt. People across the world were willing to give America a second, third and fourth chance because they believed that, unlike any other great power that had come to impact their lives, our purpose was different.”
 
Of course, America has at times behaved in cruel, nakedly self-interested, reckless and harmful ways toward other nations and peoples. Vietnam was real. Anti-democratic coups in Iran and Chile were real. Abu Ghraib was real. Separating children from their parents at our southern border was real.
 
But they remain exceptions, not our modus operandi, which is precisely why people all over the world, not to mention Americans, are so enraged by them — while shrugging off Russia’s or China’s abuses.
 
It’s because they know, added Mousavizadeh, that historically “America’s intent, if not always its practice, has been to exhort not extort other nations; to export not exploit; to collaborate not dominate; and to strengthen a global system of rules and norms, not overturn it in order to focus exclusively on its own enrichment.
 
“Four more years of Trump’s America, and no one will have cause to give us the benefit of any doubt. The disillusionment will be shattering to our standing and influence — and only when we are received around the world as Russians or Chinese will we know what we have lost, for good.”
 
Was everything Trump did wrong or unnecessary? No. He provided a valuable corrective to U.S.-China trade relations. A useful counterpunch to Iranian excesses in the Middle East. And he sent the needed message, albeit crudely, that if you want to come into this country, you can’t just walk in, you have to at least ring the doorbell.
 
But these initiatives were nowhere near as impactful as Trump pretends they are, precisely because he did them alone — without allies abroad or bipartisan support at home. We could have had a much bigger and sustainable impact on China and Iran if we had acted with our allies; we could have had a grand bargain on immigration if Trump had been willing to move to the center. But he wouldn’t.
 
I fear that this inability of Americans to do big, hard things together anymore — which predated Trump and the pandemic, but was exacerbated by them both — has led to another loss. It’s a loss of confidence in democratic systems generally, and versus China’s autocratic system in particular.
 
Over the last pandemic year, the legendary investor Ray Dalio wrote in The Financial Times last week, China’s “economy grew at almost 5 percent, without monetizing debt, while all major economies contracted. China produces more than it consumes and runs a balance of payments surplus, unlike the U.S. and many Western nations.” Even Tesla’s best-selling Model 3 car, he wrote, “may soon be made entirely in China.”
 
Makes you wonder if the Trump presidency will be remembered not for making America great but for China’s great leap past America. If you’re not worried about that, you haven’t been paying attention these last four years.
 

Overview

Confident decisions in a complex world

The Firm

Archipelago world

Macro Advisory Partners (MAP) was founded in 2013 on the vision that globalisation was shifting from a story of integration to one of fragmentation. Our Founder and CEO Nader Mousavizadeh first described this new global landscape as an ‘archipelago world’ – a new order characterised by fragmenting power, capital, technology and ideas.

Navigating the archipelago world requires a new compass. 
 

What we do

To look beyond the complexities of a fragmenting global landscape, we must widen our lens.

At MAP we empower our clients with a clear and comprehensive understanding of how the political, policy and economic drivers of this fragmenting world will impact the success of your business, now and in the future.
 
As a MAP client, you engage with a diverse global network of MAP partners and senior advisors – among them corporate leaders, strategists, diplomats, policy makers, and academics – who will help you interpret, plan for and pivot around the geopolitical and economic forces impacting your business. 
 
Whether it is US-China relations, supply chain resilience, tech regulation or the global energy transition, our strategic counsel provides solutions for every business and investor.
 
By drawing on our judgments of how macro factors shape your business we help you navigate the risks and opportunities ahead so you can make the kind of confident decisions for growth and investment that will determine your future success.  
 
 

Portfolio

  • Article
    September 2015

    The Weaponization of Everything: Globalization’s Dark Side

    The element of surprise in international relations appears more frequent and more ferocious. Are these shocks to be expected from a dangerously fragile...
  • Article
    June 2015

    Arming Ukraine Will Put the West in Danger

    A dangerous, possibly irreversible, dynamic of conflict is taking hold of Russian-Western relations. In every arena of the Ukraine crisis, escalation is the...
  • Article
    February 2015

    The Limits of Security

    The War Studies 2015 Annual Lecture, Kings College London John Sawers, Chairman, Macro Advisory Partners Dr Strangelove came out in 1964. US President Peter...
  • Article
    January 2015

    The Real Arab Demand

    Two years in the life of the Arab Awakening already feels like an exhausted century, with the pendulum swinging from exuberance to extreme fear. Reckonings...
  • Article
    September 2014

    To Build a Coalition Against Islamic State, US Must Try a Little Humility

    When President Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, he summoned the full weight of U.S. power to a cause...
  • Article
    March 2014

    Russia’s Model Behaviour in the Ukraine

    Russia's Model Behavour in the Ukraine: the Fragmenting Geopolitics of the Future Surprise is the least forgivable sin of statecraft – and yet nothing has so...
  • Article
    February 2014

    European Elections 2014 Report

Contact

London
180 Piccadilly
London W1J 9HF
Tel: +44 207 917 9947

New York
200 Park Avenue South
Suite 1117
New York, NY 10003
Tel: +1 212 602 8721

info@macroadvisorypartners.com