Former Canadian PM Harper Explains Trump
via CBC As It Happens Jan. 19th 2017
[CBC Presenter Carol Off’s setup: Stephen Harper has had some time to think. And he’s been thinking about Donald Trump. Canada’s former Prime Minister was in New Delhi today. He gave the keynote address at an event sponsored by India’s Foreign Ministry. The conference was called “The New Normal”. And Mr. Harper quickly made it clear that events in the United States and elsewhere have him expecting a lot more new and a lot less normal. Here’s some of what he had to say.]
STEPHEN HARPER: Now wherever I go last year. You probably felt the same thing, wherever I went. It seemed to me I got asked two political questions. One was about Brexit and the other was about Donald Trump. Now there are some commonalities. There are some big differences, but some commonalities. But the key commonality is the following. Hardly anyone expected either of them to happen. They were condemned condemned by virtually all the experts. And they happened anyway. Maybe think about this. Maybe they happen precisely because they were condemned by all the experts and all the commentators. Does that sound strange? I don’t think so in the area of globalization and western societies in the post-Cold War era late 1980’s forward if you look at most Western economies. Incomes for middle and working class populations have been stagnant or declining. I would say that Canada under my government was actually an exception to that which is why we don’t have yet a populist movement. But in the developed world there have been big changes and mostly negative for ordinary people. Jobs in traditional sectors have been lost by the millions in the United States as an example, 40 per cent of all manufacturing jobs have vanished in the last three decades. Low skilled migration has accelerated as wages have failed to rise. Social security systems have become more secure. And so what we are seeing in the West is a major political cleavage emerging. It is not a traditional left-right cleavage. It’s not rich-poor. It’s not private sector-public sector.
SH: It is between on the one hand establishment interests most governments, major bureaucracies major business corporate interests, major media entertainment interests. The so-called elite, who believe in open borders. Who believe in open migration, who tend to believe in open trade. Because they we are the people, who in our daily lives cross borders. And on the other hand, are people for lack of a better term that we are calling populists. People who live within borders and live on the ground in the fly over regions. Peoples whose concerns — economic concerns — are national or local not global not transnational whose identities are national and cultural not international or multicultural. The fact that all these major institutions established interests have a consensus. On these things is increasingly irrelevant. With modern technology people who disagree with this consensus even if no one appears to speak for them. They can get their own information, develop their own views, find their own interests, network with others who feel the same and ultimately support leadership from outside the system. I believe. That this problem is going to get worse. I watched the Brexit dynamic very closely. I watched the dynamic around the American election very closely. And it seemed to me that the approach of people who opposed Brexit or opposed Mr. Trump. Their principal approach seemed to be to call supporters of the other side stupid, bigoted or worse. Now I don’t know about you. I was in politics a long time. My experience has been regardless of what you may think. Calling people stupid and bigoted and telling them that you are more enlightened and intelligent is not a very good way to influence people’s opinions.
SH: Just because a very white establishment an expert consensus exists does not mean the public —the wider public — is going to accept that judgment in whole or in part. In fact, it may actually encourage them to reject the judgment. So we have elected in the United States the most non-establishment presidential candidate in political history. What does it mean? Top line is this. Without a doubt, a Trump presidency is a major source for a time to come of global uncertainty.And we also need to admit that when it comes to specifics. We do not have a clear idea of where the new President will head. But we do have some broad outlines. And we have every reason to believe that Donald Trump is serious about those broad directions. And there are two things on international affairs that I believe he is going to do that are truly game changers. First, Donald Trump is going to reverse the cornerstone of seven decades of American foreign policy. That is. He is going to reject and reverse the idea that the United States has an overarching responsibility for global affairs. Now why did the Americans vote for that? I think if you look at this honestly the American public has been told two things that they are finding increasingly incompatible from their leaders. One is that we are truly in a multi-polar world and the United States cannot do it all. But then secondly, that America and America alone must accept overall global responsibility.
SH: And I think the public figures out that those two things together are not working for them and they are choosing — the American public — is choosing to accept in the terms of this conference a multi-polar world. Trump will I believe the U.S. under Trump will focus squarely on America’s vital national interests narrowly defined, especially its economic interests. This does not mean the United States will be unwilling to work with friends and allies on shared interests — it will. But only when such friends and allies are prepared to bring real assets to the table. But let me just say this as well. It is possible for a second to think about it. That Trump’s approach could actually lead to a much more stable American foreign policy.
SH: I had a front row seat for 10 years up close watching the United States foreign policy swing back and forth from overreaching global adventures and then to withering self-criticism and retreat. Trump’s approach could avoid both the tendency of the US in one era to overestimate its capabilities and in another era to overstate its limitations. So if Trump pursues a more transactional approach that could be entirely realistic and potentially much more predictable. But we should be under no illusion. This is going to take us into a world we have not known in eight decades. A world devoid of one or two dominating powers and the risks of that unknown are significant.
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