Trump has spent his life being powerful just because he is rich. And in America, wealth is everything. If you’re rich you are powerful and revered. The American Dream was never about becoming a professor or scientist, it is about becoming rich. That was the crux of his campaign message — I am rich, therefore I am successful and clever.
We are now in no doubt that rich is all he is. Any idea that after election a hidden clever Trump would emerge from behind the bombastic facade is long gone.
Trump knows that at the level of his personal experience (and his knowledge seems to be almost entirely limited to his personal experience) his wealth has given him clout and made him powerful. As he said himself (about grabbing women), in his world when you’re rich you can get away with anything. He has taken this idea into his Presidency, assuming that because America is the largest economy in the world, it will also by default be the most powerful and influential.
With his withdrawal from the Paris accord he has discovered that wealth alone does not equate to power or influence on the global stage. America under Trump has given up its position of moral leadership, and has shown the world it no longer wants to occupy that position. Overnight, Trump created a power vacuum at a global level. It looks like China and Europe are stepping in to fill it. This could, in the future, be seen as a turning point in the decline of America; the point at which America went it alone, and stepped out of the most important global movement of our times, and of future times.
Despite the rage burning in the stomach of any thinking person, anyone who believes the earth is round and the future is bleak, this could be a good thing in the long term.
America produces 14% of global emissions, so the remainder is still being addressed by other nations. Meanwhile, America’s abdication from the throne of Global Leader seems to have inspired China to make a grab for the crown, possibly triggering something of a competition to out-Green America, and become a global clean-energy leader. This is a good thing.
America will take 4 years to drop out of the Accord, and will finish the process the day after the next American Election, so in fact this may just be an even shorter term vision than we realised, one intended to appeal to Trump’s coal-digging, truck-driving, oil-drilling constituency as a great soundbite, but which will actually not affect anything. One can hope.
Otherwise, If Trump actually manages to make any of this happen, it is clear that any revival of the Coal industry that he somehow brings around will be undermined by the fact that clean energy will become cheaper than coal, and that clean energy race will now more likely be won by China, further undermining Trump’s goals of a stronger economy and more balance of trade. There will come a time when his broke coal miners will have to buy Chinese solar panels.
In fact, provided the global coalition around the Paris Accord holds together, which it shows surprising signs of doing, then America dropping out will not be a trigger for its collapse. And if American States and companies continue to honour the Accord, then Trump’s move may have very little negative impact. However, it has totally undermined American supremacy globally.
His recent foreign trip made America less relevant in Europe and with NATO, not only because of the message he delivered, but because of the way he delivered it. He has left Europe and NATO in no doubt that he is an incompetent fool, so for now at least they will not bother with him. America is therefore less relevant globally. Trump has failed to realise that just turning up as the richest guy in the room doesn’t win you power or influence on the global stage. Being wise and mixing might with genuine leadership has made America significant up until now. Trump has blown that in a very short time.
Trump has left the world wide open for new countries and leaders to step into the role America has enjoyed since the war. That global leadership not only cost America money, it also won it influence and made it matter in a way that made it money — American goods, American films, America as a destination, all of these things were the pay-back.
One imagines that global leaders, apart from a few of the worst dictators, are now just putting America on hold until it removes Trump. China has stepped in to show leadership in climate change, alongside Merkel, who is now seen by most as the Leader of the Free World.
Trump is doing incredible damage to his own country, and most of all to his own voters. The extent of his narcissism and egotism is shown in this latest move, as it will bring him benefit in the short term, by shoring up his core vote, but will damage America and his voter base in the long term — but by then he’ll be dead, so he clearly doesn’t care.
As for those around him, the real blame falls at the feet of Fox News and the Republicans who are still supporting him. Surely they can’t all be as stupid and egocentric as Trump. Some of them must know what they are doing. Or are they all in fact ignorant, uneducated, and uncaring about anyone other than themselves?
Either way, they have blown it. The Paris accord will carry on, and the rest of the world will continue to fight global warming. They will be led by China, Germany, and France. China does incredibly well being able to stand on the same stage as respected, mature, leaders like Merkel, and be so associated with Europe as a partner in an honourable cause. America meanwhile will continue to decline under Trump. The democracy continues to be weakened, and with it America’s ability to be a relevant and significant country globally. The impact of climate change, and the leadership now shown by China and Europe will damage American businesses, in a country built on oil and petrol cars. They may still have a lot of bombs, and lots of money, but America is no longer taken seriously globally. Trump’s voters wanted isolationism, and now they have it. But it’s not protectionism, it’s just self-harm.