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My 350 on Donald Trump: common sense against the liberal order

The ideological resonance of the globalizing and multiculturalist discourse has reached a limit, set by the American electorate.

Andres Matias Schelp
28 November 2016

As much as we disagree with the legitimacy of Trump's positions, it is necessary to take into consideration two key issues with regard to the economic, social, and cultural crisis that white Americans with medium and low qualifications have faced in the last thirty to forty years. On the one hand, the loss of industrial jobs due to translocation and automation has eroded their purchasing power. On the other, as Fareed Zakaria has pointed out, values have been rapidly changing within American society, in which individuals have seen the country transformed from predominantly white and Protestant, to a more multi-ethnic society. Used to being the majority hegemonic group of society the white working class is feeling more and more like just one of the different interest groups.

Trump captured this group's interest and managed to articulate a proposal that highlighted the failures of the liberal paradigm, suggesting in some way a return to a past United States: a protectionist country with a Protestant identity, focused on its internal problems and with a foreign policy that prioritizes national interest above all. This message has attracted a population jaded by Washington's cosmopolitan elites and a political system that promises them little.

These internal processes of American politics have consequences in the field of International Relations. The current problems of the world have a global dimension and impact; therefore it is necessary to go beyond the Westphalian principles to solve them. The nationalist rhetoric of the future President seems to run counter to these needs. Worryingly as a result, the structure of multilateral cooperation will be called into question precisely when it is needed the most.

The program of reforms to re-articulate international relations in the aftermath of the Second World War – a result of the Bretton Woods Conference and the Charter of the United Nations – was a policy propelled by American elites that despite being negotiated with other major powers was generated, discussed, and decided by a select group of politicians, bureaucrats and experts. Nowadays, except Russia and in some ways China, virtually the entire international system is in favor of this model – thus becoming an intra-elite agreement-, a fact which has been evidenced in the almost unanimous international support of Clinton's candidacy.

Unlike the post-war order, it is now the "common sense" of the people (disenfranchised American masses) which is forcing a rethinking of global politics. Trump's victory (as much as Brexit) can be considered a sort of "democratic blow" to the global order. This blow is presented in an oppositional way. In dialectical terms, this bottom-up response is a negation of the previous order without the articulation of a surpassing paradigm.

There is an evident disconnect between the promises of the liberal narrative and the experiences of a large part of the American electorate after 30 years of globalisation. This has been one of the greatest triggers for the polarization that has characterized this electoral campaign and the consolidation of the anti-establishment vote on it. The result of these elections has shown that the ideological resonance of the globalizing and multiculturalist discourse has reached a limit, set by the American electorate. Nevertheless, the global boundaries of it will be articulated by the Trump administration, which will outline to what extent United States' historic interests in promoting the liberal order will be affected.

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