US President Donald Trump leaves office on January 20. International order and democracy have been seriously damaged in the past four years. The “negative legacy” that President-elect Joe Biden will inherit is too great.
Trump has maintained a stance of sticking entirely to the “America First” policy that he declared in his inaugural address.
It is natural for a leader to give top priority to his or her own country’s interests, but the US is the world’s largest military and economic power. Trump is noticeably different from past US presidents in that he has not considered his country’s role in the stability of the world.
It is commendable that Trump has raised the issue of China’s increasing assertion of power, viewing it as problematic and as one of the forces making efforts to change the status quo. However, pressure from the imposition of punitive tariffs has led to the proliferation of protectionism. It was also unreasonable to try to solve the issues through a deal between the leaders.
Considering China’s growing power, it would be reasonable for the US to cooperate with its allies in dealing with the issues. Nevertheless, Trump took a one-sided view that the US alone has been bearing burdens. He moved to demand extreme increases in the defence burdens on US allies and reduced the number of US troops stationed overseas.
Although relations between Japan and the US have remained generally good, many US allies undoubtedly have been swayed by Trump. The diplomacy between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was effective in easing tensions, but it did not bring about any progress in Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.
Trump also has rejected international frameworks, such as by announcing that the US would withdraw from the World Health Organisation. Contrary to his pledge to “make America great again”, it is obvious that he lowered US influence and undermined national interests.
On the economic front, Trump has pushed ahead with economic expansion and an improvement in the unemployment rate, but these achievements have been wiped out by a careless response to the novel coronavirus. This appears to be the result of his self-righteous style to make light of experts and dismiss a series of high-ranking officials who spoke to him frankly and unreservedly.
Trump’s style of politics – unilaterally announcing his policies and opinions on Twitter, and never correcting any tweets that were shown to be false – has caused widespread conspiracy theories and a crisis in democracy. His insistence that there was fraud in the presidential election and his refusal to admit his defeat in the election have driven the negative effects to a peak.
The occupation of the Capitol by his radical supporters and the two impeachment charges by Congress will be a blemish on history.
Trump, who has fuelled anti-immigrant hostility and racial confrontation, leaves office, but there will be no change in the structure in which his supporters, mainly white workers in rural areas, feel alienated from economic globalisation and the promotion of information technology. They will continue to oppose politics led by urban elites.
This is a serious task for the new administration – how to overcome divisions in society and expand the understanding of the importance of international cooperation.
Editorial/THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN (JAPAN)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK