Beyond the widespread misgivings, including “Never Trump Republicans”, about Trump’s fitness for the presidency are growing concerns about his erratic tweeting. Bypassing media filters, official protocols and expertise, Trump’s recent mutually congratulating phone calls with presidents of Pakistan and the Philippines and Taiwan’s leader are also raising alarms in Washington and other capitals. Chinese enquiries to the White House on whether Trump’s call represented a change in US policy were followed by another tweet from Trump making clear that this was not a courtesy call from Taiwan, as he had tweeted at first, but rather deliberately initiated by the Trump team. Thus, earlier claims by Trump and Pence were proved untrue. Does this foretell a “fact-free” presidency? Now U. S. agencies confirm Russian hackers placed many fake news stories to hurt Clinton and help in Trump’s election.
The USA is still divided after the ugly campaign, Trump’s brilliant domination of media as a reality TV star, his swaggering narcissistic, authoritarian personality and showmanship playing the strongman still delight his fans. His tweeting signals contempt for “insiders”, his vows to “drain the Washington swamp” — despite evidence to the contrary. His “America First” slogans on his victory tour brought out his adoring fan base, as he confirmed their biases chanting “lock her up” against Hillary. Meanwhile Hillary’s popular national vote beat Trump by 2.5 million and counting. Brain research and behavioral science confirm that people vote on their emotional “gut” reactions often less on national policy and research.
All this is energizing the recounts in Wisconsin and Michigan and his movements to either reform or abolish the Electoral College. Clinton and Green Party supporters, environmentalists, minority groups, greens and civil libertarians are all focusing on the votes of these Electors to ratify Trump’s electoral vote majority on December 19th. Even elite lawyers for both parties on ethics, Harvard’s Lawrence Tribe and Laurence Lessig and others are calling for these electors to vote with the majorities in their districts, rather than conforming to their state’s total. This might dent Trump’s path to presidency.
These lawyers claim that unless all Trump’s conflict-of-interest issues affecting national security are resolved: his dealings with foreign businesses and governments as in his meetings with Indian business partners; calls with Argentina’s president, which include Ivana Trump, in which permits for buildings were discussed and others with other leaders; secrecy of his company and tax returns; his refusal to offer credible plans to separate himself and his family from his company–then the Electors should not confirm him as president. They add that if these matters are not resolved that Trump will be in violation of the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause even as he swears the oath of allegiance on January 20th’s inauguration.
While all this is a long shot, this movement’s efforts to either get states and the Electoral College to agree to vote with most their constituents has gained traction, and bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to abolish this historic relic of states’ rights. Trump himself may tip the balance for reform illustrating his erratic behavior with his constant tweeting often on trivial issues and thin-skinned reactions to criticism now targeting his latest scapegoat: the media. His vows to restore 19th and 20th century industries, coal mining and fossilized sectors ignores the role of automation and that green sectors now employ millions more US citizens than those lost in mining or in fossil fuels and nuclear power, as renewable energy technologies restore democracy through decentralization. As in my “Greening Trump’s Infrastructure Plan”, Democrats and green investors may be able to secure investments in needed future infrastructure: electrified mass transit, smarter growth, urbanization, electric vehicle charging stations, LED lighting, etc. and well as infrostructure: broadband access for local economic development of underserved poorer communities and small internet-based businesses.
All these concerns about Trump’s state of mind and temperament were aired repeatedly during the campaign. Hopes that he would change his behavior have proved unfounded. The concerns are unlike the “buyers’ remorse” seen in Britain after the close Brexit vote, since the majority in the USA voted against Trump by 2.5 million votes nationally. So just as Britain’s Parliament is re-thinking the Brexit vote, in the USA the focus is on the Electoral College and its final official decision on the presidency on December 19th.
The Electoral College was created by the US founders to keep small states (many slave-owning at that time) in the Union. Founder Alexander Hamilton advocated successfully for this Electoral College to prevent an unqualified, populist candidate from gaining the presidency. Ironically, if these Electors ratify the plurality of their states’ votes Trump garnered in the election, the result will be exactly the opposite of what Hamilton intended. This 2016 election, if made official by the Electoral College will be the fifth time that this body has denied the presidency to the winner of the popular national vote. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush became president when the Supreme Court stopped the recount of votes in Florida. So, who are these Electors? They seem mostly to be appointed by local politicians under local rules and interest groups. The National Popular Vote campaign www.nationalpopularvote.com has detailed background information and polls showing 70% approval of its goal: to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Electors vowing to vote against Trump are listed. Even Donald Trump favors a national popular vote, as does Al Gore. But Trump then confused the issue by falsely declaring that his own win of the electoral majority was rigged, by some 2 or 3 million imaginary illegal votes!
All this history illustrates for international observers, the fact that the USA, while promoting democracy around the world, is not itself a democracy but a federal republic of states.
Yet in today’s globalized world it is no longer feasible to have states and provinces sign many international agreements and treaties, even though they can often resolve specific issues, such as climate change, quite effectively as these local and municipal levels. In fact, at the COP21 and 22 UN climate conferences, the private sector, NGOs, city officials and state legislators have led national governments in decarbonizing their energy sectors and transitioning to cleaner, healthier, knowledge-richer technologies.
But on global threats: epidemics, cross border pollution, water shortages, global warming, rising sea levels, peace-keeping, protection of forests, oceans, and space, no single nation can solve these issues alone. Trump’s vows to tear up treaties on nuclear proliferation, trade agreements, turn NATO into a pay-to-play, protection racket, build a wall on the US-Mexican border, emphasize military force and revisit foreign alliances are raising risks and anxieties in capitals worldwide.
The rise of angry populist movements in Europe, Britain’s Brexit vote, Italy’s rejection of outgoing Prime Minister Renzi’s ill-timed referendum augur the return of strongmen like playboy Berlusconi and Russia’s autocratic Vladimir Putin, admired by Trump, along with such leaders in France and Germany. Austria’s election of a Green Party president who also supports the embattled European Union, leads an outsider party. Rejection of the elites in all these mature countries focuses on those left behind in corporate-led globalization and the now global “casino” financialization, with shockingly high unemployment, austerity, all benefiting the few at their expense.
Rather than turning back the clock and waging cultural identity wars, what is needed is to re-shape globalism beyond economics and maximizing GDP-growth which is failing. The new model beyond GDP is the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), ratified by 193 member countries of the United Nations in 2015 along with the COP21 and 22 agreements to move beyond the fossil-fueled Industrial Era to the fast-growing cleaner, healthier, more inclusive democratic green economies of this 21st century. This great global transition is the next technological evolution and is tracked by the OECD’s Green Growth platform and many new indicators including the Green Transition Scoreboard ® which tracks private investments in green sectors worldwide, now a cumulative $7.1 trillion. Trump, who is a pragmatist and focuses on money-making as success, as evidenced by his cabinet picks may yet see that he is on the wrong side of history.
HAZEL HENDERSON, D.Sc.Hon., FRSA is CEO of Ethical Markets Media (USA & Brazil) Certified B Corporation. Her 56-page eBook Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age, Forward by NASA Chief Scientist Bushnell is a free download from www.ethicalmarkets.com