01/12/2017

What The Trump Era Will Feel Like: Clues From Populist Regimes Around The World

Malik Kaylan, Forbes Opinion

This column is about what life will be like under Trump, based on discernible patterns in other countries where populists gained power, especially those with possible murky Russian ties. I write this not as the kind of airy opiner now ubiquitous via the internet – just one more shrill partisan voice in the noise – but as a professional with specific two-decades-long experience in the subject. Experience on the ground that is, as a reporter and commentator. I have now covered upwards of a dozen countries that have buckled under the emergent wave of populist leaders, from the Far East to the Mideast to Europe and the Americas. Many of the countries have done so quite democratically, at first. That emergent wave has crashed onto US shores in a fashion thoroughly precedented abroad.

Recently, I wrote about how I'd seen all the tricks in the Trump campaign before, actually in Tbilisi, Georgia, during the 2012 national elections when the pro-US candidate lost to a pro-Russian populist.  At that time, no one was ready to believe the Russians capable of influencing Western style elections. Many still don't, even after Trump. We now have enough experience of populists in power in the West and elsewhere to guess intelligently at what's to come in the US; what life will feel like under Trump. Here is a checklist to compare against in the coming months and years. We will all be happier if none of this comes to pass but the weight of evidence suggests the worst. Equally, none of this implies that supporters of Trump don't have legitimate issues on their side which, sadly, other politicians won't address. Which is how populists come to power.

Constitutional Chaos

Already the intelligence services and Mr.Trump have squared off. Think about that for a long moment. Then think about what Trump will do. He will appoint new chiefs. They will fight with their rank and file. He will try to downsize and defund. There will be pushback. Imagine what that will look like in the media. Then there's the 'Emoluments Clause' that, according to various experts, requires Trump resign from his businesses. He won't fully. His kids certainly wont. His kids will also occupy indefinable White House positions with disproportionate power, raising all manner of nepotism questions. For a long while, Trump will ignore his more-or-less respectable cabinet chiefs and get things done via non-accredited unofficial advisors. Picking through the legal minefield, the courts and ultimately the Supreme Court will be very busy. So, think about vacancies on the Supreme Court. Watch Republicans in Congress divide endlessly over the issues. There will be incessant all-against-all confusion in America's institutions – as there was in the very process of the election. All this chaos – cui bono? Confusion and uncertainty creates a yearning for strongman rule.

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