Trump’s failure to keep Carrier in the U.S. is being read, at least by Democrats, as his broken promise. I expect his supporters aren’t even aware of the accuracy of his claim to victory that was partial. But I suspect, not only will this be the first of Trump’s attempt to rephrase broken promises as wholesale success stories, but that his failures are actually indicative of a much larger, situational problem.
Let’s keep in mind that Trump really had no fucking clue of what he was talking about throughout his campaign, so of course any promises he made were ill-informed. That’s the first point. He was not aware of any of the complexity of what he spouted about. But does that let him off the hook? No, of course not. That’s why he a demagogue. That’s exactly what a demagogue does: makes impossible promises and false claims to gain power. That is the Trump recipe. Moving on.
As a figurehead and cult of personality, each President makes promises in the campaign trail and it’s only after HIS term(s) that we are able to measure HIS efficacy as leader. This is part of the problem of the our democratic process for leadership in the United States. It’s almost always a de facto reality for which we vote.
Obama promised to close Guantanamo. The journey of why he failed can be helpful in understanding why Trump will fail in his promises. First, Obama did try to close Guantanamo. In 2009 in a Presidential memorandum he moved to federally purchase Thomson Correctional Center in IL. The problem with transferring Guantanamo detainees to Thomson was blocked not only by the Justice Department but also Congress, which claimed the move to acquire the prison was a political move by Obama seeking re-election. At least two hurtles there, and no budging. But even had some success regarding moving the detainees from Cuba to Thomson been able, that wasn’t really what was implied in Obama’s promise, or at least didn’t address the grievance of anti-Guantanamo activists. The issue with the detainees wasn’t and isn’t their location. It’s the illegality of their detainment, specifically the suspension of habeas corpus. It would have been a play on words for Obama to formally close Guantanamo but just move them to another prison be it down the road or in Illinois. The total failure is decorated with grade E for ‘effort’ scribbled on the report card. In terms of numbers of prisoners held, he did greatly reduce the population, down to 45 as of January 17, 2017.
Okay, now back to Trump. Obama had political experience and even in his second term, against a Republican majority, couldn’t really expect to fulfill his promises as they were believed to mean by his supporters. Why would we expect Trump to be able to fulfill any of his promises when he has zero political experiences?
Again, the point isn’t to give grandpa Trump a “pass” for his ascension to power on the back of poor decision-makers. The point is that pointing out his broken promises eludes the bigger issue which is even with all the power players on board, conditionally, the United States can’t return to its previous role of economic top dog who can do anything that it wants, even in its own country. That’s not the world we live in. In the example of Carrier moving to Mexico, we’re talking about the costs of labor, many of the company’s suppliers are already based in Mexico, and the fact that it is the company is the largest producer of air conditioner, heating and refrigeration equipment in the world. These are variables that no President is going to change. Add to the fact that the largest client of Carrier is the Pentagon doesn’t necessarily mean leverage if other variables outweigh this fact; instead, a 30% tariff to re-import would just mean a budgetary question in Trump’s government having to purchasing the equipment at a higher price.
The conditions that are most concerning, I’m arguing, are not the fulfillment of the promises from Trump, Obama, George W. Bush or any other elected official but the increasing difficulty for the United States to shape the world, i.e. it’s position as a power player on the world stage. Ironically, Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” alludes to the fact that America is in decline, which I agree with. It’s a well known fact, even among supporters of Clinton, that the “end of the American Empire,” is approaching. Some read this as a rise of contending economic powers, some read this as a descent into immorality, I read this as a question of power to shape the world to our desired ends.
The question then becomes what are the results of political impotency? What are the actions of people in positions of supposed power but powerless, is it corruption? What is the role of country in a world that is losing power?
Neither Clinton nor Trump could or can change the falling trajectory of the American empire. It’s at least a relative, comparative situation in which other countries are gaining power beyond our ability to control them and at most a title predicated on unsustainable arrangements of wealth and power distribution among Americans. The differentiation between Trump and Clinton is representational: Shall we go into the night with the dignity of our masks of ethics and taboos, or shall we self-immolate as a tinder of defeat? Practically speaking, whichever ideology we choose is really a question of expediency to the bottom. And since, as a country of the worst polluters on the planet, perhaps TWA-Trump in a tailspin will not only embed us in the valley floor but, through our ensured, profound and fast descent, we will actually avoid greater contribution to the other pending disaster, climate change. Is that optimistic enough?