Thursday, 13 June, 2024
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OPINION

Pre-Poll Dictates Prod Trump



P Kharel

By now, it is crystal clear: Donald Trump, President of the United States, has begun election campaign for a four-year extension at the White House. The contrast between Trump, the political novice, projected by his detractors in 2015 and incumbent Executive Chief today offers a stark bird’s eye view of the billionaire’s political career-graph. Dismissed by the most prolific pens recognised in the US press when Trump threw his hat in the ring for the Republican Party ticket in 2016, he eventually succeeded in obtaining the nomination for the big battle and compelled critics to give him a grudging second look.
Slow and steady wins the race. But the American press and political analysts hogging much of the mainstream media space chose to exercise caution so essential for ensuring that their assessment did not suffer being tainted—the very basic criterion for any objective undertaking. So strong was the media persons’ hostility that Trump continues to be the target of bias. The New York Times, which gloats over his public pledge to report and comment “without fear or favour” has hardly given space for editorials that extract a modicum of positive points in the President’s policies and actions. Its regular opinion-piece scribes echo a similar tone.

Early starts
Such being the attitude of large media houses, including broadcast groups, Trump’s supporters and diehard detractors are set to unleash massive volumes of fire and fury by the time the Democrats anoint their nominee to be pitted against their president. Opinion polls maintain a remarkable consistency in indicating Trump’s core support base at over 40 per cent. In 2016, Trump’s views attracted voters on the strength of forceful promises portraying him as someone who did not fear to tread the path that other presidential hopefuls dreaded.
With a record of five presidents in the post-capital World War II decades having failed to win a fresh full-time in office or secure a second innings, American elections scenes can turn very unpredictable. For a sitting president, obtaining his party approval for a second term is a virtual certainty. Barring an unlikelihood of impeachment proceedings being initiated against him, Trump has an advantage of an incumbent chief firing early the salvo of campaigning while the Democratic Party begins informally perusing a parade of hopefuls angling for party nomination.
In other words, that is part of the election characterises—hopes, suspense, colour, drama and the unexpected. For the world at large, US elections are closely watched not because of the hoopla thus generated but on account of America’s status as the most powerful military might and still the biggest economy. Moreover, much of the western world is beholden to and rallies behind the US under the shield of “sharing of similar values” and a sense of security from named and unnamed sources as far as their overwhelming interest and dominance in the global landscape is concerned.
At the United States-sponsored climate summit last week, participants were surprised by the US president’s unscheduled programme aimed at his electoral strategy. He was very conspicuous by focusing on his concerns over religious persecution rather than the challenges tossed up by climate change. Clearly, Trump had next year’s election in mind, and hence the reason for going out of his way to spend so much attention on a topic that would have been declared out of sync with a conference’s purpose, had it been the case of lesser heads of state. Freedom of religion, according to Trump, stood as an “urgent moral duty” for world leaders to stop crimes against faith. He said, “Approximately 80 per cent of the world’s population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted or banned.”
The American President fired that salvo only a day after he joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a program organised by the US-based Indian community in Modi’s honour. Apparently with an eye on the Indian voting community, many of whom—Democratic or Republican—would cast their lot with him for showing such camaraderie with the visiting premier who shares some of their own roots. That is Trump’s team calculation.
Trump cannot forget that in the last election he drew less popular votes than his Democratic Party opponent Hillary Clinton. It was archaic-collegiate system that enabled Trump to be declared the eventual winner. In brief, every vote counts, and the team advises the president to make moves that earn him votes. Hence most the Trump administration’s measures will be to cover lapses as quickly but subtly as possible.
Even as pre-poll dictates stare at Trump so early, the President and his campaign team are on constant lookout for any which way to prevent or control damage, and attract voter support when the crucial day arrives in November 2020. The marathon race to the White House has, over the decades, become an increasingly exacting exercise. Every second election seems to demand longer planning and ever gruelling going. Placing high stakes on a negotiating denuclearisation settlement, Trump has tirelessly worked for some breakthrough on this front. For a man known for his impatience—at times, imprudence—he has summoned an enormous measure of effort at meeting with the North Korean communist leader Kim Jong-un who is at least well within the capacity of producing nuclear weapons.

Going extra mile
In comes the much maligned Trump who saw in Kim’s land a potential for negotiated settlement of some kind, undeterred by the realisation that the communist autocrat is not an easy nut to crack. The American President has gone an extra mile to meet and discuss with Kim and literally stepped on to the margins of the North-South demilitarised zone. In the February summit in Vietnam between the two, talks broke down when the American side rejected the North’s demand for substantial sanctions relief. Pyongyang itself is extremely conscious about deterrent power of its nuclear weapons potentials. Many believe it already possesses a few of those banned weapons.
South Korea is especially worried about the North’s weapons, given Seoul’s calculations that any major provocation could trigger the southern half of the Korean peninsula to being reduced to virtual rubble. Kim is aware of what led to the killing Libyan leader Mohammed Kadhafi in the wake of US-supported military action after the latter gave up his nuclear programme. As such, Trump senses the tough roadmap to talk Kim out of his weapons programmes, at least the effort pays to be seen seeking a long pending resolution, with election not very far off.