Trump’s jingoism hopes to reverse collapsing domestic popularity: Separation of powers tripod acquires fourth prop
Trump’s America is an example of how mass demonstrations, social media, town-hall meetings, local councils, court action by rights groups and mass pressure can make Congress, courts, media, the White House and security agencies bow to public concerns. In the last three months this conglomeration of drivers, which I will call People’s Power (PP), have been able to compel the other three branches (executive, legislative and judicial), well defined in the Constitution, to accommodate their influence. My thesis is that this is a paradigm shift, a change that has come to stay. There are now four not three ‘branches’ in the division of power, three constitutionally stipulated and PP, a supra-constitutional dynamic.
This thesis makes sense only if PP is not a flash in the pan but has come to stay. Many great mobilisations have transformed society, or been crushed or fizzled out. Revolutions alter countries; the tide from 1789 to 1848 changed Europe, February and October 1917 did the same for Russia and wars have shaped and misshaped the world. The Arab Spring, despite electrifying fireworks, fizzled out. PP in the Philippines and Eastern Europe achieved great change but did not add a fourth prop to the structure of state. In democratic advanced societies – that is, technologically, materially and culturally advanced – the score is different. Modern communications empowers social media whose influence is a game changer. It brought Trump to power and has the clout to drive him out of power. The influence of electronic media, TV and the Internet, penetrate maybe a 100 million homes.
Jingoism to mute critics
Let it be said upfront that Basher al Assad, a slayer of innocents and an egregious tyrant must be driven out. He has often used chemical weapons against his own people and I will cheer when they hang him from a lamp-post. World and American popular opinion is glad that Assad’s nose has been bloodied. Trump’s resoluteness contrasts favourably with his predecessor Obama’s Hamlet like indecisiveness in similar circumstances.
However, Trump repeated over and over again on the campaign trail that he would not “waste US tax dollars getting involved in the Middle East” and declared “let the people over there sort out their problems, it’s no concern of the US”. This complements his refrain that human rights and soft morality is drivel not in American interests. En passant this is a wakeup call for Sinhala chauvinists and simpleton Sirisena who delude themselves that Lanka’s war criminals and human rights violators are off the hook following the leadership change in Washington.
Why Trump’s epiphany, dramatic change of heart and total reversal of pledges? I was amazed to watch his performance. Why, he even had a tear for the “beautiful babies and chocking civilians” that Assad’s brutes were mowing down! You don’t need to be a cynic; you only need common-sense to see how bogus and theatrical the dramatization was. Firstly, the build-up of tension and its cathartic release was to defuse unbearable domestic pressure escalating against him. Secondly it was intended to mollify international human rights movements and thirdly to send a message to North Korea, the Middle East including Iran, Russia and China that the new man in the White House is tough so don’t mess around. This third objective may fall flat as global powers see that this is only an act by a crude showman. The strike was limited to 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles and hit just one air-base, Shayrat. The Russians were told in advance to move personnel out of harm’s way. No doubt the information was passed to their Syrian counterparts. [There is a Syrian-Russian version that conventional Syrian air forcr bombs fell on rebel held poison gas stockpiles. I have not taken note of this in this piece because no evidence has been offered up to now].