October 12, 2016 | By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week’s Reads – After Trump

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump will not be the next president of the United States. After a disastrous weekend for the Trump campaign that included a surreal debate performance in which he called for jailing his opponent and denied US intelligence agency assertions that Russia was involved in a series of politically motivated hacks, Secretary Clinton now leads national polls by double digits.

The question now seems to be what comes next. What will become of the vocal, energized minority that has embraced the Trump worldview? What will Trump’s loss mean for America and the world?

On the first question, the answer is simple. With or without Trump the candidate, Trump’s core supporters will continue to play a big role in American politics, perhaps for many years to come. Neither the forces that caused Trump’s rise, nor the core Trump supporters being affected by them, are going anywhere. As the recently released 2016 Chicago Council Survey shows, core Trump supporters have markedly different views on policy—particularly foreign policy related to immigration and trade—than traditional Republican and Democratic voters. And while these opinions are not new and represent a minority view, they are being voiced with an outsized volume and intensity that is sure to receive attention from policymakers.

The second question is harder to answer, as it deals with a potential counterfactual. But if Trump does in fact lose in November, Americans will likely be spared many of the problems that have befallen other Western nations that have embraced nationalist, anti-immigrant stances.

Just consider Britain, post-Brexit referendum. Britain’s economy already appears to be shrinking. Its commercial relationships with other countries are in disarray. It is experiencing an increase in race hate crimes. These are all worrisome trends, to be sure. But an added issue for Britain is its reduced—and perhaps lost—role as a global power. Indeed, Brexit offers a cautionary tale for American voters who would sacrifice national power and prosperity for autonomy.

This week’s reads provide some insight into what happens when a nation turns inward and offer a picture of what America may be avoiding by rejecting the politics of Trump.

Those Who Don’t Understand Trump Are Doomed to Repeat Him

Arthur C. Brooks/The New York Times

Two pieces of conventional wisdom about Donald Trump remain largely unchallenged, says Arthur C. Brooks. First, his populist takeover of the Republican Party was shocking and unforeseeable. Second, he revealed realities about the electorate, especially on trade and immigration, around which Republicans must adapt or be left behind. Both are wrong, Brooks says, noting that while political populism often follows economic meltdowns and immigration and trade are lightning rods, the real issue is weak, unevenly shared growth. He suggests conservative reformers focus on education, rewriting financial regulations, and attack special treatments for wealthy and entrenched interests.

Why Referendums Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem

Amanda Taub and Max Fisher/The New York Times

Though presented as putting power in the hands of the people, popular referendums are often intended to legitimize actions leaders have already decided to take, write Max Fisher and Amanda Taub for The New York Times. Political leaders will often reframe the referendum into simplistic, straightforward narratives. The result is that votes become less about the actual policy question than about contests between abstract values or between which narrative voters find more appealing. They also tend to be volatile, turning on unrelated political swings or even the weather. “This isn’t democracy,” says one commentator; “it is Russian roulette for republics.”

Why Europe Wants a Hard Brexit to Hurt

Charles Gant/The Guardian

Britain and its European partners are both leaning toward irrationally “hard” Brexit options that would prevent Britain from remaining closely integrated with the continental economies, Charles Gant writes in The Guardian. In the UK, Theresa May wants to restrict the right of EU citizens to work in Britain, but this will preclude it from joining the EU common market. Meanwhile, other EU members worry that if Britain is given special status other countries might ask for equivalent deals. Ultimately, Gant thinks Britons have a weaker bargaining position and are likely overly optimistic about getting what they want.

For Britain’s ‘Brexit’ Bunch, the Party Just Ended

Peter S. Goodman/The New York Times

Friday’s global run on the British pound made clear that Britain’s vote to exit the European Union has put its commercial relationships with the world on uncertain and potentially perilous ground. Brexiteers had steadfastly maintained the illusion that Britain could have it both ways —retaining access to the European market while controlling immigration. But those hopes are proving false. Some thought Brexit would be reversed, some hoped for a soft Brexit, and some thought Britain’s leaders could strike a good deal. “All of the delusions have run out of material,” said one observer.

Theresa May: Pounding Home the Message

Henry Mance/Financial Times

In a defining speech at her first Conservative Party conference this week, Theresa May made it clear that she wants Britain to be radically different after Brexit, an event she signaled could be completed as early as 2019. It seems her calculation is that Britain’s political center is no longer socially or economically liberal, and she is shifting her Conservative party to adopt proposals that drive toward a new center. She puts one foot in the populist UK Independence Party’s camp by bashing the establishment and another in the center-left Labour party’s by decrying business and income inequality.

What Options Does the US Have After Accusing Russia of Hacks?

David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth/The New York Times

Now that the White House has formally accused Russia of meddling in the presidential election with cutting-edge cyberattacks and age-old information warfare, formulating the right kind of counterstrike is not very straightforward. President Obama’s options range from the mild—naming and shaming the Russians, as he did recently—to the more severe, like invoking economic sanctions. At its core, the problem that the Obama administration faces is this: Russia’s actions walk the line between harassment and low-level state-versus-state conflict. The question is how to deter future attacks while maintaining escalation dominance.

Mind Your Step

The Economist

Theresa May fired the starting gun for what looks likely to be a hard Brexit, writes The Economist, taking Britain out of Europe’s single market. However, looking back at economic developments since the referendum, the magazine demonstrates that Brexit will be a process, not a single event. And that is why it will haunt Mrs. May’s government. Negotiating Brexit and its consequences could take several years, and neither side is ready for the challenge of such complex negotiations.

Theresa May Walks into a Brexit Trap

Gideon Rachman/Financial Times

By announcing she will start the formal negotiations to leave the EU by March 2017, Gideon Rachman says Britain’s prime minister forfeited her leverage in the talks. Upon triggering Article 50 to leave the EU, she has precisely two years to negotiate a new deal with the EU. This leaves Europe the option to simply run the clock down. So why has May been so reckless? She may have bought herself another couple of years in office, Rachman says, but she has also significantly increased the chances that Brexit will cause severe damage to the British economy.


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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion in blog posts are the sole responsibility of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.


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