Donald Trump is a man of representations. On the one hand, he can be presented in the image of a businessman determined to set the economy on track, a stern leader who isn’t afraid to call fake news by its name and use Twitter as a weapon, a no-nonsense, consistent negotiator who can stand side by side with Putin and retain posture amidst the highest pressure, and a victor who can act as if he is moving from win to win even when he isn’t.
Or Trump can be presented as a fumbling klutz incapable of forming complete sentences at press conferences, a disrespectful ignoramus who steps in front of the Queen of England and awkwardly physically asserts himself over other presidents, a cocky cowboy barely saddling the chaotically flailing horse that is the US establishment, all the while playing the fiddle while Rome burns, or as a loud-mouth “populist” who capitulates in the face of any intellectual “fact check.”
In my opinion, the reason why Trump’s representation is so charged, so central, so controversial, and even so paradoxical, is because Trump represents a watershed moment for the United States of America. He is not merely “just another president” — Trump is poised to be and could become the President whose program changes the course of fate of the North American state, and by extension global geopolitics. In other words, Trump is an existential president, and this is why he has earned such bitter ire from his opponents.
It is increasingly clear to a growing swathe of people that the “New Atlantis” and “city upon a hill” experiment launched several centuries ago on the North American continent is not the “end of history” as was ambitiously proclaimed in the 1990’s. Having been at war for 95% of its existence, the country that promised to be the pinnacle of global progress and Civilization, has entered a profound crisis and decline. As the US’ own National Intelligence Reports have admitted since 2008, US hegemony is on the verge of collapse on a global scale, and multipolarity — the very existential bane of the geopolitical and ideological impulse of the American model — is on the rise.
Donald Trump is a product of this situation, and more specifically a reflection of the heterodox sentiments of American discontent with Washington’s course which, as one analyst has cogently pointed out, partially peeked through Occupy Wall Street a decade ago. In this sense, Trump as a reformer represents an impulse beyond left and right, and Trump’s program to “Make America Great Again” can be seen as centered around three crucial points which are not reducible to outdated “right” or “left” political criteria, and which also explain Trump’s wide range of representations.
The first major point on Trump’s MAGA agenda is shifting the United States of America away from the Atlanticist mission in Europe and confrontation with Russia—Eurasia. This entails a strategic retreat or re-negotiation in EU—US and US—Russia relations. In these circumstances, and amidst facing enormous inertia and resistance from the US deep state, it has been crucial for Trump to represent himself as both bellicose and peace-loving, as aggressive and conciliatory, and as both keen and clueless. It is these extremely important geopolitical dynamics and leadership qualities, and not “idiocy”, “hypocrisy”, or “chaos” which explain Trump’s perhaps intentional rhetorical “inconsistencies” or alleged “reneges” which the discredited and declining US mainstream media actors have latched on to as their last hopes for sensationalist relevance. Selling austerity and downgrading reform to a hyper-inflated, declining empire is never an easy task, and for this reason Trump has to maintain an attention-grabbing and variable image, something with which the vampiric and vulture-like mainstream media might just unconsciously be aiding him.
The second key point of Trump’s agenda is reconstructing a real, competitive, productive economy for the US. Unless Washington wants chaos, revolution, or civil war along a variety of axes over the collapse of living standards accompanying the dissipation of US global economic hegemony, upon which the US military-industrial complex and consumer economy are based, then the US has no choice but to economically adapt to the emerging multipolar world. Manufacturing industry, infrastructure, trade terms, and a real US dollar are indispensable components of sustainability for any North American state. The economic policies pursued or promoted by Trump himself should be situated in the context of this long-term strategy and Trump’s negotiations with entrenched interest groups along the way. To this end, Trump has to maintain his image as a businessman insistent on “America First” while navigating the inevitable obstacles of saving a fragile economic model dependent on a global hegemony which is on the way out. Needless to say, this is the real geoeconomic foundation of Trump’s crusade against China.
The third essential element, or task of Trump’s “Making America Great Again” is the composition of the US on the North American continent and in the Western Hemisphere. As I have continuously argued, the US has not successfully undergone ethnogenesis, and its mere 242 years of war and ambitions at home and abroad have not yielded the global New Atlantean liberal utopia upon which its ideological exceptionalism is founded. The Washington state is increasingly resembling a burdensome, unjust, unsustainable, and historically exaggerated weight on the diverse ethnosociological, geographical, cultural, and political landscape of North America. Trumps’s insistence on Making America Great Again, especially in light of his recent announcement of a “Space Force”, is harnessing the Frontier, the adventurous voluntarism which is one of the few developed, common identity tropes on the American continent with which European Americans can identify. As or if points one and two of MAGA are realized, then in the long term the US can gradually reorient itself towards geopolitically focusing on its own hemisphere, i.e., from Pax Americana to Pan Americana. This would, in an historically curious manner, be a return to the New World. In the meanwhile, amidst ethosociological dilemmas and the possibility of the US returning to a Monroe Doctrine, the US needs a strongman who can present himself as a pioneer and a visionary.
These three core points are imperatives and aims of Trump’s Make America Great Again project, and it is on these three points that Trump has faced such ferocious sabotage and resistance from the Washington establishment, whose entire wealth, structures, and discourse are founded on the no longer viable model of US Atlanticism. Yet it is also for these reasons that Trump was allowed by some of the powers-that-be to move into the White House, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, whose reckless insistence on the Atlanticist project threatened a world war with Russia and ultimately the collapse of America along with its global hegemony.
There is no determinism in geopolitics, and there is just as much of a chance that the Trump MAGA project will be annulled or fail. However, the MAGA horizon does open up the space for critical discourse on the US’ past and future which goes beyond left and right, which is conducive to thinking outside of the box of the liberalism and Atlanticism that has restricted, and is now fatally constricting a North America that is, in reality, full of possibilities.
After all, “Make America Great Again” is an implicit admission, which flies in the face of the Washington establishment and its propaganda, that America is not great, but could be. While Trump is busy with his image as part of orchestrating this process, Americans can and must envision their images of a future America. In this sense, Trump is only the beginning.