It’s over two months since we woke up to the shock news that the next president of the United States will be Donald Trump, and the whole world is trying to read the runes and work out what the next four years will hold for America and the rest of the world.
Many are decrying Trump’s election as the end of democracy and the beginning of fascism. Others, observing that he is already watering down many of his more extreme threats, are willing to see a silver lining in at least some of his avowed policies. To weigh up these conflicting attitudes and gauge what a Trump presidency might actually look like, Intelligence Squared brought together a high-profile cast of Republicans, Democrats, historians and former political advisers.
Given what we know of Trump’s character (he’s been described by clinical psychologists as a case-book narcissist), perhaps the most pressing question is how much power he will actually be able to wield in office. To what extent will he be able to take executive action to push through his plans, and how much will the constitutional checks and balances work to rein him in?
At home, his supporters (and even some on the left) have welcomed his economic plan to revive America’s impoverished areas by building new infrastructure. His critics, however, see this as a con – nothing more than a tax-cut for the wealthy construction sector and its investors. And then there’s trade. While Trump’s promise to tear up international trade agreements won him millions of votes amongst blue-collar workers who feel left behind by globalisation, most experts believe such a move would cause a recession that hurts the rust belt more than free trade ever did.
When it comes to Trump’s foreign policy, opinions are again divided. His negative stance towards NATO has sparked alarm, particularly in eastern Europe which sees the alliance as a bulwark against an increasingly aggressive Russia. To others, Trump’s apparent willingness to work with President Putin could mark the start of a new east-west détente that should be welcomed.