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Zhao Minghao: Trump risks becoming `solitary’ president


By Zhao Minghao    Source: Global Times    Published: 2017-8-28

It is said that another top adviser of US President Donald Trump, White House Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn, has already drafted his resignation letter. Recently representative of the alt-right and White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon was forced to resign. It seems that there are many cabinet members and top advisers who want to leave the White House, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Under the pressure of the investigation into Russia`s possible involvement in the 2016 US presidential election, the White House has faced constant crises.

The reason for Cohn`s reported resignation may be partly due to the controversy over Trump`s reaction to the recent Charlottesville violence sparked by a march of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Cohn is Jewish and Trump seemed to hold an ambiguous attitude to the far-right marchers and didn`t explicitly condemn those extremists straight away. After the violence in Charlottesville, Cohn said he came "under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain" in his post.

It is without doubt that US society is becoming more divided under the influence of ideology, race, and the gap between the wealthy and poor. The alt-right movement is exerting a more profound influence on the US politics. The term "alternative right" was coined in 2008 by Richard Spencer, who is in charge of the National Policy Institute, a think tank advocating white supremacy. Political correctness and social justice are considered to be tools of ethnic minority groups to erode white identity. White ethno-nationalism is the core value of the alt-right.

The alt-right is loosely organized through social media, gathering together white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-globalization forces. Many of them are lower-middle-class whites. They object to the liberalism and globalization advocated by Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and look down upon the establishment conservatives among the Republican Party.

To a large extent, it is these forces that elected Trump into the White House in the 2016 presidential election, bringing the far-right forces into the mainstream for the first time in the past several decades.

Bannon and his Breitbart News are a part of the alt-right. In August, 2016, Bannon became the campaign manager of Trump. Then, he entered the White House with the ambition of reshaping the US politics and "the deconstruction of the administrative state."

However, Bannon was forced to leave the White House. Dozens of right-wing groups wrote to Trump to voice their serious concerns over this. In the post-Bannon era, how to retain the loyalty of the middle-and-lower class white voters, and at the same time bridge social and ethnic rifts will be a big challenge for Trump. Domestic chaos and uncertainty are exerting negative influences on his term.

In addition, the relationship between Trump and Congress has gone steadily downhill. Since assuming the presidency, Trump has not made much legislative progress in areas such as tax reform, medical care and infrastructure. Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are dissatisfied with Trump.

Other senior Republicans such as John McCain have publicly criticized Trump many times. Factions within the Republican Party like the Freedom Caucus seem to not be taking Trump seriously.

And the Democrats have criticized Trump more and rolled out their new economic and trade guidelines. The Democrats are pushing to become the majority party in the 2018 mid-term elections. Obviously what they want is not only the resignation of Bannon, but also the removal of Trump.

Finally, the operating problems of the Trump administration have become more obvious. Apart from the vacancies of about 300 senior positions, many mid-level officials in the Trump administration dislike the president, especially clear in the State Department where many top officials have resigned. And some officials leaked classified information to media, pressuring the administration. Besides, as Trump insists on using people who are close to him, the administration lacks talented officials.  

At present, many polls show that Trump`s disapproval rating has reached as high as 60 percent. It is hard for John F. Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, to get the White House in order. Although the influence of the establishment is increasing, the Trump administration is facing pressure for in-depth political reform.

In US history, there are many solitary presidents, such as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Maybe Trump will become one of them.

The author is a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: Stephen Bannon   Trump   supremacists   Zhao Minghao  

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