When Donald Trump won the Presidency of the United States, many people in my political circle were openly ecstatic. Here was an anti-establishment candidate who they thought would upend the political establishment in America. Here was a candidate who they said would listen to the people of America and make the country great again.
Let me be clear. Mr Trump won the election fair and square. The scale of his victory, was a resounding whack in the face for the establishment politicians on both sides of the aisle. It was an even bigger whack in the face for Hillary Clinton who was finally told by the electorate that one Clinton presidency in the White House was enough. It was a disaster of monumental proportions for the Democrats – to lose control of the House of Representatives, the Senate AND the White House.
But as I watch the birth pangs of the Trump presidency unfold I see the birth pangs of a presidency that is not going to have any regard for international law and possibly push the world closer to an international incident than President Obama did. It runs the risk of further alienating America on the world stage and will only end up appeasing the hard right.
Mr Trump is a nationalist. He is a believer in his country, which on the outside is quite fine. Mr Trump wants to put the needs of America and Americans first. I am a believer in my country, New Zealand, and like him I want to put the needs of New Zealanders and New Zealand first. A good example of where we see eye to eye is on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which he said the United States will walk away from under his direction. This is something I would also like to see New Zealand walk away from.
But that is where our similarities end. Mr Trump wants to engage in what I call hard nationalism which is brash, forceful – some might say chest thumping – and in many respects intimidating. This type involves selecting target issues and groups, that are apparently adverse to the nations well being and going after them. In Mr Trumps case, these are Muslims and illegal immigrants, who he says are terrorist threats and job snatchers. But despite them being assured to the contrary, it is creating fear among genuine immigrants who are often the subject of aggressive/discriminatory behaviour by so-called supporters.
My approach is soft nationalism. There are ways of making a nation strong without resorting to the brash approach and still have respect from minority groups, who might even come out in support. As one with a number of friends living in the United States, all of whom are legally there and all whom have indicated some degree of anti-immigrant sentiment being expressed towards them or family there, I fail to see how whipping up prejudice is going to help.
As Mr Trump goes about the appointment of his lieutenants, their backgrounds are starting to raise alarm bells among observers. John Bolton and Mitt Romney are on the short list for Secretary of State – one is a hard liner who thinks regime change in Iran is a good idea (Bolton) and the other who thinks Cold War foe Russia is the biggest threat (Romney).
Jeff Sessions who has been appointed Attorney General was once considered too racist to be a judge. Critics claim Mr Sessions will erode human rights and undo decades of painstaking progress made in the field of racial conciliation. Mr Sessions has opposed legislation to make violence against people in the L.G.B.T.Q. community a hate crime and has opposed legislation that made torture of people held by the United States Government illegal.
Although the appointments to relevant positions for immigration, climate change, health and education are yet to be announced, these positions need to be watched because they are good indicators of whether or not Mr Trump will swing to the hard right. If he does there is a very real danger in doing this, that any last credible vestige of conservatism in the Republican Party will evaporate and be replaced by fascism.