The Consequences of Mr. Trump - Voices from Global Academia

02/07/2017 07:15 am ET Updated Feb 07, 2017

In 1919, J.M. Keynes published The Economic Consequences of The Peace, against the severe conditions imposed on Germany at the Versailles Treaty, and in 1925, The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill, against the return to the gold standard. The ensuing events, in both cases, showed that his worries were largely right.

Today, how worried should we be about the new President of the United States? Members of the International Panel on Social Progress share their personal thoughts here.

Hate again?

Elisa P. Reis, Professor of Sociology, Universidade Federal Rio de Janeiro (Brasil)

The Trump term just started but there are already dramatic indications that social progress is not irreversible, but something that may be halted or nullified. Not that the voluntary individual alone may set the clock backwards. But if it is true that the historical context structures the alternatives open to social actors, at the end of the day each one of us is responsible for choosing among existing alternatives. No doubt, collective results are different from the mere sum of individual choices, but our options add or subtract to the chances to build a more just world.

The somber picture now emerging from the US is certainly not an exclusivity. Sad enough, from other corners of the world the marks of injustice and intolerance obstruct many paths to progressive moves and, even worse, force regress. But given the pivotal role of the US in the world power system, we now confront an emergency call. Our mobilization must be not only in defense of the rights and warranties that directly concern the groups we identify with, but in the defense of human rights as they are the larger arch that connects us all. The single causes we mobilize for must not be pursued losing sight of their place among the plural universe we share as humankind fellows.

Suad Joseph, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, University of California, Davis (USA)

President Trump's Executive order banning visitors from 7 Muslim majority countries goes against American principles of democracy and undermines the functioning and credibility of the United State and its institutions. It destabilizes the academic functioning of our universities which rely on the open exchange of ideas, scholarship, and scholars. What has made American strong is the diversity and inclusion of a global range of immigrants represented by the open arms of the Statue of Liberty. Just as racialized campaign tactics had no place in American national electoral process, they have no place in the conduct of the business of the US State by its chief executive. This is a time to stand for democracy - and to stand against the dismantling of the rule by law and constitutionality that this Executive Order represents. It is in the national and global interest of the United States of America to stand by and build the basic American values that has made this country a model of democracy.

Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Senior Research Professor and former Director of the Institute of interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, University of Bielefeld (Germany)

Group-focused enmity exists all over the world. It is the devaluation of and discrimination against marked groups independently from the individual behavior of the members. The core is an ideology of inequality in the sense of unequal worth. A broad spectrum of prejudices exists against marked groups like Muslims, Jews, Migrants, Homosexuals etc. Additionally, mostly right-wing extremist groups often direct violent acts against them.

The decree of the President against Muslims from several states establishes a new brutal and dangerous quality of general mistrust. The ban delivers an implicit authorization for group-focused enmity attitudes and behavior by the state authority. The purported rationale to avoid terrorist attacks by persons only from the chosen societies is absurd. Many terrorists come from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, nations which are not included in the ban. The reason for this may be that there are capitalistic interests such as the oil-industries.

For the terrorist organization "Islamic State" the ban is the best gift to intensify radicalizing young Muslims if they have the feeling of being a victim of Western and especially American politics. This can be successful for "home-grown" terrorists like in France, Belgium or the United Kingdom. The potential "home grown" terrorists do not need to come from abroad by airplane to the United States. They are living there. Additionally, this ban does not protect American people and institutions abroad. On the contrary, the President makes them susceptible to new targets of attacks based on symbols of an ugly and hated America.

Are the current activities of the President the next steps of disintegration of the American society - what groups are the next targets? From the scientific perspective of analyzing the effects of group-focused enmity and the processes of the dynamics of conflicts and violence it is shocking. Maybe it is the end of a liberal American society and the beginning of an extreme authoritarian regime. All groups that comprise the civil society have to organize an intensive and sustained protest.

Nancy Ammerman (Boston University, USA), Grace Davie (Exeter, UK), Lucian Leustean (Aston University, UK), Jacob Olupona (Harvard University, USA), David Smilde (Tulane University, USA) and Fenggang Yang (Purdue University, USA)

In our survey of decades of research from around the world, we have concluded that social progress and societal wellbeing are harmed when states and other actors generalise from the behaviour of extreme groups (that undoubtedly exist) to faith communities as a whole, over-regulate the religious field, or suppress particular religions.

Speaking positively, the state (and those who act in its name) is much more likely to succeed if it actively encourages religious diversity and affirms the capacity of well-intentioned groups to live together and contribute to social welfare. For the most part the United States has a proud history in this respect, making recent Executive Orders a worrisome exception.

We also recognize the widespread fear and public misinformation on which these presidential actions build. Improved religious literacy is a critical step toward more constructive approaches to democratic participation. It is easy - and convenient - to demonize Islam. It is, however, counterproductive in the long (indeed not so long) term. ISIS and other radical religious groups are sustained precisely by the misguided policies of blanket suppression such as these.

Women and health

Ana Falu, Professor of Architecture, National University of Argentina in Cordoba

The Trump phenomenon is not an isolated one, but it is very critical to the world for involving the leader of the most powerful country.

The decision to restrict government funding for reproductive health programs and activities will affect women in general, not only at the US level, but also in the countries where the foreign US international cooperation was supporting NGOs and research institutions working on reproductive health, population policies, HIV, and so on. It will in particular affect Latin-Americans women in the most vulnerable conditions, who are already under the weight and restrictions of conservative forces policed by the church in the region. No program supported by the US foreign international aid will be able to involve any work on favor of abortion. The restriction of health funding because those funds will go to sustain reproductive health, is criminal. Trump's rule will impact an estimated $9.5 billion in foreign aid funding and will reduce or withdraw the support to organizations working on maternal and child health, AIDS, malaria and others.

He has already surrounded himself with men who are hardline on both abortion and contraception access, a cabinet of conservative men. Not to mention the new Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, a clearly defined conservative, who no doubts will be against women´s rights and not only women, but homosexuals, transgender or any other of the omitted social subjects who will again be neglected by the law and the institutions. Additionally, the ecological/environmental resources and the trade union rights will also find a conservative majority in the Parliament and in the Supreme Court.

These are obscure and difficult times, times of uncertainty. Not only for the Americans whose rights are challenged, but for the Latin-Americans, the refugees, the migrants, the rights gained by women.

Ana Sojo, Social Affairs Officer, Economic Commission for Latin America (Chile)

State regulatory action, public insurance, and social insurance by private-sector insurers but with compulsory financing mechanisms and regulations to ensure risk diversification are different ways of dealing with risk selection and raising efficiency in the health insurance markets, as they bring stability to insurance. When social financing is opted for, the objectives are also redistributive and it is possible to create cross-subsidies among income strata, age groups, risk groups and so on.

Compulsory health insurance, by including and retaining people at low risk, makes it possible to operate by a logic different from that of private insurance, and to achieve stable risk differentiation. It breaks the identity between individual risks and premiums and establishes risk coverage on more general terms, so that it can include some risks which are not normally covered by individual insurance policies. Compulsory insurance operates with a long-term perspective: because guarantees are applied generally and not to subgroups categorized by risk, individuals are not reclassified if their risks increase.

This is the logic of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health reform law: Americans with preexisting conditions are covered, because healthy people are required to sign up (otherwise they must pay a fine); insurers can offer policies to people with preexisting conditions because the law expands the number of people who are insured, thus spreading the costs of treating people with chronic conditions over a larger number of insured. On the other hand, subsidies make insurance affordable for middleclass people, and more attractive for healthier customers.

While the proportion of uninsured Americans has dropped to less than 9 percent, the lowest on record, repealing the health law, by most estimates can mean that up to 22 million people, many of them poor or older Americans, will lose their health insurance. Any plan that is reliant on private insurers and individual enrollment requires incentives to purchase insurance (compulsory financing); mechanism to make it affordable; risk reduction for insurers to stabilize premiums; and enough funding.

Dan Wikler, Professor of Ethics and Population Health, Harvard School of Public Health

The risks to global public health posed by policies which the new administration has proposed are grave. The new President dismisses the evidence on which efforts to forestall catastrophic climate change are based, despite a near-universal consensus among scientists and other governments. He also proposes to align the US government with those seeking to confuse the public about the evidence for other environmental protections, including air and water pollution regulations. Accordingly, he has vowed to discontinue efforts to moderate global warming, and is intent on abolishing regulations on environmental health hazards. The new President's all-out attack on clinics that provide cancer screening and birth control to women at home and abroad - carried out in the name of the Sanctity of Life - will deprive women of life and health, not to mention control of their own destinies. His embrace of absurd anti-vaccine conspiracy theories could threaten one of the most powerful and cost-effective protections of children's health, both at home and abroad. His vow to cut the budget of UN agencies, presumably including the World Health Organization, could deprive low- and middle-income countries of an irreplaceable source for technical assistance. The enormous gains achieved in global health in recent decades are threatened, along with our capacity to ward off present and future health risks.

America First

David de la Croix, Professor of Economics, Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium)

I have no doubt that restrictions to free mobility of goods and persons together with an expansionary fiscal policy and a removal of environmental regulations will benefit some people, most likely the losers from globalization and Trump's voters. These gains, however, will be short-lived. The future generations, including Trump voters' children, will be those who will pay for it: they will live in a world with lowered opportunities, they will carry the burden of the increased public debt, and be sickened by the poisonous air and water of a deregulated economy.

Sripad Motiram, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston and Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai (India)

As a scholar working on inequality and poverty, more broadly in the areas of welfare economics and development economics, I am very concerned about the policies of Mr. Trump. Within the US, Mr. Trump's proposed policies are likely to increase the already high and rising income inequality. One policy that I have in mind is the proposed tax cuts, which will disproportionately benefit the high-income groups. I am also concerned about group-based/horizontal inequalities in the US - both material and symbolic. On the average, African Americans lag behind their counterparts (particularly Whites) on income, wealth and some other dimensions. Apart from making some remarks (e.g. on inner cities), Mr. Trump has shown no serious commitment towards bridging this racial divide. In fact, by packing his cabinet with rich whites, including some who have a record of racial intolerance, Mr. Trump has contributed to the feeling of disenfranchisement among African Americans. His anti-Muslim rhetoric during his campaign, his appointments, and his recent executive order banning travel from some Muslim-majority nations, have also had a similar effect on Muslim-Americans.

Moving beyond the US, Mr. Trump's executive order on refugees will adversely impact some of the most vulnerable people in the world (including children from war-torn regions) and could give a fillip to anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments in other countries. The system of global cooperation that we have in place, including international organizations (e.g. WTO, UN etc.) has had some success, although it could have done a much better job for the world's poor. In light of this, concerned scholars have been advocating various measures, e.g. Thomas Pogge's suggestion to align medical research with global disease burden. While critiquing this global system, Mr. Trump has engaged in the rhetoric of privileging American interests, displaying little sensitivity for the global poor. His proposed taxes on US imports could result in retaliation by other countries, potentially putting at risk the entire multilateral trading system (that the US has itself helped build) - he has suggested nothing concrete and positive in place of this system.

Gregory Shaffer, Chancellor's Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Among the greatest risks the world could face is Mr. Trump's nationalist, xenophobic trade agenda. Many progressives have rightly opposed provisions in existing and proposed trade and investment agreements, and in particular (i) those granting excessive, monopolistic intellectual property rights and (ii) those providing special investor-state dispute settlement where investors designate an arbitrator--that is, provisions supporting special corporate rights over social rights. But Mr. Trump goes much further. His proposal for a malevolent, discriminatory 20% tariff on just Mexican products (to pay for his obsession for a 2,000 mile wall) and his threat to impose a 45% tariff on just Chinese products would destroy the global institutions created after World War II for international economic cooperation. These institutions are not perfect; none are. Economic globalization needs regulation, including significant policy space for countries' regulatory autonomy, a space that (in my view) the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has largely recognized. But regardless of one's views on specific WTO decisions, the threat of Mr. Trump is dire. We have had a world without global economic institutions and rules to constrain national discrimination and tit-for-tat protectionism that spirals out of control and exacerbates global conflict and economic misery. We saw where that led in the 1930s with the rise of fascism and Stalinism. The social upheavals and suffering were horrendous. This time, with Mr. Trump's embrace of the alt right's Stephen Bannon as his primary advisor and his "America First" mantra with its fascist legacy, begs a new question: on which side will the United States be?

Lorraine Talbot, Professor of Company Law in Context, University of York (UK)

Trump's 'America First' policy will have regressive social consequences both outside and within the United States. It impacts on two key concerns of chapter 6 of the report of the International Panel on Social Progress, the first relating to trade agreements, the second to the increasing financialisation of corporations.

The UK government is currently seeking a trade agreement with the US to fill the impending void left by a Brexit. Any such agreement, with the world's most powerful economy and now an avowedly right wing, nationalist presidency, is likely to reduce the UK's relatively higher standards on food production, the environment and labour rights. The attainment of sovereignty the UK voted for, will be lost to the US. Any incoming UK government which breaches this proposed treaty, through, for example, reforms to protect the environment, will face proceedings from US investors under Investor to State Dispute Settlement clauses which are usually written into these agreements. This could cost the UK public billions of dollars.

Trump has pledged that repatriated offshore corporate profits (estimated at nearly $3 trillion) will be taxed at a 'one-time' rate of 10 percent. The stated purpose of this is to boost investment in US production and to increase jobs. It will not do so. Indeed, it will further increase economic inequality in the US as the money returns to rich investors (as it did under the Bush administration's tax amnesty in 2004) who do not invest in US jobs and haven't done so for some time. In the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, relatively low returns in the productive sector - outside the 'mega' corporations - drove investment into the finance sector. This hasn't changed post crisis. In the non-financial corporate sector. management strategy, driven by shareholder orientated goals, has privileged raising share value through financialized strategies such as repurchasing issued shares, known as 'buy backs', over investment in production and innovation. Further, those companies that do invest in innovation hold vast reserves of capital to offset the risks associated with the 'real' or productive economy. The trillions of dollars that return under Trump's tax amnesty will be used to fund more share buy backs. The wealthiest investors will receive a much unneeded boost to their investment, while the US job market will remain largely unchanged.

Deregulation

Nora Lustig, Samuel Z. Stone Professor of Latin American Economics and Director, Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Institute, Tulane University (USA)

In the last ten years, the US poor and middle-classes were hit by the Great Recession: many families lost their home, men and women were hit by unemployment, and life-long savings were mercilessly slashed. One of the main causes of the Great Recession was financial deregulation implemented in the late 1990s under Bill Clinton's presidency (see, for example, Barry Eichengreen. 2015. Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Uses and Misuses of History, Oxford University press). Under Obama, legislation was introduced to prevent another financial crisis from occurring (the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into federal law on July 21, 2010). The Trump administration is set to roll this legislation back. Combine financial deregulation with the promised increase in infrastructure spending and tax cuts, and you have the seeds for another financial crisis down the road. And, once again, the poor will be more impoverished and the middle class crushed. As the song goes, "When Will They Ever Learn?"

Marc Fleurbaey, Robert E. Kuenne Professor in Economics and Humanistic Studies, Princeton University

Rolling back environmental protections and abandoning efforts at greenhouse gas abatement will not be very positive for business and jobs for two reasons. First, fossil fuels industries rely on long-term investments that take account of the general policy trend and not just on the hurried actions of an administration that is unlikely to last long. Coal is not going to come back strongly and most oil companies having been preparing seriously for new energies. They may welcome the encouragement to hastily exploit the reserves that would stay in the ground under more reasonable policies, but their long-term plans cannot rely on unfavorable gambles in a global context that is going green. The second negative effect is that the new investments in innovative technologies producing clean energy need support to accelerate the transition, and depriving the US investors from government support will simply offer a big push to other countries which will seize the opportunity to take the lead and leave the US behind with its backward infrastructure.

Therefore, not only is anti-environmental policy bad for the environment, for ecosystems and for the population health. It is bad for the economy and for workers as well, in a world that will keep turning green with or without the US.

On climate change, delaying action only makes the future a more difficult world, with a bad menu of options offering either greater costs to more promptly reduce emissions or greater impacts from extreme weather events and a changing climate, or both. A key question is whether the negative attitude of the US toward climate mitigation will break the post-Paris Agreement momentum, or will push other countries to be even more cooperative among themselves and determined to fill the gap. The former would be not only bad for the planet and for the world, but also bad for the economy in the US. The latter would save the planet and the US economy (except for the laggard position on energy technology and infrastructure), but would leave the US in the uncomfortable position of the free-rider, losing a lot of good will from other countries on many topics. As Mr. Trump would say: Sad!

Beyond the Walls

Massimo Livi Bacci, Professor of Demography, University of Florence (Italy)

The US is very influential in Europe and - of course - in other parts of the world. Limiting myself to Europe: support and encouragement to right wing, nativist, supremacist and xenophobic movements; imitation effects and support to discriminatory immigration policies; deeper wedge between countries of the Visegrad group, or sympathizing for it, and other more liberal countries of Europe; encouragement to pro-life extremist groups, and, finally, a sympathetic and supporting stand vis-a-vis countries planning to exit the EU... France, Netherlands and God knows how many others...

Ronaldo Munck, Argentinian sociologist, Professor of Sociology, Head of Civic Engagement, Dublin City University (Ireland)

It would be difficult to overestimate the impact that the Trump Presidency might have in Latin America. The new 'great wall' between the US and Mexico was an early sign that Trump would not be a normal US President and its enactment through presidential directive was an early sign that dramatic events were under way even if it was just one measure amongst a flurry of reactionary moves.

One news item that did not reach a global audience though was Trump's ban on the lemon from Argentina reaching US consumers which went out under the radar screen. Argentina is the global leader in lemon exports and Obama had in late 2016 finally over ridden the food safety objections to their import to the US. Trump soon put a stop to that. This meant that thousands of hectares in the impoverished North West set aside for this crop now lie idle.

But the story of the banned lemon from Argentina also tells us more about the modus operandi from the new man in the White House. He is a long-time friend (or business acquaintance) of Argentina's President Macri also a right-wing entrepreneur. When Trump phoned Macri for a chat after his elevation it seems (from a leak in Macri's office) that the main topic of conversation was a stalled planning application for a mega Trump Tower in Buenos Aires.

Two lessons: this will be a protectionist regime regardless of context and Trump's personal business interests will be primary considerations. For Latin America it sends mixed messages. Maybe Trump will forego vast expansionist, to not say imperialist, schemes for a free trade Americas as prevailed under Obama until the wave of progressive governments in Latin America put an end to this 'American dream'.

But it is the Mexican Wall that is the main issue now shaping US/Latin American relations. The austere Financial Times in the UK could see little sense in this gratuitous attempt to humiliate a neighbor. But the underlying NAFTA issue is another matter. Can the US renegotiate a free trade agreement made in 1994 between them, Canada and Mexico? This would fit with the Trump world view, as far as me might understand it.

But then there are problems. If the Mexicans will not pay for a wall to keep them and Central Americans out of the US who will? Trump says he will slap on a 20% tax on imports from Mexico. But most of these are produced by US owned companies in the maquilas, Mexico's free trade zone on the border. Already the business tax coalition in the US is breaking up as there is not a shared interest in this type of protectionism.

Can globalization be reversed? It seems unlikely in the US/Mexico situation. But take it one step further. Trump seems to operate in a political vacuum, but action can, though, lead to someone else reacting. Mexico can, for example, revoke the tax free status of US companies operating in Mexico. Mexican citizens can, and will, boycott Starbucks in Mexico for example. Trump may have his globalized entrepreneur friends in Latin America such as Argentina's president Macri. But Latin America across the board will not accept the humiliation of a Mexican Wall.

One might even wonder what the reaction would be from US businesses who depend on Mexican and other migrants to work in their factories, fields and homes. Trumpism will not prevail: it's bad for business and will rekindle nationalist and anti-imperialist sentiments not seen for many decades across Latin America. Please, democratic and sane people in the US: stop this madness now!

From stress to democratic resistance

Carol Graham, Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, College Park Professor, University of Maryland (USA)

The 2016 election ushered in the specter of an era dominated by racism, nativism, and intolerance. These stark divisions - across political lines, the heartland versus the cities and the coasts, and the educated versus the non-educated - take a toll in the form of unhappiness, fear, anger, and stress among significant segments of society. Well-being metrics provide us with a tool to assess these costs.

We examined patterns across Democrats, Republicans, and Independents for the last six months of 2016, based on daily Gallup data. Weekly average life satisfaction in the weeks following the election (week 45) remained roughly stable for Republicans. In contrast, among Democrats, life satisfaction fell from a high of 7.3 (on a 0-10 scale) two weeks before the election to a low of 6.7 in the weeks following, recovering only modestly by the end of the year and then falling again. The trends for Independents roughly mirror those of the Democrats. Even more stark are the trends in optimism about the future - based on a question which asks respondents how satisfied they will be with their lives in the future (on the same 0-10 scale). The reported optimism among Democrats fell from a high of 8.1 in week 43 (prior to the election) to a low of 7.5 in the following weeks, while Independents experienced an even steeper drop. Both groups also experienced increases in stress during the same period.

This drop of 0.6 points on the 11- point scale is almost as large as the 10 percent drop in national happiness that occurred from the onset of the 2008-09 financial crisis until its nadir six months later. Given that annual or monthly average national scores in happiness rarely move more than a tenth of a point or two, these drops among Democrats and Independents - two thirds of our politically active citizens - are steep in both comparative and historical terms. At the time of the financial crisis, people were experiencing actual monetary losses, and the stock market was falling as steeply as happiness was. In the case of the 2016 election, markets were rising and there were not any immediate financial losses related to the election, making the comparable drop even more remarkable. With the financial crisis, national average happiness levels recovered to their previous levels when the markets stabilized in March of 2009. While we cannot predict what will happen in the current situation, a societal happiness and well-being are unlikely to recover (and may get worse) as long as political decision-making is as contentious, volatile, and anxiety-producing as the first weeks of the administration have been.

At the same time, recent activities - such as the post-inauguration day marches and other demonstrations around the country - may be a good sign for well-being. In general, activities such as socializing, volunteering, and purposeful work are among the strongest positive correlates of well-being. Thus, perhaps a message of solace for those who are currently unhappy and worried is to get active, organize, and work on productive solutions to the current state of divided politics, angry rhetoric, and social division. There are times that temporary frustration and unhappiness serve as a drive for positive change (and higher levels of well-being in the future).

Donatella della Porta, Dean of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Director of Centre of Social Movements Studies, Scuola Normale Superior, Firenze (Italy)

Social movement studies have indicated that protests might raise by opportunities, but also by perceived threats. It is, in particular, the reaction to threats which is often at the basis of cross-movement coalitions and large mobilizations. The election of Trump and, especially, the fast and aggressive implementation of some parts its program, seems indeed to be able to trigger transnational campaigns of protests. Given the big risk that the Trump's presidency brings about for democracy and the rule of law (in the US, but also globally), the perception that a broad coalition is needed in order to resist is certainly spreading. Social movement studies also say that, born as a defensive move, cross-movement alliances can then produce innovative ideas and relations. This development is all the more possible as the progressive movements that have resisted neoliberal policies are still alive. Even if they lost in visibility, having sometimes shifted from public forms of protests to other repertoires of contention, those networks of activists involved in various anti-austerity protests, could constitute important nodes in a new wave of collective mobilization.

Frances Rosenbluth, Professor of Political Science, Yale University (USA)

The assault on women's reproductive rights in America is palpable. Trump is enabling this, rather than driving it, as a way to solidify the right-wing flank--that happens to be the best organized--in his loose populist and principally materialist coalition. Most Americans (a small majority) favor the status quo but that is in danger of eroding in the 5-4 Supreme Court with Gorsuch as Scalia's replacement.

The resistance movement will succeed if it can achieve mobilization along the lines of the Tea Party a decade ago, and if it can focus on taking back state legislatures and governorships (now 2/3 Republican). The Senate elections in 2018 will be the first big test of the mobilizational power of a newly energized left.

At the same time, it is important for Democrats to keep sights on the long and big picture, including winning back the middle with policies that can redistribute income without trade protectionism. It is the challenge, not only for America, but for rich democracies the world over.

Jane Mansbridge, Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, Harvard University (USA)

Our long-term goal should be to prevent Trump from winning the presidency again in 2020. If he has a small economic boom caused by the end of the Recession and the destruction of planet-saving and health-saving regulations, he will exploit and of course exaggerate that.

I believe it is a mistake to focus solely on protests in metropolitan areas - which are important acts of resistance, but ones that may carry no weight in the crucial areas on which we need to focus at least some of our attention. In the swing counties, most of which are in non-metropolitan areas, we need, in the long run, to find and fund potential candidates for the smaller offices such as school board and city council, and the state legislative seats. These offices are important in their own right, and they are also particularly important in building up "bench strength" in the Democratic Party, so that when we need candidates to run for Congress we have several well-established, popular, experienced potential candidates among whom to choose. (This has been the right-wing Republican - and not just the Tea Party -- strategy for years, backed monetarily by the Koch brothers and others.) Those in other countries may not realize how weak the parties are here, with very little systematic attention to future candidates.

One source of good candidates is full-time or part-time homemakers whose children are now sufficiently grown that they could run for office. Their recent detachment from the paid labor force is in this one case an advantage rather than a burden, because there is no great cost to them in leaving their jobs. But we know from the work of Jennifer Lawless and others that such women often underestimate their qualifications for running and their estimates of their likely success. They also are unlikely to think of running unless someone specifically asks them to do it and impresses upon them how important it is for other people that they take this step. They would also be more sensitive than others to questions of women's rights.

Elizabeth Anderson, John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies, University of Michigan (USA)

The election of President Trump both reflects and reinforces an alarming trend in U.S. politics: the sharp segregation of epistemic communities along polarized partisan lines, which undermines the prospects of finding even common factual grounds for discussing policy. The Republican Party denies the reality of anthropogenic climate change. It has whipped up extreme fears of Muslim immigrants, notwithstanding the facts that there have been zero deaths from domestic terrorist attacks by any person born in or whose parents were born in the countries from which immigrants are now banned, and that since 9/11, only 123 of more than 240,000 murders in the U.S. were due to terrorist attacks by Muslims.

Virtually every critical factual claim that President Trump asserts to justify his conduct and policies is false. None of this matters to his most ardent supporters, who so deeply distrust scientists, career civil servants, experts, mainstream media--indeed anyone who criticizes Trump or articulates an opposing point of view--that they brush aside all attempts to bring evidence to bear on contested claims or subject policy proposals to even rudimentary calculations of consequences. Political discourse has degenerated to the point where purportedly factual claims have been removed from the realm of empirical testing and have become nothing more than declarations of tribal identity, of whose side one is on. The withering contempt with which mainstream knowledge-producers regard Trump supporters only reinforces the latter's aggrieved sense that rational discourse is no more than the sophisticates' own style of tribalism, another way to put them down. The crisis does not consist simply in the destruction of evidence-based policy-making. It is a crisis of democracy itself. Neither democratic institutions nor mainstream knowledge-producers are prepared to deal with this crisis, or to communicate effectively across party lines. The question before us is whether it is merely 2006, with policy disasters coming soon enough to shake the republic to its senses before it self-destructs, or 1933. But even supposing it is merely 2006, without fundamental advances in communicative practice across party lines, nothing will stop 2016 from happening again.

A Dark Age?

Colin Crouch, Professor Emeritus, sociologist and political scientist, University of Warwick (UK)

The idea of 'social progress' has always been tied to the Enlightenment ideals of rationality and universalism. Times when societies have turned away from these have been highly dangerous, the main examples being the fascism and Nazism of the inter-war years. The current xenophobic and anti-knowledge movements of which Donald Trump is the main example (others are the Front National in France, the Brexit development in the UK, the latest anti-democratic turn in Russia, and radical Islam) are disturbing new appearances of the rejection of social progress. There is a move against rationality in the attacks on science (especially climate change science), and in the elevation of post-truth and alternative facts. The generalized attacks on Islamic people, Mexican and other immigrants, and on the poor (through planned health care and fiscal changes) are all steps away from universalism. We therefore stand at the start of a new era of danger, when the defenders of progress and democracy need to look to the resources they possess for coming struggles.

Philip Scranton, University Board of Governors Professor, History of Industry and Technology, Rutgers University (USA)

I offer this segment from Ivan Klima's novel, Love and Garbage, 1986, drafted in another difficult time, which arises from our shared history.

Those without souls do not vanish from the earth...Their processions move through the world and subconsciously try to shape it in their own image. They fill the streets, the squares, the stadiums, and the department stores. When they burst into cheers over a winning goal, a successful pop song or a revolution, it seems as if that roar would go on forever, but it is followed at once by the deathly silence of emptiness and oblivion.
They flee from that silence and seek something that would redeem it, a sacrifice they might cast on the altar of whatever demon they happen to be venerating. Now and then they'll fire a gun at random, or place a time bomb, or inject some narcotic into their veins and make love, they'll do anything to survive that dead period before the tremor of the volcano, before the lava fills the void. The void within them...
The figure of the victim-maker with a burnt-out soul belongs to the world in a revolutionary age. To a world in which the person who in his actions perfectly embodies emptiness and vanity, cruelty and a moral void, is granted the right to regard all those who differ from him as garbage to be swept away, garbage of which he cleanses the world.

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