Keith Suter is a global futurist, thought leader, author and media personality, recognised and highly respected in the areas of social policy and foreign affairs. He is one of the world’s great thinkers and exemplary communicators. Keith has extensive experience in speaking, lecturing and teaching. He is a regular on Seven’s Sunrise program and is often asked for comment on the ABC, Sky News and Macquarie Live News. Keith is one of 100 members of the Exclusive Club of Rome, which includes the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev.
Here the World Affairs Speaker shares his insight into Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.
For over 80 years there has been a tradition whereby incoming US presidents promise what they will do in their first 100 days in office.
Donald Trump published a list of his pledges.
Trump’s 100th day occurred on Saturday, April 29th. He has had a disastrous time in office – one of the most chaotic in recent memory. He has the lowest approval rating of any new president since Harry Truman about seven decades ago.
He has achieved virtually none of his pledges. Now he has downplayed the significance of that original list.
What has gone wrong?
First, all incoming presidents get mugged by reality. Ambitious promises are made in the election campaign to get elected but once elected it becomes clear that they cannot be implemented. Trump has gone the way of his predecessors.
Presidents come to office but not necessarily to power. Much power resides elsewhere, such as in the political, financial, military and intelligence sectors. No one politician can succeed if these sectors have other plans.
For example, Trump hoped to improve relations with Russia. But the US’s political class did not approve and so those plans were blocked, for example, by allegations that Trump was too soft on Russia or was even somehow being manipulated by Russia.
Similarly, he promised the abolition of “Obamacare” (the Affordable Healthcare Act). But the disputing members of Congress could not agree on the proposed Trump replacement.
Second, the wider world may also be against him. For example, he promised to focus more on the American economy, with more jobs being created in the US and with less reliance on foreign trade (which had cost some Americans their jobs).
But modern countries survive via global supply chains whereby key components are made elsewhere. The US has lost some of its manufacturing ability and companies anyway prefer to sell cheaper imported goods (Walmart is Mexico’s largest single employer). Customers want cheap goods and they are usually unwilling to pay more for American-made goods. He cannot re-industrialize the US.
Finally, Trump is now embarking upon a new phase of his presidency. His grand promises are being ditched and he is having to live within the limitations of what he can achieve within the political system.
The people who run the US have brought him into line and he is now more restrained. He has lost or demoted some of his key staff who helped fashion the original Donald Trump campaign.
Trump has been forced to accept the limitations of his office. That may not please his supporters (especially when they come to vote in November 2018 for all the lower House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate).
But that is the reality.
There are three implications here for Australia
First the US, for good or ill, is still Australia’s lead partner. Australia cannot afford to have the US embroiled in chaos. There has to be a clear sense of direction out of Washington DC.
For example, what will be the US’s future role in Asia?
Will Trump continue Obama’s policy of encirclement of China or will he leave the region to the growing Chinese influence and become an “isolationist” president (as he suggested in his Inaugural Address)? The US is Australia’s main military ally and yet China is our main trading partner. Whom does Australia support in the event of a US-China clash?
Second, the global economy has still not recovered completely from the global financial crisis. There is speculation that the economies are heading for a period of stagnant growth.
The US (and Australia) need to look beyond the current daily controversies to devise the long-term path to economic development, such as greater reliance on alternative energy, inventing new manufacturing systems for an era of resource shortages, and how to cope with climate change. This new economic revolution requires more than just a few tweets issued in the middle of the night.
Finally, there is the irony that some of Trump’s abrasive policies designed to please his supporters may actually benefit Australia. He has made it more difficult for foreigners to enter the US as tourists, students or employees. If the US continues to be hostile towards these people, then we could have more of them arriving in Australia. Ironically, Trump’s presidency may contain some benefits for Australia.