Hewson's view: Trump again?

Trump juggernaut: President Donald Trump announces his second term presidential run during a rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, June 18. A divided Democratic Party may have trouble stopping him. Photo: Marco Bello/Bloomberg

Trump juggernaut: President Donald Trump announces his second term presidential run during a rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, June 18. A divided Democratic Party may have trouble stopping him. Photo: Marco Bello/Bloomberg

As much as it might appall many, especially outside the United States, Trump has declared his intention to run for a second term as US President at the elections scheduled for November 2020.

While Trump has certainly lived up to his commitments to "shake things up", to "drain the Washington swamp", and the like, he certainly hasn't made "America Great Again", although he has shifted the focus to "America First", and it seems "Only".

While his corporate tax changes, and increased defence and infrastructure spending provided a short-term "sugar hit" to the US economy, this is now rapidly tapering off - indeed, some argue that the US economy may drift into recession next year. Bond markets are certainly indicating this, and the Federal Reserve has shifted from raising, to probably lowering, official interest rates, both out of concern for the state of the economy, and under pressure from Trump.

However, the boost to the economy hasn't really improved the lot of those to whom Trump initially appealed, and were instrumental in his electoral victory, namely the low to middle income, mostly males, that had been "left behind", not having seen an improvement in their standard of living for a couple of decades.

Nor did it deliver on his commitment to "restore the rust-belt states to their former glory". Cities such as Detroit, for example, didn't decline because of Chinese or Mexican imports, or immigrants flooding across US borders - rather the structural shifts in the auto and defence industries were mostly the result of global market realities and technology, robots, etc.

There has also been the nonsense about Trump's promise to build a "wall" along the Mexican border and have the Mexicans pay for it.

Setting aside the almost impossible practical difficulties of building such a wall, and the fact that the Mexicans were never going to pay for it and Trump couldn't force them, there has been considerable concern about the extent Trump was prepared to go to get his way on this issue, even closing down the US government on a couple of occasions, and mounting the most spurious arguments about the threats of an "invasion" by criminals, drug runners, and terrorists if the wall wasn't built.

Most recently Trump surprised again by using the threat of tariffs to force the Mexicans into having to commit to contain the "flood" of refugees.

Globally Trump has certainly been "disruptive", pulling out of trade and climate deals, undermining several of the key institutions, ignoring much of the "rules-based order" that indeed allowed the US to emerge as the "world leader" since World War II, initiating a trade war with China and threatening others, destabilising the Middle East by his overt support of Israel, his defence of Saudi Arabia and his "desire" to initiate a military conflict with Iran, and the mess he has made in relation to North Korea, to mention only his major initiatives.

Ironically, while much of Trump's motivation internationally has been to counteract and contain a rapidly "rising" China, his actions have provided many opportunities for China to consolidate its position. For example, while Trump was grandstanding about his negotiations with Kim Jong-un, China has hosted Kim in Beijing several times, and Xi is about to visit Pyongyang, further consolidating their relationship.

However, Trump's fate hangs in the hands of the Democrats. While they have been emboldened by taking control of the House at the mid-term elections, and therefore are in a powerful position to pursue Trump, both personally, and in terms of his maladministration, to build a case for possible impeachment, they have so far appeared hopelessly divided, with about a dozen putting themselves forward as possible presidential candidates to run against Trump.

In political terms, Trump has also had some success in pushing the Democrats further, and further, to the left, with some candidates now offering extreme policy "solutions" to some of the "ills" of the US, such as inequality.

To say Trump has generally created a "mess" is an understatement.

To say Trump has generally created a "mess" is an understatement, having made a mockery of effective government and public administration. In these terms, he certainly doesn't deserve a second term.

But, don't underestimate his chances, unless the Democrats can actually unify enough to build the evidence to at least threaten impeachment.

But, perhaps, only in America!

John Hewson is a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, and a former Liberal opposition leader.