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Simple Trump logic

By Kristof Decoster
on December 9, 2015

When I was a student in high school, I had plenty of math. I also (not very fondly) remember the “If-Then” structure in programming classes. Bet many people in global health share a similar (analytical) background, even if we didn’t end up as a Steve Jobs of sorts.  Can’t all become entrepreneurs, hey?

Well, these days remind me a bit of my long gone programming days. You might wonder: what on earth do Donald Trump and logic have to do with each other, and you’d be right. Yet, I’m getting a bit tired of all these ‘horrified’ reactions among the progressive/liberal world community (which includes most of the global health people) after the latest silly Trump plan, a Muslim ban. As far as I am concerned, The Donald is a David Cameron/Boris Johnson without power (yet) (and let’s hope it stays that way). Like these gentlemen, I’m not sure he stands for anything, except for himself. I don’t think he’s a racist, and I certainly don’t think he’s a fascist. But like all demagogues, he senses the mood of the public he faces and thoroughly enjoys surfing on their ‘enthusiasm’.

Clearly, if my brain had been “right-wing wired” instead of inclined towards the left, I’d probably be cheering now for Trump instead of for Bernie Saunders, Pablo Iglesias, Yanis Varoufakis, Jeremy Corbyn and other Piketty’s.  Why: because, to the disgruntled audiences he faces, “he tells it like it is”, just like the leftwing icons of the moment, at least in their perception. True, the difference with the men I mention above is that they actually stand for something, while Trump represents the brand Trump and that’s probably about it, as far as I can tell. But that’s another story. As we have learnt by now, he sure can put up a good right-wing show. Well, the man is an entertainer.


So let’s apply a bit of simple logic on the Trump phenomenon:


If plutocracies, “multi-stakeholder” platforms and/or technocratic leadership trump real democracy in most countries in the West now  (US, UK, EU, …),

If people are from their childhood being raised and socialized to function/survive in a competitive “dog-eat-dog” world by capitalism, and groomed to become consumers instead of citizens (bombarded as they are with a daily avalanche of commercial messages),

If “efficiency”, “resilience”, flexibility and performance now trump the wellbeing and health of many people in institutions and organisations (if they’re lucky to have a job, that is), also in the North now,

If success at whatever cost trumps real bonds and solidarity between people,

If a prevailing and still deepening neoliberal logic trumps anything that cannot be ‘marketized’,

If Big Banks get bailed out but for common and especially poor citizens quite the opposite is true,

If multinationals’ interests trump the basic rights of people (and seem to be cheered on for doing so by our politicians),

If once again, it seems likely that shady trade agreements will trump a ‘dignified life for all’, and ‘leave billions of people behind’  (even if no Trump fan would frame it like that),

If the interests of the (0.0)1 % and global finance trump the ones of the rest of the world, including the precariat in so called “rich countries”, not to mention the really marginalized and vulnerable in “poor countries”,

If everything needs to be framed as an ‘investment case’ before the 0.01 % pays attention, while pretending to really care for the poor and the sick,

If “partnerships” trump real justice,

If philantrocapitalism trumps fair taxation (and apparently we even should be grateful to the Silicon Valley Gods for not paying taxes and instead going for ‘real impact’ instead of the ‘inefficient government’), …


If all that is true, then, I’m afraid, you get … Trump.  (Or Le Pen, or Wilders, or Farage, … )

As I said: you also would be cheering for the Donald if you happen to be wired like that and are fed up with the way things go in the world, just like many progressive people are really angry at this very moment for good reason.

And yes, Trump’s crazy ideas and rhetoric lead to a very ugly situation, xenophobia and islam hate that I regret more than anybody else, and that can spiral out of control before you know it.

But clearly, the “Trump logic” laid out above is not rocket science. We shouldn’t be surprised at all that we see specimen like Trump & Wilders pop up all over the Western world now, given the state of the world, nor should we be surprised about their “innovative” policy “ideas”.

I think we have about 5, 10 years to put things right in the world, and do something about the grotesque global inequality, injustice and fake democracy.  If we fail to do so (taking also into account the climate change ‘threat multiplier’), I’m afraid some real fascists will occupy the scene. Don’t know which bestseller Fukuyama will write then.

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