The election of a new president has done little to reduce the high level of political polarization in the country. If President Trump was expecting a “honeymoon period” after his inauguration, he was very much mistaken.
U.S. President Donald Trump nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. Photo: Donald Trump's Official facebook page
Less than two weeks have passed since Donald Trump's inauguration. According to tradition, a new U.S. president has 100 days to start the implementation of his electoral promises before opponents can start criticizing his actions. This year, however, the political establishment and mainstream media launched a campaign against him almost immediately.
In part, this is the result of Trump himself, who continues to violate traditional rules and overtly puts himself into opposition with the Washington establishment. Moreover, the new American president is trying to implement large-scale reforms that pose a potential threat to the existing status quo and entrenched special interests.
The uniqueness of the current situation was underlined by the unprecedented participation of former President Barack Obama in Hillary Clinton’s election campaign against Trump. In January, Obama once again made news with his public comments about the “Muslim ban.” While Obama did not mention Trump by name, it was clear that he had his controversial immigration policies in mind.
Also highly unusual is the fact that the former president is back in the nation’s capital even after his term has expired. This indicates that Obama could be willing to play a new, expanded role if the Trump administration continues to push ahead with its policies.
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The intense attacks against the new president so soon after coming into office from the supporters of Obama and Clinton are essentially unprecedented in American politics. Even more surprising were the attempts to use the U.S. intelligence services as part of the opposition against Trump. It all started with Clinton’s claim that the intelligence services had proof of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.
Unfortunately, this controversial practice of politicizing the intelligence services already had precedents in recent U.S. history – for example, former U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration reportedly pressured the intelligence community to give false reports on the Iraqi nuclear program and Saddam Hussein’s alleged link to Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization.
Still, exercising pressure on the intelligence services in order to discredit one’s political opponent and influence national public opinion and, thus, change the domestic policies of the incoming administration, represents an entirely new direction in American politics.
In addition to the domestic political implications, this phenomenon has serious implications for U.S. foreign and security policy. First, reports on “Russian hacking” have not offered up any reliable facts. Second, the previous presidential administration created a distorted picture of the world, while exaggerating the role and importance of Russia, which was seen as one of the primary national security threats to the U.S.
However, all these steps only hampered any possibility of effective U.S. cooperation with Russia in the security sphere (including the exchange of intelligence information on the activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic fundamentalist groups as well as the personal interaction between U.S. and Russian security officials.
However, Trump is reluctant to worsen U.S-Russia relations. Indeed, he has already promised to depoliticize the intelligence services, introducing both personnel and structural reforms, cutting down or completely eliminating a highly politicized Office of National Intelligence (all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies report to its Director, who is a political appointee), cutting the central staff of other agencies and expanding their field offices, and in general, ending the political pressure on intelligence experts.
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Moreover, Trump aims at the drastic revision of the priorities and strategy of U.S. foreign policy. In contrast to his opponents, he seems to adhere to a firm belief that the current international Eurocentric system is in crisis now and needs to be reformed, with the shift of the center of world power from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific.
As a result, Trump sees China as the main U.S. rival and a threat to American strategic interests while seeing declining Europe (and especially the weaker and less stable former Communist states of Eastern Europe and most of the former Soviet republics) as a liability requiring huge expenditures and strategic guarantees on the part of the U.S.
In addition, Trump as both a political realist and a businessman is much less than the conventional politicians inclined to believe in abstract political slogans and is very skeptical about giving large amounts of money to corrupt and unstable political regimes.
Under these circumstances, Trump might seek to repeat the Nixon-Kissinger political experiment of the 1970s, when the U.S. started to play the “Chinese card” against Russia, this time playing Russia against China. In addition, Trump considers the active interaction and exchange of intelligence information between the U.S. and Russia as a necessary precondition for success in fighting ISIS and Islamic fundamentalism in general.
These are the changes that require some drastic revisions of the U.S. foreign policy and security strategy and tactics as well as significant personnel changes. All this represents a real threat to the interests of the establishment and very influential political groups.
Thus, one can expect the further expansion of harsh criticism of Trump. The list of his opponents comprises two main groups. The first one brings together the leftist populist politicians who might try to question Trump’s policies and create a general feeling of instability in American society.
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The second group includes most of the conventional elites, including the political establishment, the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and most of academia. They will also keep criticizing Trump’s policies, presenting them as illegal and unconstitutional, in order to block the passage of his legislative initiatives through the Congress.
It can not be ruled out that members of this second group are looking for a legal reason to start the impeachment process, accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution. However, all this political polarization fuels instability in the country. This is a very dangerous phenomenon in American political life. Thus, not a single day of Trump’s presidency will be a quiet one.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.