A View from Tokyo on Mr. Trump’s Victory



Eisuke Suzuki

The world changed at night of November 8, 2016 (in Tokyo). It is no longer the same world we knew in the evening of November 8. Major media, print and broadcasting alike, misread completely the sentiment of, and the real issues involved in, what Donald Trump referred to as “the Movement.”

   Issues are not so much about free trade as how it has been conducted. People traded from time immemorial. Without trade one can neither earn money nor exchange for other goods and produces. Free trade benefits most by promoting such free exchange. Everybody would like to have a fair share in free trade and the benefit of globalization. But the reality is a growing divide between those who leap from free trade and those who have been left behind. The former rides with the wave of globalization and the latter has lost its jobs because home industries have moved out to developing countries seeking cheaper overhead. They are forgotten people of the hollowed valley.

   Globalization benefits primarily those who have; it is inherently advantageous for the strong and powerful. It is an arena for gladiators. It is an open field, and the prize to the strongest. The entire ethical foundation of free competition is built at the expense of the weak and unfit. Darwinism is the mistress of free trade. The premium attached to the ability to make adjustments to a changing environment and emphasis on productivity and efficiency by streamlining business processes underpin the development of neo-Darwinism, leaving in its wake those who have lost their jobs in the hollowed valley that used to be green.

   They are decent, hard-working middle class people, whom Hillary Clinton characterized as either “desperate for change” or belonging in “the basket of deplorables,” saying that they were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.” And Donald Trump was made an epitome of what all these labels stood for. But the moment we stop to think, it becomes obvious that they are false and do not convey what Mr. Trump really is. He runs his business. He cannot sell his goods by insulting customers; nor can he manage his organization by humiliating his staff. He cannot discriminate one group of employees against other groups.

   In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton eviscerated the central issue of those forgotten people in the valley by saying that “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling,” and said, “To all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”  

   Hillary’s problem was not the glass ceiling, but her personality, that had not allowed her to break the popularity ceiling. Forgotten people in the valley who were “desperate for change” like those in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, all traditional states of Democrats, whom Hillary had ignored, went for Trump, who they knew spoke their mind. The Republican’s large gains in the Senate and the House, not to mention the Governors, attest to the clamor of those forgotten people. They did not want the same policies of the establishment, of which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quintessentially a part. Those women who did not vote for Hillary saw her through. She is more of the same old dynastic political class that on the whole treats the little people of the valley with contempt. The media is part of that establishment which ignored them. Listening to CNN talking about hidden Trump supporters after the event sucks.

   Election rhetoric during the campaign is different from what can be said and done after the candidate assumes office. Remember candidate Barack Obama’s pledge in 2008 to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as his first act of the President? After eight years in office the Guantanamo facility has not been closed yet. Once in office, the President must satisfy a variety of competing and crisscrossing interest. The Office itself has its own procedures, traditions and institutional constraints, which invariably restrict freedom of action as President. In short, the office makes the man.

   The impact of Mr. Trump’s victory on Japan would be good. The Trump administration would shake up Japan’s leadership out of its complacency as well as dependency on the United States not only in security matters, but also trade and economic relations. Though Mr. Trump’s understanding of security arrangements between the United States and Japan leaves much to be desired, his campaign rhetoric has definitely reminded Japanese afresh of the need for us to defend ourselves.

   With the Republican majority both in the Senate and the House, the prospect of approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) seems quite dim for the time being. Without the United States participation, the TPP does not seem viable, and that reality would at the same time risk the further rise of China in the Pacific region militarily and economically. It would destabilize the region. In the end the realistic assessment of the China question would pave the way for the TPP to be approved eventually. Japan can play its constructive role in this process of upholding the principle of free trade.  

   Let us hope that Mr. President-elect will act as President of the United States as a champion of human rights and democracy, who promotes comity among nations and is responsible for the conduct of international affairs in accordance with international law. ###