What if Trump wins?

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

WASHINGTON – It’s a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon here in D.C. as I write this. From the window of my hotel, I could see the lush green leaves of spring, a season which symbolizes hope after the biting coldness and gloom of winter.

Hours ago, I landed at Dulles International Airport, made my way through Immigration and hopped on the bus to D.C. I saw the Pentagon and the White House on the way to my hotel.

There’s a lot on my mind as I stared out the bus window and looked around the US capital. The last time I was here was 22 years ago, just a year after the still unbelievable 9/11 Islamic suicide terrorist attacks that morning of September 2001.

So much has happened between then and now. The United States is no longer the same, what with new global geopolitical challenges erupting everywhere, China’s aggressions in the disputed seas and changing dynamics of the world’s super powers.

This year is extra important for the US because it will be holding presidential elections again in November and I think of this as I passed by the White House.

It’s a hot topic here, especially with ex-president Donald Trump a strong contender once again.

In my first hour here, I got a copy of The Washington Post and there’s a story on Trump titled “Nevermore Saying Never. They were Critical of Trump, but they’re still voting for him.”

It does look like it. Despite everything that Trump did and dished out, despite all the controversies and despite the fact that he is on trial in New York, Americans will still vote for him and it’s possible this may bring him back to the Oval Office.

Parang Pilipinas lang, one might say.

Let’s not forget that the equally controversial and unorthodox Rody Duterte remained popular throughout his term despite the bloody war on drugs; the misogyny, the rape jokes; the invectives hurled at the pope, diplomats and tycoons and many more. And yet, Duterte is a sure winner if he runs for a national post again.

And then there are the Marcoses who are back in power despite the human rights violations during the strongman rule of Marcos Sr. and the economic chaos during those years.

‘Monument to extrinsic values’

As for Trump, some psychologists proposed to explain Americans’ love for Trump based on intrinsic and extrinsic values.

The intrinsic values tend to be inclined toward empathy and people with such values are interested in universal rights and equality, while people with extrinsic values are attracted to prestige, status, image, fame, power and wealth. They don’t care much about social and environmental impacts. (The Guardian, Jan. 29, 2024).

Trump exemplifies extrinsic values which many Americans share.

“Trump, perhaps more than any other public figure in recent history, is a walking, talking monument to extrinsic values,” The Guardian article points out, adding, “and it starts from the tower bearing his name in gold letters.”

But what happens, really, if the Republican frontrunner occupies the White House once again?

What does this mean for the Philippines at a time when US-Philippines relations are on hyperdrive?

A special printed issue of The Atlantic titled “If Trump Wins” which I’ve been reading during my long flight here paints a not so optimistic picture of a second Trump presidency.

The Atlantic staffwriter Anne Applebaum, in her article “America will Abandon NATO,” says:

“Over time, all of America’s allies would begin to hedge. Many European countries would cozy up to Russia. Many Asian countries would calculate that as (Democratic Senator Tim) Kaine puts it, ‘I guess we need to get closer to China, just as a matter of self-preservation.’”

In the article, Applebaum also sees America’s economic influence declining and trade agreements changing.

“If Trump is reelected, Americans will be so consumed by the drama of their own failing institutions that, for a long while, most won’t note the problems caused by the shifting international order.”

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

Marcos and Biden

For now, what is clear is that the Marcos administration has managed to establish cozy relations with the US under President Biden’s administration.

In fact, President Marcos was just in Washington for the historical trilateral summit among the Philippines, US and Japan.

There are many more areas of cooperation. Back home, another round of Balikatan exercises is ongoing.

On the plane, I met a team from the Armed Forces of the Philippines who will be attending a week-long dialogue with their US counterparts this week, also here in Washington.

As for me, I’m here in the US as part of a US embassy in the Philippines/Department of State-funded reporting tour dubbed “Friends, Partners, Allies Program for Journalists.”

It’s a new visitor’s program of the US government for journalists administered by the Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF Global), which is a non-profit founded in 1995 in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the threat of large-scale weapons proliferation.

Our group of 10 journalists will be meeting with US government officials and other individuals from different US institutions as well as Filipino organizations across four states.

Hopefully, I’ll learn more about what lies ahead for the Philippines amid our improved relations with Uncle Sam.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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