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GEAB 145

The monthly bulletin of LEAP (European Laboratory of Political Anticipation) - 15 May 2020
Free excerpt

The next US presidential election, despite its relatively normal exterior, is already showing some new features. For example: 1/ It’s not the main point of interest on the planet; 2/ Because of the pandemic, the Democratic primary did not really take place, but this did not prevent the nomination of the presumptive candidate; 3/ New contenders from new parties seem to be starting to show promise in what has always been a two-horse race.

Therefore, while it is difficult to predict what will emerge from an election that is extraordinary in every respect, observing the major trends in the transformation of American power makes it possible to begin to identify the birth of a New America. This America is very (too) close to Europe and its ambitions are more global than ever. The proposed model deserves a closer look… to be able to better understand whether it will succeed in coming about during the next presidency or whether it will have to continue to put up with the old model of representation.

All else being equal…

American ‘democracy’ holds no surprises: two Democratic mandates then two Republican mandates, followed by two Democratic mandates and another two Republican mandates… It is on this basis – raising questions about levels of democracy involved – that the system has satisfied the Americans for two hundred years, by convincing them to remain calm, because their turn of representation can never be more than eight years away. The exceptional circumstances that this country and the world have been going through for the past twelve years have, on three occasions already, led our team to anticipate snags in the aforementioned multi-decennial routine. But nothing has deviated from this mechanical timekeeping; even if the arrival in power of Donald Trump was (perhaps) a first bug,[1] the general outline was still respected. We should, therefore, learn from our mistakes and wisely anticipate Trump’s re-election for the second term he is entitled to. But the GEAB is not here to anticipate the obvious and we prefer to come up with scenarios of change: very important to bear in mind, in any case, to better understand the future and its mischievous nature.

So, we are not going to anticipate Donald Trump’s re-election. But that doesn’t mean that we see Joe Biden as the next President at the end of the year. At this stage, what piques our interest is the profound change in the underlying rationales of power in the US, following the general questioning that has taken place over the last twelve years.

Trump: the gravedigger of old America… assisted by Mr. COVID-19

Every system encounters its builders, its managers and its gravediggers. And the gravediggers of obsolete systems are not necessarily the gravediggers of the future, contrary to what conservatives, so afraid of change, always try to make people believe. Trump has clearly embodied a certain America and, in doing so, he has put an end to it. For example:

  • He has revealed the vulgarity of the business culture that America had been inflicting on the world for decades, reinforcing trends of corporate social responsibility.[2]
  • He has revealed the deep-rooted machismo and racism of the American power system, awakening civil society from its nap.[3]
  • He has revealed the weakness of an America no longer having the means to carry out its policies – e.g. the Mexican wall decided by Bush-senior in 1990[4] or the Jerusalem-Israeli capital approved by B. Clinton in 1992[5] – forcing everyone to wonder why.
  • He has revealed America’s provincialism and the dangers of letting it run international institutions.[6]
  • He has revealed the deep and now unjustified imbalance between the two blocs in the transatlantic relationship[7] and thus allowed Europe to reposition itself (allowing in the same movement a reinvention of Europe).[8]
  • He has revealed the problem posed by the American presence in the Middle East, creating the conditions for the ‘impossible’ disengagement of US troops.
  • He has revealed that NATO was no more than an empty shell, carried exclusively by the United States and from which the European states had disengaged, questioning the relevance – or otherwise – of rethinking the organisation.[9]
  • He has revealed the obsolescence of nuclear treaties that did not include China.[10]
  • He has revealed America’s dependence on China (and on Saudi Arabia, and Europe, and Japan and the world) and forced a global repositioning of the country.[11]
  • He has revealed (with the help of the coronavirus) the limits of the state funding model,[12] forcing a shift to another system.

As for the coronavirus, it cast the latest fatal blow to the emaciated health and social system of the ‘world’s No 1 power’.[13] In the same way as it is blowing up the entire oil-dollar-debt system which has kept the ‘sick man of the planet’ supplied with oxygen.[14]

Everything has to be rebuilt… And everything is ready for that, as we will see later.

But just because Trump has released all this transformative energy, doesn’t mean that he is actually a great man. He will remain the ‘bad guy’ in the history books. Moreover, no one will ever know if he did it all out of stupidity, recklessness or genius… or even if he was just the puppet of a great group of puppeteers. While the New America and the New World will have owed him a lot, he is probably not the one to oversee their emergence. In fact, if he managed to destroy so much without even starting a war, his brutal method could become really dangerous over a second term, which needs to be focused on reconstruction.[15] That is why, from a systemic point of view, we believe that Trump has had his day. Mission accomplished! New ways of doing need to be embodied.

Figure 1 – The Americans’ view on D. Trump’s first mandate:
‘Better off’ (dark green), ‘Not better off’ (orange) and ‘As well off’ (light green).

In fact, we are no longer the only ones to anticipate a possible failure to renew his mandate: he is yo-yoing in the polls,[16] electoral colleges are letting him down,[17] the Republican camp is falling apart,[18] ‘anyone but Trump’ movements are emerging,[19]

Joe Biden: the return of the living dead

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