A Whole New World

The 10th of November, for me, has one significance: the day I joined my current employer. This year, it is even more significant because it marks my twentieth year with said employer. That’s quite a feat but certain events have overshadowed all that. We wake up on the 10th of November to a whole new world featuring the future President Trump. Interestingly enough, just like in the Philippines, the majority did not vote for Trump but the way the US elections are rigged (no pun intended), that did not matter. The delegates they got decided who actually won. What this means for the rest of the world, we can only guess.

Certainly, Trump can probably reach some understanding with Putin and diffuse what is shaping up to be a new Cold War but with his temperament, he is also quite capable of worsening the situation. We don’t even know what it will cost the US to fix it. Will he lift the sanctions imposed against Russia for its misadventures in the Ukraine? His economic plans have been questioned by numerous economists and business analysts. If his business background is anything to go by, then could bankruptcies be a common occurrence for the next four or eight years under his presidency? The climate change agreement is in jeopardy with China seething that the US just might walk away from the historic agreement after the former had joined the bandwagon to get it going. If early news items are to be believed, then he has supposedly appointed a climate change skeptic in charge. That can’t be good. Speaking of China, will the US risk a trade war to get things tilted in favor of the US? Will he build the wall along the Mexican border to be paid for by Mexico itself? Mexico says no. Can he get them to yes? How will his relationship with the Republicans who abandoned him when news of his sexist behavior spilled out play out? This will be interesting considering that the Republicans now have the majority in Congress. Can they get their act together and move their agenda forward? Of course, one even has to ask whose agenda will actually be carried forward? Hearing the post-victory speeches, it appears both camps are sounding conciliatory. What about the problems with Syria and Iraq or similar situations in the future? Will the US withdraw completely from such conflicts? What about the nuclear deal with Iran? Will the US turn in on itself and retreat from the rest of the world? How will he push things with the security council and the rest of the UN?

One thing is for sure, President Trump will shake up the US. Whether he will do so for better or worse is not known. I look at the Philippine experience and can only shudder. Perhaps this is what the US and the Philippines need now. Maybe the rest of the world will soon join this bandwagon with France looking to be the next in line. Farage’s UKIP failed but BREXIT could be an omen. A revolution of sorts moving across the world. What will the world look like in a year’s time I wonder? What will happen to these countries after the terms of these presidents are over? Do we all get a reboot after pressing this reset button or will there still be something to reboot?

But that’s still for tomorrow. Today, well. Today, I think I will think micro and just savor the day marking my twentieth year of service…

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Fire in the Wind

Come November, it is not impossible to imagine the world welcoming a President Trump.

As much as a number of people all over the world may think it impossible, the truth is, if the Philippine experience is any indication, then the world has taken a turn they may not be ready to face. I actually thought traditional rules would govern the last Philippine election and couldn’t have been more wrong. True, I caught a whiff of a scent in the wind where people were  fed up with traditional politics but naively thought that it was there in every other election before but it had never really made a difference; so, why should it be different now? Surprise! It is different now. The first experiment in electing a populist leader came when the Philippines elected Erap Estrada into power. Unfortunately for him, his base was the poor and not much else. When the elite thought the experiment had gone far enough, they stepped in and ousted Erap from the presidency. It wasn’t pretty but it was pretty interesting. 

The last elections, however, was totally different. The winning candidate did not only have the support of the poor but a number of the elites as well. Most of these elites may or may have not supported Duterte directly but it appears that they did support Marcos Jr., a vice presidential candidate whose family is close to Duterte, whose supporters drew mainly from his late father’s supporters, and they are legion spanning the entire social spectrum. It has now been revealed that former President Fidel Ramos was instrumental in convincing him to run for president, and his funds were provided by Marcos Jr.’s sibling, Imee. He also has the support of another former president, Gloria Arroyo, who was earlier rumored to be the financier of his campaign. True or not, what these alliances show is that he has a broader support base than just the poor. So, this time, the anger over traditional politics was augmented by the very traditional political rivalry they hated creating the perfect storm that swept a man into the highest post of the land. He promised change, and people bought into it. We never really knew how much change he had planned but three months in and we are reeling in disbelief. This man is no traditional politician. Far from it.

If you look at the US today, then you will see the same convergence of forces brewing. There is a great dislike for traditional politics that a complete outsider had actually succeeded in stealing an entire political party. The Grand Old Party no less! At the same time, the other political party is fielding one of the most hated traditional politicians in America who has been in the scene for far too long for comfort for a lot of Americans. And even as the Republican candidate may be THE most reprehensible person to ever walk on God’s earth, the Democratic candidate has trust issues of her own, which makes her unliked over the entire social spectrum. If the Democrats are not careful, then they will lose the coming election, or even if it doesn’t happen in this election, then one or two down the road will result in neither of the traditional parties winning. Note that the Republican Party rumbling along today is nowhere near what it was just an election ago. Should Trump win, he will turn your world totally upside down. That I can promise you.

The difference between the US and the Philippines, however, is that there are only two running for the office in the US (well, three but the third is a non-entity at the moment who is not even up on his current events). There were five running in the Philippine’s last elections which resulted in a plurality vote for Duterte (the majority voted for someone else, just not the same person). So the US Democrats still have a shot, and, as things stand, this election is for them to lose.

The truly disturbing thing about this is that you can see it happening everywhere. While populist groups are barely winning in elections, the victory of BREXIT shook everyone up. Much of the victory comes from the fact that people think these populists don’t have the ghost of a chance to win. Complacency then is the enemy. If you don’t believe me, then just ask the Colombians. We already know people do not like traditional politics and politicians all over the world. The current crop of politicians need to reach out, be more inclusive, and stay relevant. If the people cannot identify with them, then they will surely see the coming into power of someone who not only is contrary to everything they work for but would probably throw their country into chaos.

Believe me, you wouldn’t want what we’ve got.

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