Yeah, I know. Surely the list is endless… But seriously, if we are to get a message across to the President of the United States (POTUS) when he visits in a few weeks, far better to focus on the one thing about which he is clearly wrong.
No, it’s not the Mexican wall. Given that we in Britain rely on the Channel, and Southern Europe relies on the Med, to restrict the flow of illegal immigrants to our countries, surely it would be hypocritical of us to protest about Americans wanting to do the same at their border. And yes, I know his prejudices are terrible, but this is a judgment about policy. I’m not saying I agree with it, but it’s not necessarily wrong.
And, no, it’s not even about his attitude towards women. Of course I wish that his behaviour were different but that is a judgment about him as a human being not as POTUS. In an ideal world, the leader of the most powerful country in the world would be a nicer human being, but that’s not for us to choose. It’s for American voters to decide whether they elect somebody based on policies rather than personality.
The protests shouldn’t be about his economic policies either. His approach to trade talks, central bank independence, and fiscal matters has been combative, but on the whole the US economy is doing rather well. It’s too soon to know if that is due to a blessed inheritance from the previous administration. Maybe economic mishap awaits just around the corner, but for now the Trump administration deserves some credit on this front.
What about foreign policy? His position on the Middle East has left a lot to be desired, but honestly has any US President in living memory achieved much in this sphere of conflict? And, let’s not forget, he has come closer to achieving peace on the Korean peninsular than any other US leader since the 1953 armistice…
So, what should we protest about? The one indisputable policy he has got dead wrong: climate change. He has recanted somewhat from his election campaign statement that it was a hoax. Nevertheless, he withdrew the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement and more recently dismissed the findings of American scientists in the Fourth National Climate Assessment. His approach to the measures needed to cut carbon emissions are straight from his manual on trade negotiations. Rather than thinking about climate change policies as a net positive outcome for the planet (we all get to live and enjoy the natural world, yay!) he only thinks in terms of a zero-sum game and he wants to make sure the US is a net winner. So that means, in his mind, every other country trying harder than the US in mitigating their emissions. Yes I get it. We want (and need) the big, heavily populated emerging economies of the world to play their part but right now the clock is ticking and we need leadership. We need the US to play its part and preferably set others an emerald example of shiny greenness (Percy’s failed attempt at the philosopher’s stone in Blackadder II, anyone?).
So, get your banners ready, protest as much as you like. But please, focus on the one American policy that we can all agree is dead wrong. Before it’s too late.