Donald Trump

Undeliverable Promises

Donald Trump has many grand plans. But could he actually implement any of them? Moises Naim is unconvinced. Source: Dermot Tatlow for Handelsblatt
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A Donald Trump presidency may be characterized more by political gridlock than radical change to the system.

  • Facts


    • Attempts by Donald Trump to ban Muslim immigration and deport millions of undocumented migrants would almost certainly face stiff legal opposition.
    • Free trade Republicans would also likely oppose Mr. Trump’s trade policies and seek to block him in Congress.
    • Moises Naim, the author of the End of Power, argues that globalization and technology have constrained leaders’ ability to implement what voters want.
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A wall on the border with Mexico, a ban on Muslim immigration, and a withdrawal from NAFTA. Donald Trump has made a lot of radical promises. Would he actually be able to implement them?

Moises Naim, a former executive director of the World Bank and the author of “The End of Power,” believes Mr. Trump would face many constraints as president.

“Many of the things he said he wants to do are either not constitutional or can be challenged in courts or will be challenged in Congress,” Mr. Naim told Handelsblatt’s U.S. Election Camp in Washington D.C. “We can expect a prolonged period of power clashes between the different segments of the state.”

“The problem now is that there's a strong sense that elites don't care for the people.”

Moises Naim, Former Executive Director of World Bank

Mr. Trump also won’t be able to deliver on his protectionist and anti-trade rhetoric, Mr. Naim said.

“The fact of the matter is that most of the jobs that have been lost, have not been lost to trade,” Mr. Naim said. “They’ve been lost to microchips and technology. And those jobs are gone. They didn’t go to emerging markets. They were displaced by technology.”

Globalization and the spread of technology has placed more constraints on leaders in the 21st century and Mr. Trump will not be an exception, Mr. Naim said. The irony is that these constraints created the very voter frustration that has fueled the reality television star’s candidacy.

“Because of the constraints on power, it’s very hard to deliver what the voters expect,” Mr. Naim said. “They want political leaders and a system that ensures their standard of living is protected and that their children will have the same opportunity they had. Around the world that has become very hard to deliver.”

And the more difficult it becomes to deliver a sense of security to voters, the more they feel that the establishment or the so-called elites are really just trying to enrich themselves.

“The problem now is that there’s a strong sense that elites don’t care for the people, that the elites only care for themselves and therefore are illegitimate,” Mr. Naim said. “The legitimacy that the elites use to have, that begrudgingly the people accepted, is now gone.”

As the elites have lost their legitimacy, political parties have also started to erode. Idealists who want to change the system no longer view parties as the avenue to do it, he said.

“Political parties are perceived to be the home of opportunists, careerists, of people that are just interested in getting into government to have the power to enrich themselves,” Mr. Naim said. “That’s very bad. I think you cannot have democracies without political parties.”

Though Mr. Naim believes Mr. Trump could do lasting damage to the U.S. political system, he also has confidence that American democracy will weather the storm.

“It’s become very easy to make fun of the United States and its democracy,” Mr. Naim said. “I think we will see that this is a system that has an incredible capacity to adapt, change and innovate.”


Spencer Kimball writes for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author:

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