Opinion

Relax, Trump Can’t Destroy America

There are so many great things about the United States that one man cannot wipe out – right?

People participating in a women's march to protest newly inaugurated President Donald Trump, Las Vegas, January 21, 2017.
Ronda Churchill/AP

Fewer than 40 percent of Americans view their new president favorably. The demons of nationalism, racism, populism, pettiness and incitement will not return to the bottle for at least four years: Trump was elected legally and constitutionally, and the reality of a person with such a problematic personality, with an agenda that is partly reactionary, partly illogical and mostly full of internal contradictions, is one we must learn to live with.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009 and his approval rate stood at 80 percent, many expected great things from him. They wanted to give him a chance to do what he had promised. Now it seems there are more people who expect Trump to fail, that he will lead us headlong toward disaster, war or great crisis. In this sense, Obama was destined to disappoint while Trump can only pleasantly surprise. But the truth, of course, is far more complex.

Nevertheless, a significant proportion of those who voted for Trump have high expectations of him. Millions of unemployed Americans are rotting in the vast expanses of this large and wealthy country, living in constant existential anxiety. Many of them expect Trump to bring back blue-collar jobs, as he promised. There are others who expect that Mexican migrants will disappear from the bagging stations at their local supermarket, or from the farms where the fruit they buy was picked. There are others who expect gay people to stop kissing in public and disgusting them or, God forbid, putting ideas into their kids’ heads.

A man holding up a sign at a rally before the Women's March during the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency, in San Francisco, January 21, 2017.
Jeff Chiu/AP

All of these people are destined to be disappointed. Not only because Trump cannot do these things in practice – behind-the-scenes reports from the transition team over the weekend presented a chilling picture of a man who is not used to working hard and becoming engrossed in managing his business, and is not really interested in the nuances of government – but because the majority doesn’t really want them.

American people want cheap televisions and sneakers, like China can provide. People want fruit and vegetables to reach the market quickly, and that the United States remains innovative and developed – and migration is the main base for this. And a growing section of Americans believe gay people are human beings, no different to themselves.

For this reason, Trump will disappoint many people, on both the left and right. Even if he cancels the new trade deals, he’ll continue to give preference to the corporations – to the chagrin of leftists. Even if he imposes punitive duties on Chinese imports, he won’t manage to provide millions of production jobs for Americans, to the chagrin of the unemployed coal- and steelworkers. And even if he eliminates government agencies and harms minorities, and the environment, small businesses and big politicians, he won’t return America to its greatness – because the fantasy of the “Great America” that he offers hasn’t existed for decades, and perhaps never existed at all.

The one hope is that the United States is still a truly great country: in governance, in its institutions, in its spirit of freedom and diligence. And that’s why this or any other president – with or without billionaire friends close to the table – will not manage to ruin it with their own tiny hands.