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The Interpreter's best of 2016: US election

The US election was a dominant theme on The Interpreter in 2016.

The Interpreter's best of 2016: US election
Published 6 Jan 2017   Follow @SamRoggeveen

The US election was a dominant theme on The Interpreter in 2016, and among our commentators was Crispin Rovere, who predicted a Trump victory in November 2015. He went on to decribe Trump as a less extreme figure than is commonly believed:

It's startling to have to actually put this on the record, but let me be clear: Trump is no fascist. He's not even particularly extreme. In fact, it's Trump's lack of ideology that most Republicans have a problem with. Trump doesn't pontificate about the holiness of the constitution, or American exceptionalism, or 'freedom'. The real agony the establishment is facing is not that Donald Trump has beaten their preferred candidates; rather,  it's the dawning realisation that no one in the world cares about 'conservatism', not even GOP voters. Trump sees the US as a country like any other, albeit a powerful one. His decision-making philosophy seems to be 'if it works, and it lasts, then it's policy'.

Rovere also made the case that Trump is a Kissinger-style realist:

Imagine this hypothetical: Trump meets Putin and secretly agrees to dissolve NATO entirely. Instead, a new pan-European security architecture will be established focused on counter-terrorism – one that includes Russia as a member. In exchange, the territorial integrity of the Baltic States is categorically affirmed, Russia agrees not to further test European borders, and to instead 'pivot to Asia' itself with regard to its security posture. Such a coup would ensure Trump was counted among the greatest foreign policy presidents. It would also do Nixon and Kissinger proud.

Interpreter Managing Editor Emma Connors wrote weekly on the US election, and also saw early that there was no bumping Trump:

Donald Trump has boasted he hasn't had to spend any money on advertising because he gets so much free media coverage. And why not? The same straight talking that wows the crowds makes for terrific soundbites. And as the clip below demonstrates, his campaign also does a fine line in stunts,  to help get the message across. It all seems to be paying off. Polls taken in early voting states consistently place Trump  first or second, while the HuffPost Pollster, that tracks 227 polls, shows he is still well ahead nationally. The big problem many of those who are calling this race have when it comes to Trump is they don't understand why comments and actions they find reprehensible don't dent his popular appeal.

Emma also looked at the lighter side of the US election campaign, at the Republican anti-Trump revolt which never quite materialised, and at Hillary Clinton's narowing poll lead. Emma was also in Ohio with the victorious Republicans on election night.

Robert Kelly previewed the post-election political landscape in North Asia:

...(if we) take Trump at his word, he does indeed suggest a major US re-orientation toward the region. Trump has been an Asia trade-basher for decades, and his flip comments on US alliances and nuclear proliferation suggests little interest in Asian security as well. There is a deep strain of American trade pessimism, going back to the 1970s, that views Asian states as mercantilist trade-cheaters (think Pat Buchanan, Michael Lind, Clyde Prestowitz, Michael Crichton, and so on), which Trump is bringing into the mainstream. Similarly, there is a growing critique, especially on the right, of US post-Cold War internationalism, arguing that the US does far too much globally, wastes lives and treasure on ungrateful foreigners in conflicts that do not concern it, and does not spend enough at home. Trump is normalising this too. If he gets elected and follows through, US retrenchment from the region and a trade war with China will be regional possibilities for the first time since the 1970s and 1990s respectively.

Brendan Thomas-Noone looked at the cyber-security precedents set during the campaign:

this election has revealed a new front in the way cyber conflict is evolving. Many governments have declared that any cyber attack on their country’s critical infrastructure would amount to an act of war; this is a relatively clear line and signal for other states. But the grey zone that has emerged, and that opponents of the US are trying to exploit, is the ability to influence, discredit or manipulate political opinion and democratic processes.

Finally, here's Hugh White's reaction to the result: Australia must prepare for a post-American Asia:

That would be a mistake. The problems that confront America in Asia are exacerbated but not caused by Trump’s idiosyncratic brand of pugnacious isolationism. They spring from a fundamental shift in the distribution of wealth and power. America’s bipartisan foreign-policy establishment has never acknowledged the seriousness of China’s challenge to the US-led order, or the costs and risks to America of trying to resist it. The pivot therefore assumed that China could be persuaded or compelled to abandon its challenge though small symbolic gestures that cost America little. It has become steadily clearer that this is not true. But there was no sign at all from Clinton or her followers that they understood how and why the pivot was failing, and what could replace it.

Photo by Flickr user Darron Birgenheier.

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