With each passing day of U.S. President Donald Trump’s office comes another reason why America cannot credibly claim to be the global torchbearer of equality, freedom, and prosperity.
Descriptives usually reserved for the ‘developing world’ are now becoming increasingly applicable to the ‘Land of the Free’. And with a fragile democracy, constitution in crisis, and a volatile authoritarian leader at its helm, in an ironic twist, it may not be long before the ‘Global South’ starts making its own risk reports, and advisory notes to citizens wishing to travel to the U.S (assuming President Trump has not already barred them.)
Here’s how a foreign service analyst from the ‘developing world’ might describe America’s current state of affairs, reflecting the West’s own global standards:
Situation Report: United States of America
The United States of America is currently undergoing a turbulent leadership transition. Newly elected President Donald Trump is a highly inexperienced policymaker, and is displaying erratic, inflammatory, and authoritarian traits, which is bringing crippling uncertainty for domestic and foreign citizens, businesses, and international relations.
—Civil Strife: Rule of Law, and Freedoms Under Threat
President Trump rose to power on a right-wing populist platform peddling fear, hatred, and division that has undermined U.S. social cohesion. Protests and riots following his election and inauguration often turned violent as ardent Trump supporters, opposition, and police officers clashed in major U.S. cities. With further demonstrations likely, there continues to be the risk of unrest.
Trump’s hardline stance on muslims and immigrants, also puts apparent foreigners and non-Christians in particular danger from an empowered, though minority, far-right. Racist attacks increased following his election, while places of worship, including mosques, have also been threatened. This adds to mounting grievances among the African-American community, and already weak police-minority relations. And alongside the threat of religious persecution, Trump’s anti-LGBT, anti-disability, and misogynistic rhetoric is spreading fear over a backsliding in equal rights.
Trump also recently conveyed support for torture, which raises broader concerns over the state of human rights under his presidency, while the death penalty remains authorized in the majority of U.S. states.
—Politics and Economy: Uncertainty and Instability
Previously a businessman and television personality, President Trump’s election ahead of qualified statesmen and women, raises questions over the efficacy of the U.S. democratic process. Moreover, there are various accusations from U.S. intelligence officials that long-time foe Russia may have interfered with the November vote, putting the election’s ‘free and fair’ badge under question. The role of ‘fake-news’ and other propaganda are also being considered.
Trump’s choice of cabinet includes several with ties to the media, financial industry, and big corporations, placing concern over his office’s independence and accountability. He has also installed his son-in-law in a key advisory role, while maintaining close ties to his businesses and remaining financially opaque, stirring accusations of nepotism, conflicts-of-interest, and corruption. In addition, intense criticism and censoring of journalists by Trump and his cabinet places the independent media under threat while putting serious doubt on the accuracy and impartiality of The White House’s communications.
The U.S. is also among the world’s most unequal societies, with the wealth of the top 0.1% of families roughly the same as the bottom 90%. And despite being the world’s No.1 economy, 13.5% of its population live in poverty. Economic depravation adds class-based division to growing racial tensions, and continues to fuel the risk of unrest, particularly with question marks over how effectively Trump’s elite-led cabinet—the richest in U.S history—can legitimately fight inequality.
—International Relations: Restive
A flurry of recent executive orders including a temporary ban on nationals from seven mainly muslim countries has led to the detainment of migrants and refugees—and significant disruption—at U.S. airports. Some Customs and Border Protection agents have defied the order leading to speculation of an impending constitutional crisis. The policy, alongside a proposed border wall with Mexico on its southern border, has drawn international condemnation. While Canada has intervened by opening its doors to rejected refugees. There are also reports that a significant number of U.S. citizens are considering fleeing the country.
—Outlook: On Alert
Currently, civil unrest, restive borders, and the potential for volatile policies makes the political, economic, and social environment in the U.S. highly uncertain. Foreign visitors, businesses, and diplomats should be on alert for any signs of escalation, particularly if protests grow, state confidence declines, and calls for Trump’s impeachment gain steam, as this may spur a crackdown from the White House.
Domestic turmoil spotlights a hypocrisy over the values the U.S. has traditionally defended around the world. The moral high-ground on international peace, democracy, and economic progress is increasingly falling out from under the nation’s feet. And with Trump’s ‘America First’ mantra, it may soon be time for other nations and institutions to take greater responsibility in shining a light on the darker corners of the globe.