Trump not root cause of American chaos

Global Times | 作者: Zhang Tengjun | 时间: 2017-08-21 | 责编:
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The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday has made headlines after one person was killed and 19 injured, stealing the spotlight from tensions over North Korea. Media lashed out at white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Even US President Donald Trump came under attack for not specifically mentioning white supremacists during his initial remarks in the wake of the clash. After the White House made a statement later, ex-KKK leader David Duke even told Trump to "take a good look in the mirror and remember it was white Americans who put you in the presidency." The spotlight shifted to Trump, who eventually denounced hate groups but emphasized they were not solely to blame for the violence.


In fact, the Charlottesville riots and fallout are the epitome of Trump's political career to this day. US liberals have attributed a raft of domestic problems to Trump's fanning racial hatred, while moderate conservatives have tried to keep Trump at arm's length and avoided being dragged into controversial issues that may affect elections. Trump has toned down on some sensitive issues after struggling with his legislative agenda. But these don't touch on the core problems facing the US.


In Charlottesville, the white nationalists intended to lift up white people's status. In the 2014 Ferguson unrest, African Americans tried to rise up against unfairness befalling their communities. The two revealing incidents showcase the complex racial and social problems in the US.


Starting from affirmative action in the 1960s and 1970s, the US has made many efforts to promote racial equality. Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, racial minorities have been given equal opportunities, or even advantages over white people in education, employment and social welfare. The US has endeavored to integrate various races and spawned the political correctness. But behind the reforms lie many social problems.


Some people say that Trump won the presidential election by hyping race and gender issues, which incited racial hatred. There are indeed white supremacists in Trump's voter base and he was even rumored to have connections with the KKK. But he didn't initiate these domestic problems in the US.


The long-existing ideological struggle between Democratic and Republican parties was magnified in the presidential election last year. There has been an obvious re-emergence of the conservative far right, which was ignored by Barack Obama during his eight years in the White House. Democrats assign all the blame for domestic problems to Trump, they actually put partisan interests above national ones. What they care about is to push forward their political agenda and grind down the other side. Yet as a result, the establishment in Washington was dealt a heavy blow in last year's election. The efforts of Democratic and Republican parties to vie for votes didn't work. They had to embrace more radical policies. Trump, merely one of many Republicans, just happened to be elected into the presidency.


Fundamentally, America's social and economic development hasn't benefited the majority of Americans, in particular those whites that live in forgotten areas and are poorly educated. These whites have little say in political affairs and are having an identity crisis. When they find some policies unfair, they tend to resort to extreme means to protect their interests. The unrest in Charlottesville and Ferguson is the harvest of long-sowed hatred.


America's political and social issues are so severe that they have impeded the government's operation and undermined its creditability. A solution must be found. However, given the grim reality, there are good reasons to believe the disorder shown in Charlottesville riots will last, and similar unrest and violence may come up again. It's a daunting task to fix the social divide in the US. Trump's presidency is neither a panacea nor a root cause for the problems. "Make America great again" is likely to be a remote dream.




The author is an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.



Source: Global Times, August 16, 2017.