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What will be President Trump's longer term impact on America, global politics, news reporting, future of democracy itself. Why he fits many predictions I made and what is likely to happen next to political leadership globally. FEATURE

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President Trump is very typical of a new generation of highly influential "single-issues politicians", shaking nations around the world as I predicted years ago (article written September 2018)

He thrives on the elusive powers of 24 hours a day media-streaming of his thoughts and feelings, taps into populist emotions, connects with the passions of ordinary people, expresses very well their fears for their own future, as well as their dreams for their own children.

A part of this has been the powerful slogan: "Make America Great Again", which feeds into deep unease about the declining role, influence and economic powers of America as a proportion of the whole world.  This in turn is being driven by the very long term, irresistible and relentless rise in emerging nations, where 85% of humanity already live.

Leaving aside whatever you may feel about President Trump's official, longer term policies, the truth is that his day to day communications and actions are massively different from what is normally expected in developed nations of their own Presidents or Prime Ministers, and are much more typical in some ways of patterns that we tend to see amongst semi-dictators in emerging markets.

In all developed nations, the foundation stones of society are based on three fundamental rights, each of which is currently under pressure in America in subtle but important ways that have no recent precedent:

1.  Rights of every citizen to elect members of parliament, representatives etc in completely free and fair elections, without risk of the process being unduly influenced by those controlling huge wealth or powers - whether inside that nation or in foreign nations / governments.

2. Rights of every citizen to express opinions on wide range of political issues, and to publish those opinions in organised media to large audiences, without interference or fear or retribution. Confidence in organised sources of "reliable" information, which are independent of government or big business is vital in order to hold government and business leaders to account.

3. Rights of every citizen to enjoy full protection of the law, without favour or prejudice, expecting that the law will extend its powers to all regardless of their wealth, privileges or position, and will pursue / punish wrongdoing wherever that may be found. Vital to protect society from abuse of executive powers and corruption.

As I have often predicted, we are continuing to see rapid moves towards a new kind of world, characterised by emotion or public mood being far more important than actual facts, as a major driver of future government strategy, regulation, foreign policy and so on.

As part of this we are seeing:

- Persistent hostility towards the so-called free press - for example, described as "enemies of the people", especially if critical of major factual errors made by leaders, or of impact of "bad" decisions or of "poor" ethical standards

- Low threshold for actively and consistently promoting interests of close family, and own business or brands, allowing them to benefit directly or indirectly from association, or powers or influence of the Presidential Office, in ways that are likely to significantly enhance family careers or personal / family wealth

- Ignoring long-established and internationally respected codes of ethics, and guidance on principles, for all those in senior public service roles, designed to guard against corruption or even any appearance of corruption, to enhance public trust in government and national leadership.  

The core issue is NOT merely whether an act is legal, but rather whether it is ethically right, whether it is a good example of utmost integrity. Keeping the law alone does not make you ethical.  Ticking ethical compliance boxes alone does not make you ethical.  Being ethical is a matter of conviction, character and conscience.  Being ethical is about taking steps in all situations to act in ways that respect the spirit of the law, the spirit of ethical codes, the spirit of good citizenship, the spirit of justice, the spirit of impartiality and fairness.

- Ignoring advice of the nation's greatest experts inside and outside government, on multiple occasions eg head of military, senior judges etc

- Overt criticism, or even veiled threats, aimed at those who are the appointed guardians of the independence and integrity of the nation's legal system, at the highest levels, in ways that might be perceived as deliberately undermining public trust in the independence and impartiality of the justice system

- Holding large numbers of large political rallies, financed in part or in whole by the State, to galvanise popular support

- Dismantling or undermining accountability mechanisms, well-established forums and national advisory groups 

- Promotion of personal agendas and views through a 100% controlled media channel (in this case the Presidential Twitter account), and dismissal of other media sources as unreliable or misleading

Predictions of these recent political convulsions

In my 1998 book Futurewise, and again in my 2015 book The Future of Almost Everything, I also described the explosive combination of four key "future drivers":  Emotion, Tribal, Radical and Ethical, and predicted the rise of new kinds of populist politicians, appealing to raw passions, defined by clusters of single issues, rather than traditional left wing or right wing, propelled to power by activist groups driven by radical agendas, with a strong sense of moral outrage.  

President Trump's campaign, election and behaviour in the White House is a perfect example of these forces at work.

Limit to President Trump's actual powers 

When President Trump was elected, I wrote that the risk of impeachment proceedings starting during his first term would be significant, but that the likelihood of his being forcibly removed from power was low.  

I also wrote that President Trump's greatest challenge would be discovering the limitations on his ability to deliver, which would lead to great frustrations - he would be constrained by:

- Congress and Senate

- Internal government resistance including White House staff - eg quietly blocking, undermining, ignoring

- Loss of gigantic leadership powers already in common with all large global developed economies: - denationalisation, decentralisation, federalism, independence of judiciary, independence of Central Bank policy making

- Growth of power of multinationals, power of markets etc.  For example, raise corporate taxes, or personal taxes, and best companies as well as best people move elsewhere.  Increase environmental regulation too far beyond neighbouring nations, and companies cease investing

- Need to win the next election eg not risking big tax rises to fund big promises, delivering economic growth

So what is a President left with:

- Ability to tear up trade agreements (much harder to make new ones)

- Ability to stop or reduce funding of various agencies eg Nato / UN

- Ability to propose significant new budget items, cancel some spending

- Ability to launch a few cruise missiles, or send in troops etc to another nation as a "non-war act" to support achieving a foreign policy objective

- Ability to make pronouncements eg Tweets (!) aimed at winning public debate, achieving political goals which are otherwise beyond reach

Longer term impact of President Trump's Presidency

So what of the longer term?

- Almost all sources of news media from established agencies will be tainted long term with the word "Fake"

- At the same time, readership of printed media and the budgets for high quality investigative journalism will continue to fall, weakening public scrutiny

- Political positions are likely to become even more polarised until strong consensus leaders develop - which may take a long time

- Public office itself will be further demeaned in the eyes of many, discouraging even more the best leaders in America to put themselves forward as future national leaders

- Media frenzy and wild social media distortions re private lives of leaders will further inhibit the most talented from entering big politics

- Lack of reform over election funding will continue to discourage many of the best national leaders from becoming political candidates.  They will know that without a massive campaign fund, it will be impossible to be elected, but raising such a fund may carry with it all kinds of pressures and feelings of obligation, with potential to erode impartiality and integrity

- Quality of national Presidential candidates likely to fall even further - as best leaders stay in Business or in Non-Profit Foundations

- Expect a big reaction eventually to mediocre or damaging leadership, with a call for major reforms, starting with political funding, to help ensure the best leaders have the best opportunity to lead the nation, rather than those with the greatest wealth or access to wealth

- Expect a more formal ethical code to emerge, with more effective enforcement 

- Expect President Trump to continue to be a significant national influence in media of many kinds, often using his own wealth to do so, for years after he leaves the White House - which could well be after a second term.  He may well be aided in this by an economic boom, from over-stimulus of the economy at a time when it was already growing well, leading possibly to a bust just in time for his successor to be blamed for it

And Russia - final verdict on involvement in election?

It will become increasingly clear over the next few years that several nations, including both America and Russia, have at many points in the last 40 years sought to influence elections in other nations. And that both Russia and America have sought to influence the other's political destiny at various times through multiple hidden strategies. America's objective has been to contain the influence of Russia, and Russia to contain the influence of America. Historians will debate which nation was most successful in these attempts, and will record intermittent paranoia on this issue.

Russia will continue to have worries over the next two decades and beyond about security on its borders, for understandable reasons, given its traumatic history in World War II, when 20 million Russian people died. There is little doubt therefore that Russia's political leaders are likely to see major future benefit in anything that helps deliver:

- Weakened ties between EU nations, weakened EU leadership, breakup of EU, or reduction in number of member nations eg Brexit

- Weakened ties between NATO nations, reduced total spending, unclear strategy re Balkans and other areas, and reduced ability to make bold, rapid military responses 

- Weakened President of America (regardless of who is in office or their official policies) - less able to make bold foreign policy decisions, less able or willing to go to war, distracted by major domestic issues, with confused military leaders and paralysis in their decision-making

Given that the net result of all the above means that President Trump is indeed weakened, compared to many previous Presidents, it could be said that Russia's foreign policy objectives regarding America had already been powerfully fulfilled by Autumn 2018.  Even if there had actually been zero efforts by Russia to install President Trump in the White House, and then to undermine his authority, the very suggestion that there might have been, has already done great damage to the American Presidency, and to confidence in democracy itself - more than enough to achieve a spectacular foreign policy victory at very low cost.  

Impeachment proceedings are likely of course to add to Russian foreign policy advantage, so long as they do not result in President Trump's actual removal from office, because his replacement could well lead to a period of political normalisation, policy stability and a greater threat perceived by Russia to its own security from America's "recovery".

You can post your own thoughts in the box at the bottom of this page - looking forward to reading them.

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