FiveThirtyEight, America’s best-known poll forecaster, has predicted that Donald Trump has a 50.1 per cent chance of winning the US presidency. It is time to suspend disbelief and assess just what a Trump presidency could mean for the world and India.
Trump has divided the US electorate down the middle. He has been attacked for his erratic ways, racism, and questionable business practices.
Yet, he bested the powerful Republican establishment to become the party nominee for the presidential elections.
What forces have carried Donald Trump to this stage? Win or lose, they will be around in the US over the coming decade.
Most noticeable is the feeling among large sections of the people that the American establishment has colluded with the rich in other countries to impoverish the average American.
This has led to a chronic, growing inequality in the US and an exacerbation of the race issue.
Globally, instead of benefiting from the rise of East Asia, the US has spent a fortune in wars in the Middle East, and is now witnessing the destabilisation of its key ally, Europe, by Islamist terrorism and unchecked migration.
Meanwhile China expands its military and economic capacity and could challenge the US, first in East Asia, and then possibly the world.
Assuming Trump does not quite live out his persona as POTUS, and that he is a person of reasonable intelligence, it is possible to get a reasonable idea of how he will be different.
A lot will depend on the outcome of the Congressional elections, because while the Congress cannot make policy, it has the capacity to obstruct a President’s agenda just as has happened in the case of Barack Obama.
Perhaps the most significant shift will be in the way the US engages the world.
The US played a crucial role in setting up the UN, the international monetary and trading system, non-proliferation, arms control, and a host of international agreements that bind the world.
It shaped a global environment in which most states believed that following the rules was in their self-interest, and in turn the US paid the primary cost of policing that system.
Now, Trump wants out. Many Americans have spoken of free-loading allies, but for Trump it has been an obsession.
His world will be much more transactional, where say in the area of security, Europe, Japan and the Middle Eastern allies of the US will be asked to cough up their contributions.
His words and deeds suggest that he will seek to restore the geo-political balance which has been skewed by the Western policy on Ukraine, which has sent Russia into the arms of China.
He will take a tough stand on Islamism, with implications for the Gulf monarchies.
On the matter of trade, the horse has already bolted. Trump has attacked Mexico and NAFTA, but in recent year many US analysts have averred that the US gave China a free ride in the trading system and by cleverly under-valuing its currency, Beijing sucked away US industries and jobs.
There is little they can do to reverse this; China has unstoppable momentum.
Trump is committed to opposing the brahmastra of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) but he is bound to a tough-line on China on trade and currency issues.
India does not figure in Trump’s Manichean worldview - which is for the good. India simply does not impact on the US to the extent that Russia, Europe or China do.
IPR and job outsourcing issues are there. But they are minor in the larger scale of problems that the US must tackle to reduce its debt, reform its tax laws, rewrite trading agreements and get on to the path of growth which also benefits the average person.
Trump promises to take a tough stand on Islamism, with implications for the Gulf monarchies
Whether it is in tackling China, Islamism, or the Russian rift, Trump’s policies will benefit India.However, New Delhi will also be on that transactional framework where it will be asked what it has on offer to merit the US’s friendship - and we cannot rule out an American decision to knock heads on issues like Kashmir.
Every US President since the Cold War have been committed to maintaining the American global hegemony.
Trump and his supporters believe that their harsh agenda is the necessary medicine for the US and the world, to save them - and in the process retain America’s number one status.