Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
IF the Republican Party in the United States of America were pulled to the right by the Tea Party because of an aversion to President Barack Hussain Obama, the election of Donald Trump as the successor to the country’s first African-American President has spawned what may be termed the “Coffee Party”. This new phenomenon is making its voice heard across the US, pushing for policies far more radical than the Republican Lite strands embraced by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Just as the Republican “Tea Party” led the political attack on Barack Obama, the Democratic “Coffee Party” is seeking to ensure that elected representatives from the party adopt the Tea Party’s stand of total opposition, this time to President Trump.
Should any Senator or House of Representatives member show any signs of working with the Trump administration in order to ensure the passage of legislation or the implementation of policies, it is certain that they will be challenged in the party primaries as ruthlessly as the Tea Party had done to those in the Republican Party that were seen as “soft” on Obama. Although Barack Obama claimed in his campaign speeches that there was no “Red” (Republican) or “Blue” (Democratic) in the country but a single shared citizenship and heritage, such a view was shown to be unrealistic. While it is a fact that the long-dominant Wall Street-Atlanticist establishment in the world’s biggest economy held sway in both the Republican as well as the Democratic Party, the November 8 defeat of Hillary Clinton has resulted in as much a weakening of this establishment within the Democratic Party as the election of Donald John Trump has effected in the Republican side.
Because the New York billionaire stayed away from elective politics till recently, those representing (and defending) the Wall Street-Atalanticist establishment does not have the hold on him that they do on conventional politicians, including Hillary Clinton or John McCain. Hence they are as opposed to him as President of the US as they were to Bernie Sanders becoming the Democratic Party nominee in the 2016 presidential elections. In the case of Bernie Sanders, perhaps because he lacked either the money power of Trump or the latter’s ruthless streak, the Vermont Senator was cheated of the Democratic Party nomination by chicanery. Such activity was sought to be underplayed by floating the allegation that the emails and other evidence showing the unethical way in which Sanders lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton.
However, when he retreated from his campaign promise of fighting Hillary Clinton on the floor of the July 2016 Nominating Convention and instead accepted the position of being (together with Barack and Michelle Obama) of being the former Secretary of State’s cheerleader, Sanders lost the respect of most of those who had sacrificed money, time and well-being in the effort to ensure that it would be Sanders and not Clinton who challenged the Republican nominee for the Presidentship of the US.
However, as yet the Wall Street-Atlanticist establishment remains in control of the Democratic Party to a degree that their ideological cousins within the Republican Party no longer do. President Trump has shown throughout his life that it was not an accident that Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was sung at his Inaugural, for going his way has been the single constant in the life of the individual who defied his party leadership and yet won both the nomination as well as the Oval Office. Although the many members of the establishment were hoping that the few of those of their persuasion who are in high positions in the Trump administration would be able to checkmate the US President from carrying out his bold policies. However, in his first week in office, Donald Trump has shown that he will follow his own script and go only by the direction set by his own compass, no matter what the very party leaders who worked last year to get him defeated by Hillary Clinton think or say. And because the Wall Street-Atalanticist establishment is still very powerful within the Democratic Party, the “Coffee Party” is evolving largely outside confines of the party, unlike Tea Party, which from the start was clearly an internal group within the Republican flock.
Indeed, after Sanders shamed them by submission to the whims of the Clintons, many do not any more respond to the cues of the Vermont Senator. Instead, a coalition of groups is coming together, albeit with a few powerful backers content to remain hidden in the shadows, such as the organisations sponsored by the Soros Foundation. To the determined George Soros, any shift of strategic direction from Europe to Asia would be anathema, hence his anger at President Trump identifying not Russia but China as most potent threat to US primacy, and his willingness to help out in efforts to derail Trump presidency in manner done before in several other countries by his numerous institutions. The focus of “Coffee Party” is on President Trump, just as that of the Tea Party was on Obama (which is why that particular club has lost a lot of its traction since Jan 20, 2017 when Trump was sworn-in.
However, they will also go after Democratic Party officeholders and legislators if these are perceived as being not as committed to disrupting the Trump presidency as the Tea Party members were towards the Obama administration. Interestingly, because of a perception that the Trump team has a Churchillian racial leaning towards those who are “white” ( as against others who are “yellow”, “black” and “brown”), a large proportion of African-Americans and Hispanics have signed on to the Coffee Party. Among South Asians, while Muslims and Christians overwhelmingly backed Hillary, those belonging to the Hindu community went for Trump, abandoning the Democratic Party, to which they had hitherto been loyal. The rise of the “Coffee Party” is turning the Democratic Party to the left. However, this will be of value only should President Trump falter in his plans for a robust US economy. Whether it be Modi in India or Trump in the US, economics will decide their political fate.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.