Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
MONTHS before US Senator Bernie Sanders was through rigging to lose the contest for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination by Hillary Clinton and her Wall Street and Beltway backers, this columnist forecast that Donald Trump would lose to Bernie Sanders but prevail against Clinton. This the New York construction magnate did on November 8, 2916, the same day Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the most electorally consequential decision of his term, the replacement of Rs 1000 notes with newly designed Rs 2000 notes, part from changes in the shape and colour of Rs 500 notes. Unfortunately for India’s PM, officials chosen to man the Reserve Bank of India and the Union Ministry of Finance failed to implement the changeover efficiently.
As a consequence, the economy was badly affected through a collapse of liquidity for more than a year, while the impact of the “DeMo” measure on corruption was negligible. Senior officials claim that there is a reason why the RBI has yet to reveal the value of demonetised currency notes exchanged for new notes in banks. This is that the value of notes submitted to the banking system was more ( the figure mentioned by them seems incredible, so huge is the sum) than the value of legal notes in circulation. In other words, holders of fake notes enjoyed a bonanza after November 8,2016 by exchanging dud cash for real. Hopefully the RBI will prove this wrong by releasing the actual figures of old currency notes deposited in the banking system post demonetisations In much the same way as Modi is paying for the missteps of some in his team, many of those chosen by President Trump have been making errors in approach and policy to social issues. Such errors are cumulatively smoothening the way towards the victory in the 2020 Presidential elections of a Democratic Party candidate in sync with the policies favoured by the idealistic and incorruptible Senator Bernie Sanders. Trump’s opponent may get elected as the 46th President of the United States because of the regressive social policies favoured by the Republican Party, which has travelled a long way from the idealism of Abraham Lincoln. The Democratic Party candidate may even be Sanders himself, who retains enormous goodwill among voters despite his acting as an election agent for Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign despite the way in which he was cheated of the nomination by Clinton. New York, the state to which Trump belongs, is a liberal enclave, and yet Team Trump is on social issues (including education) probably the most reactionary of any US administration since that formed during Ronald Reagan’s first term.
The Republican Party has made the essentially liberal Trump take stands that resonate solely to a dwindling minority of conservative euro-ethnic voters. An example of such toxic policies is the morally reprehensible if legally tenable (forcible and often permanent) separation of thousands of non-euro parents from their children at US border posts. Had Trump listened to Melania and Ivanka rather than to Mitch McConnell in the matter of separating families. Or had he taken his predecessor’s advice and retained Obamacare after making a few changes and renaming it as Trumpcare, both he as well as the Republican Party would have gained. However, the latter is in danger of being made a serial loser because of the extreme elements within it that are seeking to impose a “Hard White, Hard Right” social agenda on a country that is increasingly becoming more tolerant and liberal. This is despite decades of bad policy crafted by the Wall Street-Beltway partnership on the lives of those US citizens who are not millionaires.
Trump is opposing the Republican conservatives in some fields, such as in his trade war with China, but are backing them in in social policy to his own detriment Experts on the subject claim that Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, has a mindset certain to overturn Rose v Wade, the Supreme Court judgment which legalised abortion across the US. Kavanaugh has never hidden his Republican affiliations, nor his conservative social views. His champions say that Kavanaugh is among those who were sympathetic to the ironically-named “Right to Life” Irish authorities who denied Savita Halappanavar her request to terminate the pregnancy that subsequently killed her. However, justices of the US Supreme Court have often surprised their backers by adopting stances different from what they back, and it may be that this lifelong Republican jurist may understand the societal uproar – indeed civil war – that would be caused by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, and desist from backing such a move should he take office as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
However, the apprehension that the judge may provide a majority to existing anti-abortion justices on the court make it certain that there will be a contentious confirmation hearing in the US Senate Whether Judge Kavanaugh gets confirmed or not, there may be several defections from his camp to the newly liberalising Democratic Party from within the majority of Euro-ethnic women who voted against Hillary Clinton for Donald Trump. After all, Bernie Sanders is certainly against the Wall Street-Beltway crowd and they against him. Keeping happy the minority “hard right hard white” voters may result in millions of votes moving away from Trump and his party. Both Trump and Modi have in their social policies concentrated on their hardcore base, without considering the fact that such votes would anyway go to them, but that by succumbing to the wishes of their respective fringes so completely in social policy, they are losing the “moderate middle” whose votes are crucial to victory in elections scheduled to take place in both of the world’s biggest democracies in a few months time.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.