By Mohammad Mazhari

Oxford professor says Trumpism has its roots in American society

November 16, 2020 - 13:19
“Biden will face a very difficult challenge to bring the country together” 

TEHRAN – A professor of international relations at the University of Oxford believes that the “particular form populism” promoted by Donald Trump “has its roots in American society".

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Richard Caplan notes that "Trump has polarized the nation, leaving the country more divided than before."
"To some Americans, he represents 'real American values'," he notes.

The following is the text of the interview: 

Q: How do you see the fate of Trump's refusal to accept Biden's victory in the presidential election?  

A: Trump will eventually have to concede defeat. To date, he has offered no credible evidence to support his claims of voter fraud. Moreover, he is losing support among his Republican allies. With each passing day, Republican leaders are stepping forward to acknowledge Biden's victory. Meanwhile, world leaders have been lining up to extend their congratulations to Biden. There has been some concern that Trump would refuse to leave the White House, but that becomes less and less likely as support for Trump's continued resistance diminishes. 

Q: What is Trump's legacy for America and the international community? 

 A: Trump's 'America First' policies have demonstrated to U.S. allies—including some of its closest allies—that they may no longer be able to count on the United States for support. Under Trump, the United States has undermined multilateral efforts to combat global warming, contain the coronavirus's spread, restrain nuclear proliferation, and promote the rule of law. Even if Biden reverses many of Trump's policies, which I'm sure he will, U.S. allies will have learned the lesson that they may need to rely more on themselves going forward. 

 At home, Trump has polarized the nation, leaving the country more divided than before. Throughout his presidency, he has shown contempt for democratic norms and institutions with his attacks on the media, the judiciary, and Congress. Even his refusal to accept electoral defeat has undermined confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral process in the eyes of many U.S. citizens. Biden will face a very difficult challenge to bring the country together. 

“Trump can be said to be an exception insofar as we have not witnessed a U.S president as divisive domestically and bullish internationally as Trump has been,” Professor Richard Caplan says.

Q: Can it be supposed that Trump is an exception in American history or doe he represents real American values? 

 A: Trump can be said to be an exception insofar as we have not witnessed a U.S president as divisive domestically and bullish internationally as Trump has been. However, Trumpism is homegrown: this particular form of populism has its roots in American society. To some Americans, he represents 'real American values,' but to many, he represents a repudiation of those values—especially the values of compassion, fairness, and equality—however imperfectly realized they are in the American republic.  

Q:  Do you expect a fundamental change in American policies when Joe Biden takes the helm at the White House? 

A: With regard to foreign relations, we can expect greater U.S. engagement with multilateral organizations but also greater consultation with allies; greater support for collective efforts to reduce carbon emissions and inhibit climate change; more joined-up efforts to fight the spread of infectious diseases and to curb nuclear proliferation, including support for the Iran nuclear deal, which the Obama-Biden administration negotiated. In other respects, we can expect continuity: for instance, Biden will continue to confront China over trade, currency, and regional security, and he will build on Trump's achievements in bringing the (Persian) Gulf states and Israel closer together. 
As far as domestic policies are concerned, Biden will adopt a more concerted and coherent approach to the COVID pandemic than Trump pursued. He will seek to strengthen the Obama era healthcare reforms that Trump has sought to dismantle. He will pursue economic policies that are greener and seek to redress imbalances that have benefitted the rich above all. However, Biden will have to balance competing pressures from the left and the right, including resistance from a Senate that may remain in Republican hands (we are still awaiting the final electoral results). He may find he has limited room for maneuver.   

Q: Do you expect a change in U.S. attitude towards Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia? Is Biden able to end the war in Yemen while America has a big deal with Saudi Arabia to sell them arms? 

 A: I expect more consistency than a change in U.S. policy towards the Middle East (Arab and non-Arab countries) with some notable exceptions. Biden will continue to support Israel but, contrary to Trump, he will discourage Israel's further expansion (annexation, Jewish settlements) into the West Bank. He will take a few steps back from Saudi Arabia, which Trump embraced warmly. On the campaign trail, Biden vowed to end U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen, suggesting that he would stop selling weapons to Riyadh. Biden will seek to re-join the nuclear accord with Iran (JCPOA), provided that Iran comes back into compliance with uranium enrichment limits. Improving relations with Iran is a much greater challenge in view of the fact that U.S. and Iranian interests in the region are not aligned.


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