Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Is Trump Ushering In The Federalism Of Stupidity?

As trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, governors from several states -- California, Washington, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Vermont -- joined forces to announce they would continue working toward meeting the goals of the accord. The very next day, the European Union announced it would work directly with American states and businesses to uphold the goals of the agreement. Which raises an interesting question: is the United States becoming irrelevant on the world stage?

President trump's actions in the international arena are, almost without exception, isolationist and protectionist in nature (they also demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of international affairs and diplomacy, but that is a topic for another article). From the "America First" rhetoric of his inauguration, to his abrupt (in diplomatic terms) shift in tone toward Germany, to his casual dismissal of the role of the United States in NATO, he has repeatedly shown a complete disregard for diplomatic norms and the standards of civil discourse.

The result of this has been a shift in tone among world leaders. Where, in the past, the President of the United States has been recognized as an authoritative voice in international affairs, one that was uniformly treated with at least a minimum amount of respect, trump's cartoonish bombast has been greeted with rolled eyes and giggles hidden behind closed hands. This set of circumstances was highlighted when the president announced an address to European leaders on May 25 that "Germany is very, very bad," labeling the "millions of cars they sell to the U. S." as "terrible" and threatening to "put a stop to it."

It is unclear whether trump is unaware of the number of vehicles built in the United States by German automakers, or just doesn't give a hot damn. BMW's largest manufacturing facility in the world is in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Mercedes-Benz builds as many cars in the U. S. as it sells here. Volkswagen has a large manufacturing plant in Tennessee. Slapping a 35% tariff on imported vehicles would have no effect on these cars, since they are built domestically.

As a result of this nonsense, the international community is coming to realize that they don't have to deal with trump at all, and that they can bypass him and go directly to the states, counties, and localities with which they would work on a variety of issues. Climate. Trade. Even defense, to a degree. All of these issues had formerly been the province of agreements between nations, but now are shifting away from trump and his Twitter-fueled tantrums.

What this means in the long term is unclear. On one end of the spectrum is the possibility that trump will awaken to the reality that he cannot bluster his way through an international agreement, and that he will therefore learn humility and diplomacy. On the other extreme, he continues -- and accelerates -- along his current path, further pushing the United States into the storage closet of history and reducing America to a caricature of itself.

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