At the New Yorker website, John Cassidy reflects on the decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Cassidy suggests that it was a decision heavily influenced by the nationalist wing of Trump’s cabinet—especially Steven Bannon—against the advice of administration economists and Trump’s fellow businesspeople. As exasperating and clueless as the decision is, Cassidy writes that it at least clarified the rhetorical strategy Trump uses to appeal to his small but fervid base. This strategy was on full display in the speech Trump gave announcing the decision: paint the US as the victim of a global conspiracy to cripple the country’s economy and weaken its superpower status. Here’s an excerpt from Cassidy’s piece:
The Paris accord was described as the work of scheming foreigners, particularly the Europeans, and their domestic agents, the traitorous globalists. The agreement “handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” Trump said. “The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and, in many cases, lax contributions to our critical military alliance. You see what’s happening. It’s pretty obvious to those that want to keep an open mind.”
This was Trumpism in its full glory—the world as a conspiracy against its sole superpower, a country that accounts for a quarter of global G.D.P. and about forty per cent of global personal wealth. “At what point does America get demeaned?” Trump demanded, his voice rising. “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?”
The answer is that the laughing stopped a good while back. What once seemed like a punch line—Donald Trump in the White House—is now an everyday reality that the rest of the world is trying to deal with. After this latest display of nihilism, it only seems more alarming.
Image via the New Yorker.