Human Rights vs Business-Plan Politics
Donald Trump appears to be ushering the US into an age of business-plan politics and imposing a market logic rather than a recognizable ideological agenda. While moving away from ideology might sound good, it could in fact bring heavy costs for key democratic liberties.
Will human rights, including the freedom of religion and the press, conflict with the politics of a CEO in chief? Does the Bill of Rights become a thorn in the side of an autocratic businessman-president, whether Putin, Erdogan, or Trump?
The unexpected Trump presidency has left the media and pollsters bewildered. White collar workers, immigrants, and more marginalized communities who traditionally side with Democrats reacted with anger and resentment. Many now worry what future might be like.
Once you take away the subtleties that make elections a ritual of democracy, what the public needs from a new leader is a reason to believe that a prosperous future can be assured, their well-being and lifestyle are not at risk, and freedoms and liberties won't have to be compromised (too much!). Trump’s victory speech helped immensely because it steered away from the bitterness, toxic language and below-the-belt attacks that characterized the exhausting 2016 presidential campaign. And yet the really big questions remain for Mr. Trump.
Apart from all other concerns about how America's role in the world might play out, the religious freedom and press freedom stand out as big challenges. When it comes to religious freedom, Trump did not win by playing the religion card, though he beat more religious candidates for the Republican nomination and managed to split evangelical voters. He encourages suspicion of Islam and has indicated that Muslims might not be allowed to feel at home in the US down the road. The white nationalist movement that rallies behind Trump is antagonistic to blacks, Jews, and other minorities, and who knows what new enemies might be invented down the road. So religious freedom, as the US has known it, might be headed for trouble.
Trump has also chosen to fight the press and has suggested limiting press freedoms and media power. Trump's personal Twitter feed is full of insults against the media, and The New York Times has been a favorite target. Yet, to claim that religious freedom and press freedom might be compromised by his business plan model might be just one side of the token.
His business plan politics - used here as a metaphor - represents entering into a new era where business is seen as devoid of ideological constraints and dollar profit becomes "really" a central focus of politics. Allies will have to prove they can make the U.S. money, Trump and the businesses related to him personally should also stand to profit from such future transactions. The press that matters (i.e. The New York Times and Washington Post) would be great to be on your side, but even if they are not, the bigger picture of business-plan politics will not be too affected. In fact, the pursuit of public benefit projects and private business interest will increasingly mesh in America just as it happens in other parts of the world, and boundaries that separate them will become less clear.