The Trump Raj Begins… But How Will It Endure?

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  • The British Raj lasted 89 years, from 1858 to 1947. Unless among the offspring of The Donald there is a lineage of unanticipatedly gifted leaders, one to sixteen years are the likely boundaries of the Trump Raj. Each is unlikely. The lowest requires presidential resignation or congressional impeachment and conviction. The highest demands four straight general election victories with the latter two led possibly by Mike Pence or a Gray-Orange Plutocrat - hopefully not, or that really will signify “GOP”. Whatever the duration, it will feel far longer unless Twitter accounts are deactivated. Checking smartphones 150 times a day individually, or 8 billion times collectively - the American averages - is dilated stupidity.

    Electronic communications will define the Trump Raj the same way typed ones defined the British Raj: their quality. Message matters more than means.

    The Indian masses did not invite the British Raj, and a majority of Americans voted against a Trump Raj. To be a net long-term positive force for America and the world in the way the British Raj thought it was for India and the world, the Trump Raj needs reliable quality in an area in which its campaign hardly excelled: values.

    The Trump Raj may extend its life with consistent values. Not a ‘foolish’ consistency, that Ralph Waldo Emerson warned is “the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Rather, evenness in the Golden Rule.

    The British did well to impress in India a legal culture of equality, and then, undermined it with divide-and-rule measures that pitted creeds and castes against one another. That raj instilled a meritocratic culture through ‘O’ and ‘A’ level exams, and then championed Oxbridge contacts and blue blood. Nothing undermines global American authority more than episodic American hypocrisy, a point oft-made by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

    Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and United States President Richard Nixon at the White House arrival ceremony in Washington DC on November 4, 1971. (Image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons)
    Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and United States President Richard Nixon at the White House arrival ceremony in Washington DC on November 4, 1971. (Image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons)

    Angered By The Possibility Of Russian Interference In American Democracy?

    Then do not repeat the last seven overthrows of foreign leaders:

    1953: Iran, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh

    1954: Guatemala, President Jacobo Árbenz

    1960: Congo, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba

    1961: Dominican Republic, General Rafael Trujillo

    1963: South Vietnam, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem

    1964: Brazil, President Joao Goulart

    1973: Chile, President Salvador Allende

    All - save for Trujillo - had been elected, though none - especially Trujillo - would have been leading candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. These covert events, known thanks to declassified documents, are best confined to the dustbin of history, as is President Richard Nixon’s epithet for Mrs Gandhi and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s insult of Indians. Otherwise, Russia can say it is angry, too, and up its rhetoric and retaliation.

    Eager To Criticise ‘Third World’ Countries For Nepotism?

    Then do not hire family members, no matter how loyal or smart they are. The 1967 anti-nepotism law - 5 U.S.C. Section 3110, known as the RFK Bill thanks to its link of President John F Kennedy appointing his brother Robert as Attorney General - bars a public official from promoting a relative “to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control.” Arguing the White House is not an “agency” may be technically plausible, but implies the “principal,” namely, the White House, is immune from cronyism, while its agents must be scrupulous and mollify fair and lovely maharajahs and maharanis.

    Arguing the prohibition applies only to cabinet posts, not advisory positions, is the mistake South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, made for her cult-connected buddy, Choi Soon-sil.

    United States President Lyndon B Johnson meets Senator Robert F Kennedy in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington DC on June 22, 1966. (Image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons)
    United States President Lyndon B Johnson meets Senator Robert F Kennedy in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington DC on June 22, 1966. (Image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons)

    Enthusiastic To Deride Neighbouring Countries As Exporters Of Narcotics And Crime?

    Then be transparent about tax records and business deals, and put all assets in a blind trust. It is an ineluctable anatomical fact that every time a Trump Raj official points his index finger at a foreigner, there are three fingers pointing back at him (it usually is a “he”). Lord Mountbatten, Britain’s last viceroy and the first governor-general of independent India, though declaring himself “much more intelligent than you think,” admitted “my trophy value exceeded my military usefulness” and confessed “I believe firmly that it was the Almighty’s goodness to check my consummate vanity.”

    The United Kingdom’s viceroy to India Lord  Mountbatten meets Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other Indian leaders to plan the partition of India in 1947. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
    The United Kingdom’s viceroy to India Lord Mountbatten meets Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other Indian leaders to plan the partition of India in 1947. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

    Ready To Shout At Other Countries For Violating International Law?

    Then pay attention to the venerable international legal maxim of pacta sunt servanda - agreements must be kept. Remember that the leading international legal forum - the United Nations - refused to condone the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. Was it not the pre-raj Donald who opposed that war?

    Alas, Dismissive Of The United Nations As A “Club” For A “Good Time”?

    Then freshen the air the members breathe so they can be more productive in implementing climate change commitments. Why not also seal a WTO deal on free trade of environmental goods and services?

    United States President George W Bush, right, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on March 14, 2003 as Secretary of State Colin Powell looks on. (Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg News)
    United States President George W Bush, right, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on March 14, 2003 as Secretary of State Colin Powell looks on. (Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg News)

    Passionate To Support Free Trade That Is “Fair”?

    Then take another look at Chapter 23 of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP boasts the first set of rules, albeit ‘soft law’, to advance the status of women ever found in a free trade agreement. Better yet, embrace in free trade agreements the truism “women’s rights are human rights,” and include LGBTQ persons. Brexit affords the opportunity to advance the dignity of all human persons through ‘hard law’ obligations. England will be shopping for bilateral deals. The Trump Raj can make free trade in service of the human person, rather than the current capitalist inverse, the cornerstone of a free trade agreement with the Old Raj.

    Pleased To Crow About Business Acumen?

    Then stop blaming foreigners for sucking American jobs. Tell the truth that 80 percent of them were lost to technology. Admit that robots soon will occupy the few thousand auto and air conditioning positions saved by jawboning companies. Honda showcased its auto-assembly robots in television advertisements aired during the January 8, 2017 Steelers-Dolphins NFL playoff game, ironically hosted in Pittsburgh featuring two red-state teams. Spot the key issue: will there be enough well-educated, debt-free Americans to build and program the next generation of factory robots?

    Robots weld the body frame of a Honda Motor Co. Fit vehicle on the production line of the company’s Yorii plant in Yorii Town, Saitama Prefecture, Japan, on  March 8, 2016. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)
    Robots weld the body frame of a Honda Motor Co. Fit vehicle on the production line of the company’s Yorii plant in Yorii Town, Saitama Prefecture, Japan, on March 8, 2016. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

    Simply put, nothing would command greater global gravitas than America’s treatment of other nations as it would wish to be treated, coupled with domestic behavior that is a role model overseas. More than the nuclear arsenals he commanded, the power of that Golden Rule, operating reciprocally, was obvious to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter, an astute history student and a candid author, and still vigilant at age 92 against self-delusional hypocrisy. No bombs, no bullets, and no wars during his presidency.

    As with the quality of the raj on which the sun set in 1947, the quality of the raj on which the sun is rising 70 years later will depend not on the medium of the day, but the message for the era. So, skip the daily tweets. Look for the legacy. Pray to find consistent values worthy to endure.

    Raj Bhala is Associate Dean, International and Comparative Law, and Rice Distinguished Professor at The University of Kansas, School of Law. The views expressed here are his and do not necessarily represent the views of the State of Kansas, or the University.

    The views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.

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