Just lack of experience, or is there more to Trump's moves?

Protests and demonstrations have not died even for a single day since the inauguration

By Mohammed Baharoon

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Published: Sun 5 Feb 2017, 7:13 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Feb 2017, 9:16 PM

The intensity of the popular protests since the unexpected win of President Donald Trump is worthy of careful consideration. These demonstrations seem to have different motivation but their outcome can be strikingly similar. The demonstrations are growing across the US, and possibly the chaos that accompanies them can be a manifestation of creative chaos that could lead to new realities and dynamics in the United States.
The demonstrations and riots against President Trump were brought to the foreground during the #notmypresident riots that followed President Trump's election win and became more political during the #womensmarch demonstrations during the inauguration and the current #muslimban protests. The first anti-trump demonstrations started on June 17, 2015. Since then, there has been a continuum of protests. Trump campaign, nonetheless, successfully redirected all its energy toward securing a win.

Until now all the demonstrations have been spontaneous without underlying ideological discourse that could make it a wider collective movement. The anti-Trump demonstrations may seem similar to the "Occupy" which started with "Occupy Wall Street" in Zuccotti Park in New York in 2011 and grew to become a global movement with demonstrations that happened in 951 cities across 82 countries. But the Occupy movement had a purpose with global outreach calling for social justice and targeting the financial system as a representative of capitalism. The anti-Trump movement has no such ideological base. Nonetheless, the Occupy movement, which was inspired by political movements around the world like the Arab Spring, lost its traction soon after its first anniversary.
It is true that there are similarities between the Occupy movement and the anti-Trump movements mainly when it refers the power of the people and articulates a slogan of the Occupy movement, "We are the 99 per cent". They also share the same concept of maintaining the democratic values and achieving justice for all the different parts of the society.
It is true that the anti-Trump demonstrations do not have the clarity of purpose nor the magnitude of the Occupy movement, but that should not lead to the easy conclusion that these movements will end up in the same way. In this scenario the crowd will disperse and President Trump will have his way and his executive orders will fulfill his election promises.

Anti-Trump protests started as community movement against the government, and later changed into a power struggle between the judiciary and the White House. Federal courts, in Boston, Virginia, Seattle and Brooklyn have stayed the implementation of parts of the executive order on "protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry to the United States". This is an indication of a direct challenge between the judicial and the executive branches of the government. The sacking of Sally Yates, acting US Attorney General, whom the White House said that she had "betrayed" the department, is a sign that the conflict is growing within the executive branch.

The participation of the judiciary in undermining the executive power of the US president could lead to more serious form of dissent than that of the Occupy movement. Appointing Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General could end the intra-Executive branch disagreement. However, the judiciary - courts - will become the battleground as well as Congress. The elements of power struggle between different branches of government could become more intense than it has been in US history. The level of "controversy" embedded in most of the executive decisions taken by President Trump is not a coincidence. It could probably be a blend of political inexperience but the White House response to the controversy that followed it seems to suggest something more. President Trump press secretary said that the Muslim ban could be shortly applied to four more countries, which seems to be an intentional move to increase the controversy, rather than attempting to reduce it.
At this point the alignment between the members of community and some government branches to counter what seems to be an attempt by the executive branch to stretch out its powers and influence and undermine is positioning President Trump in the face of increased instability. But it also positions President Trump against the "political establishment" that he described during his inaugural speech as an "establishment [that] protected itself, but not the citizens of our country". This positioning and the ensuing public rage will create an opportunity to revise the distribution of power inside the US and rearrange the competencies of political and legal institutions - federal, state, and local.
The unprecedented inflammatory nature of White House rhetoric and the impact of quick implementation of controversial decisions that led to the current demonstrations in the US may not be merely unintended consequences of hasty decisions. On the contrary, those decisions and the ensuing chaos may prove to be a form of creative chaos in the US that could lead to a new distribution of power and a restructuring of the "establishment" which could give the US the chance to be "great again".
Constitutional amendment in the US is no walk in the park, but a national crisis, especially a case of chaos and political disintegration motivated by independence demands could provide enough uncertainty to call for a new constitutional assembly. Dr Kenneth Wise a Professor of International Law and a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at b'huth thinks "convening a constitutional assembly civilly in today's social media environment seems an insurmountable task. However, protest very quickly sweeps through nearly all major cities - impelling Congress to act, a new Constitutional Assembly - structured by the White House and its political allies - is apt to be the outcome". In this light, continued outbreak of demonstrations and possible violence can provide grounds for the White House extreme measures justified by the protecting the nation and its national security.
Whether the US is going to see the impact of creative chaos that will force a recalibration of the matrix power between the executive branch, the judiciary and the legislative branch is yet to be seen. It is also to be seen if the demonstrations that are now spreading across the US will end up like the Occupy movement or like the protest that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Author is the Director General of Dubai Public Policy Research Center (b'huth)



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