Professors from the history, politics, anthropology, Near Eastern studies, and sociology departments discussed how a Donald Trump presidency might impact the world at a roundtable discussion on Nov. 28.
Politics Professor Mark Beissinger initially addressed the lack of attention towards international views of Trump’s rise to the presidency and its impact on global politics and governance.
“There has been an enormous amount of analysis of what brought Trump to power and what he might do here in the United States in terms of his politics, but not that much analysis of how the rest of the world views Trump, what the consequences might be in various parts of the world, and how the Trump election plays into international politics,” Beissinger said.
Beissinger’s focus on the international stage was largely centered on Russia.
“Clearly, there was no country that benefited more from the outcome of the American election than Russia,” he said.
The apparent Trump-Putin relationship, made evident during the campaign process as well as after Trump was elected, became a main subject of analysis.
“Trump continually praised [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and, in fact, believed him to be a better leader than [President] Barack Obama. Putin and Trump project similar images. Putin is the real-world version that Trump pretends to be on television,” Beissinger said.
In addition to the similarity between the two leaders, Beissinger noted Russia’s unprecedented involvement in the American electoral process and its implications.
“Russia was directly involved in the electoral process to try and let Trump win the election. They hacked Hillary’s emails and leaked them to Wikileaks as well as hacked into election sites in various states,” Beissinger said. “The election of Donald Trump to the presidency will perhaps become the most significant Kremlin victory in history.”
Anthropology professor Julia Elyachar regarded Trump's rise as less of a surprise based on recent patterns that mimic historical trends. She characterized events like Trump's election to the White House as “unthinkables.”
“There was a system that was beginning to unravel and many things that were thought of as ‘could never happen’, such as the potential discussion of the unraveling of the EU, were beginning to be talked about at a theoretical level,” Elyachar said. “And from the standpoint of these unthinkables, the election of Trump became less of an anomaly.”
Historical events had already hinted at such outcomes.
“The Jan. 25 conflicts in Egypt, the mass revolts that began in 2010, were some of the first revolts against this rising inequality in the world that began a whole process of thinking unthinkables, things that were unbelievable and you could never think about in this regime of the post-World War II era,” Elyachar said.
Jeremy Adelman, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, also took a more historical approach in discussing the potential impacts of a Trump presidency.
“The long cycle of global integration that began in 1945 is now pretty much exhausted. It was in trouble anyways and this may as well be a good thing because the kick in the pants, from Brexit, from the election of Donald Trump, and possibly in other fields along the way, is exactly what we needed to reset the system of global governance in response to 21st century challenges,” Adelman explained.
Christina Davis, professor at the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs approached the Trump issue from the point of view of international theory.
“International theories do not pay much attention to individual leaders, because they will eventually conform to what the United States wants,” she said.
“We have to look towards not only talking about Trump and the world, but Trump in the world and putting the US in this broader movement,” Elyachar said, on a similar note.
Despite the possibility that Trump will adjust to the circumstances of the current political atmosphere, Davis addressed potential impacts on trade policy.
“Yes, indeed a President Trump can completely redo trade policy. Foreign affairs in general is an area where he can renegotiate policies,” Davis said. “If he goes forward on the hard line on trade, we will quickly have a trade war. And it’s quite easy for countries like China to switch to buying from Brazil.”
Also included on the panel were Near Eastern Studies professor Bernard Haykel, anthropology professor Carolyn Rouse, sociology professor Yu Xie, and politics professor Deborah Bashar. They focused on addressing the concerns of the Middle East, Africa, China, and Latin America, respectively.
“There’s a lot of confusion in the Middle East as to what the Trump Presidency means. What isn’t clear in respect to the war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is where Trump stands and we have heard conflicting views from him,” Haykel said.
Rouse described a different situation in her analysis of Africa.
“Africa is not on his radar and that may actually be a really good thing,” she said.
From Iran to Mexico and Colombia to China, countries across the globe have responded differently to the outcome of the election.
“If Russia is the winner, Mexico might just be one of the big big losers. Even Brazil is quite concerned about what this will mean. Fear is rampant both in Mexico and in the United States,” Yashar said.
China poses another point of view, Yashar said.
“I would like to separate Chinese people and the Chinese state. I think the Chinese people have mixed feelings about the outcome, but overall the Chinese state stands to benefit from the outcome. China will play its economic power carefully as they see Trump as an easy opponent to play with,” Xie said.
Overall, the panel highlighted the uncertainty of a Trump presidency and its impacts on international politics.
“At this point in time, Trump has not spent a single day in office and we’re in that odd period of time where he has been elected President although there is of course a challenge going on, but we have no record, so essentially all we have is what Trump says,” Beissinger said.
The round table, hosted by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, was open to the public and drew a large audience. With the lecture hall full, audience members stood at the back of the lecture hall or sat on the floor. Audience members reported attending for varying reasons.
“I came due to my interest in the outcome of the election and as part of my research on Mexican migration,” Yukio Nagata, a visiting student research collaborator, said.
Another graduate student, Alexandra Mayorga GS, said she came to watch her professors.
“A big realization was that Trump is dangerous mainly because of the level of power that America has in the world right now versus perhaps what past demagogic presidents in United States have had in history,” Mayorga said.