My Actions In 2016 Are Not Representative of Who I Am – I Swear

Last week was the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. New York traffic was absurd, Trump’s vitriol fanned the flames that have lately been licking at the base of the liberal world order, and pretty much nothing got done. Trump bragged; the audience laughed. Par for the course, really.

trump.jpg

The Trump administration also reached an agreement with Mexico and Canada on the new NAFTA. Trump railed against the old free trade agreement, which came into force in 1994 (just like me, baby) and sought a new one. To be fair, a couple things, like, y’know, the internet, have changed since 1994, and so too should trade deals change to reflect our changing economies. In the end, despite threats to cut Canada out of the deal and sign something with Mexico alone, the Trump administration managed to get agreement on a new deal: the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Not as catchy, but it’ll do.

It’s… not a bad deal, aside from the name. Pretty good actually. It’ll boost production in North America, prevents investors from suing governments for losses due to regulation, does more to protect intellectual property rights, and does a ton for labor – like unions for Mexican workers, wage hikes for automotive workers (particularly in Mexico), and allows each country to sanction the others for labor violations. Oh, and it allows us to sell more milk to Canada.

Well I’m sold. This movie looks dope.

Well I’m sold. This movie looks dope.

But the deal isn’t all that matters. True, you may have gotten that kid’s juice box in exchange for two animal crackers, but you had to threaten to get your friends to stop talking to him and disinvite him from your birthday party to get there. The way the deal gets made is often as important as the deal itself, because next time, when you don’t hold all the cards, they might not be so willing to help you out. And there will be a next time — there always is in international relations.

That’s the big effect of the Trump presidency. For all his rhetoric and fear-mongering and threats to the global order, international institutions have held strong and demonstrated their ability to withstand shocks to the system. He has threatened and cajoled American allies, but for the most part they have held steady and allowed the US its momentary lapse in judgment – for now. Though the US has done its best to abdicate global leadership, the system it created remains standing — for now.

On November 6th, Americans (well, around 40% of them, anyway) will head to the polls to vote in the 2018 midterm election. The world will watch with bated breath, because it’s waiting to see if Trump is a one-hit wonder, or if this is truly what America looks like. There’s a huge difference between Trump winning in 2016, facing a massive repudiation in 2018, and losing in 2020; and Trump winning in 2016, consolidating power in 2018, and winning a second term in 2020. European allies and others are hopeful, but unsure, that we are not Trump’s America. That we do not support the way he treats our allies and our own citizens. That we do want to be a part of the global community.

2018 (and 2020 to an even greater extent) will be an inflection point for the US and the world. Will the US push back, cripple the Trump administration’s remaining two years, and reinforce its support of an open, free, and cooperative global system? Or will it reaffirm that no, we really meant what Trump said?

Because if it’s the latter, and this really is who we are, people will start act like it, and we won’t get the benefit of the doubt next time. The US will diminish further in stature and deference. The world will change.

So for democracy’s sake: register to vote. #fpf