REPRISE: The full catastrophe — The election of Donald Trump: Hopes, illusions and reality

First published on November 11, 2016

Donald Trump has won an electoral victory in the November 8 , 2016 presidential elections, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote.

Amplifying Trump’s power and removing most of the checks and balances on his actions, Republicans also won majorities in the Senate and in the House of Reprsentatives.


The significance of events can sometimes be seen more clearly from abroad.


German text
Carsten Luther(Meinung),”Der Ernstfall: Donald Trump war lange nur ein schlechter Scherz; Jetzt wird er Präsident; Die Welt muss sich fürchten vor dem, was diesem unberechenbaren Mann als Nächstes einfällt,” Die Zeit, 9. November 2016 (9:30 Uhr).

English text
Carsten Luther (Opinion), “The Calamity; For a long time, Donald Trump was just a bad joke; Now, he has been elected president; The world should be aafraid of what this unpredictable man will come up with next, Die Zeit, 9. November 2016 (9:31 a.m.).

Luther writes,

A totalitarian phony and deceitful dilettante has managed to get elected to the US presidency. Donald Trump is an epochal disaster that won’t just change his vast country and its democracy for many years to come. The entire world will feel the effects of this aberration.

Many thought it was a joke when Trump announced his candidacy last year…. Now, a racist sexual predator, a pathological liar and an excitable egomaniac holds power in the United States — a sickening outcome for all those who believe in democracy and human rights, or at least in the common sense of humanity at large and of Americans in particular. They only had one job, damn it! To prevent this man from becoming president.


As Americans, we must hope — and pray — that president-elect Trump undergoes a metamorphosis, that faced with the grave responsibilities of his new office he becomes more disciplined, listens to his advisers more closely, and makes decisions after carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

We can hope, but we must also admit that it is likely that at age 70 a number of his character traits are already baked into his personality.

On the other hand, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times has suggested that he may simply be skilled at playing different personas. Let us hope, then, if that is the case, that he adopts a new persona, one more consonant with being a dignified and respected — and ultimately successful — president of the United States, both at home and on the world stage.

See Maureen Dowd, “The End Is Nigh,” New York Times, November 5, 2016.


In any event, we will need to guard against seriously entertaining any illusions that what we earnestly hope for will actually occur. That would be a big mistake.

Rather, we should hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. The worst would be that what we know and have seen of Donald Trump in the campaign and elsewhere plays itself out during his administration.

We should always bear in mind Ronald Reagan’s admonition, originally offered in the context of arms control agreements but equally applicable here: “Trust but verify.”

Given the fact that Donald Trump has ascended to the Oval Office by swimming into the White House through the sewers, we might hope that he would spend the next two months taking baths and showers to make sure he has left all of the residue behind him.

Reality and Cooperation

In terms of working with Donald Trump, Angela Merket hit the right note, perhaps, in her note of congratulations to Trump on Wednesday, when she read the following statement:

Please accept my congratulations on your election as President of the United States of America.

You will assume office at a time in which our countries are jointly facing many different challenges.

Germany’s ties with the United States of America are deeper than with any country outside of the European Union. Germany and America are bound by common values — democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments.

Partnership with the United States is and will remain a keystone of German foreign policy, especially so that we can tackle the great challenges of our time: striving for economic and social well-being, working to develop far-sighted climate policy, pursuing the fight against terrorism, poverty, hunger, and disease, as well as protecting peace and freedom in the world.

In the years ahead as president, I wish you a sure hand, every success, and God’s blessing.

Anthony Faiola. “Angela Merkel congratulates Donald Trump — kind of, Washington Post, November 9, 2016.

In short, we should work with Trump in pursuit of common objectives and values, and work against Trump and seek to block any actions that would defeat our own objectives or undermine our deepest values.

As for our fellow citizens who voted for Trump, it was no secret Trump was a candidate who favored torture, who subtly or not so subtly welcomed the support of racists and xenophobes, who denigrated women, and who indicated he would be friendly to Vladimir Putin and Russia, and a candidate who cast doubt on the viability and future of NATO, the resolve of the West to resist Russian military aggression in Europe, and efforts by the U.S. and others to halt the commission of war crimes in Syria by Russia and the Bashar al-Assad government.

The important fact is that, knowing all of this, they were willing to vote for Trump, and did.

They will bear grave responsibility for what is likely to come.

The Trenchant Observer



This article has not been indexed by Google. It was published on November 11. Not one hit for the following article has been referred to The Trenchant Observer website by Google in any of the countries in which it maintains search engines, as of 3:00 p.m. ET on November 13, 2016.

Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo all indexed the article more or less in real time.

The fact that Google is in effect censoring the blog by not indexing it in a timely fashion reveals the incredible power Google has achieved to affect the public discourse in many countries, including the United States. Google appears to cooperate quite regularly with foreign governments in filtering content.

The technology created by Google and its dominant market position in the search industry have resulted in the existance of a totalitarian instrument with incredible power to shape political discussion by not indexing certain pages, or not doing so in real time. It systematically filters out the content of foreign newspapers, and news articles with which your previous searches indicate you would not agree.

It is like a newspaper distributor which has absolute power to unilaterally decide if you will get the New York Times the day it is published, or next week, or maybe a week after a critical debate in Congress–or even after the elections.


About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.