By our count, America’s leadership role in the world lasted 26,232 days. That’s the average person’s life expectancy, pretty much, and so it goes. Whether we were loved or hated (and we got a lot of both), God’s favorite country effectively ruled the roost from August 6, 1945, when the United States clinched its victory in World War II by blasting Hiroshima to chalky Erector Set kingdom come, up until around 3 p.m. last Thursday. That’s when President Donald J. Trump tossed 72 years of Uncle Sam’s hard work in the crapper by exiting the Paris climate agreement and turning us overnight into the planet’s foremost dispensable nation.
His MAGA flock here at home won’t see it that way, of course. The Redcaps always cream their Dockers when Trucky McTrumpface throws America’s weight around. They aren’t likely to recognize how much he’s just thrown it away instead, but he has. Consider this, fellow citizens: for the first time since 1945, the rest of the world is forging ahead with a group plan of action minus a U.S. seat at the table. Besides us, only Syria, whose contending despotisms are too busy turning the population’s guts into macrame to care (“Future? We don’t need no stinkin’ future”), and Nicaragua, which actually wanted an agreement with more teeth, are MIA as of now.
For the first time since 1945, the world is forging ahead with a group plan of action minus a U.S. seat at the table.
Thanks to our non-participation, it’s a process over which we’re no longer able to exert any real influence, let alone control. Nor does sitting this one out put us at any advantage; just the opposite. That’s because everybody else is going to implement Paris anyway, come Trump or high water. From Silicon Valley to Foggy Bottom, we’ll be watching from the red-white-and-blue curb he’s just kicked us to as Europe and China compete to grab the steering wheel the U.S.A. monopolized for so long.
All we can say is it was fun while it lasted. On the other hand, because it wasn’t always fun for them while it lasted, you wouldn’t blame the European Union for declaring June 1 its official Independence Day. Even before Trump abrogated the Paris accord, last month’s G-7 meeting bespoke a Europe newly ready to unyoke itself from U.S. dominance, owing to the combined alarm and derision triggered by their first up-close gander at the POTUS to end all POTUSes. Blame the Saudi orb of Klaatu, or whatever the hell that thing was, the Sicily golf-cart trundle while everybody else walked, the Brussels photo-op shove to get front and center…or else just, you know, the sheer covfefe of everything.
If Trump got no respect abroad, it’s because he made it clear that he—and we—don’t deserve any. Anti-American popular sentiment is old hat in Europe, ebbing and surging from a few dozen tam o’ shanters to hordes of berets. But it’s a different story when the continent’s play-it-safe leaders start advertising how few fucks they’ve got left to give. German chancellor Angela Merkel did the trick by announcing that “The times when we could completely rely on others [meaning guess which country] are, to some extent, over.” No matter how many qualifiers she stuck in, that’s apostasy on a par with the Vatican telling the Holy Ghost to pack his bags and find another line of work.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, who is apparently auditioning for the newly vacant job of being Justin Trudeau with balls, only needed a David-and-Goliath power handshake to become a folk hero. (Adding to Goliath’s reported bewilderment and annoyance, Macron later confirmed that the gesture was “not innocent,” calling it “a moment of truth” instead.) Soon after the G-7 meeting, three Scandinavian prime ministers, along with Iceland’s and Finland’s, merrily trolled Trump by parodying his pose with the orb of Klaatu. And in the United Kingdom, that poor booby Theresa May is facing an unexpectedly competitive election campaign against lefty Rip van Winkle Jeremy Corbyn, not least because of her adhesion to Trumpery. He probably didn’t do her any favors with his grotesquely opportunistic tweets about Saturday’s London Bridge attack, either.
China must be marveling at Trump’s willingness to give away the store, so far as the planet’s economic future is concerned.
Jettisoning the Paris accord, however, is a lot more than an embarrassment. On top of being a colossal setback to the world’s environmental well-being, which is the part self-respecting libtards presumably know about already, it’s a huge foreign-policy and economic blunder from any perspective, a devoutly capitalist pro-business one included. In one fell swoop, Trump has done more harm to America’s standing abroad and industrial viability at home than a Kenya-born socialist like Barack Obama could have in Fox News’s wildest dreams. Even if the next president reverses his decision, by then we’ll look as clownish as a sozzled husband pounding on Gaia’s door and yowling, “Lemme in, wilya? I’ve changed.”
Even by Trumplandia’s hasty standards, the past two weeks have been one speedy toboggan ride to international irrelevance. Out of the blue, or maybe the Soylent Green, the European Union—the European Union!—has become the leading candidate to take over America’s old job as “the last, best hope of earth,” as Abraham Lincoln called us in the misty long-ago. Fairly recently, remember, the E.U. was looking like the latest sick man of Europe instead, thanks to Brexit and Marine le Pen’s rise. But with a stroke of his own le Pen, Trump handed this never very appealing bureaucratic consortium the moral authority it’s always lacked, not to mention something else it’s always been short on: pugnacity. Merkel isn’t known for her puckishness, but she wouldn’t be human if she wasn’t secretly tickled to find herself hailed as the de facto new Leader of The Free World.
If Europe is the major beneficiary of America’s abdication of responsibility when it comes to increased clout on the world stage, China (with India not far behind) must be marveling at Trump’s willingness to literally give away the store, so far as the planet’s economic future is concerned. China is in the forefront of developing innovative clean-energy technologies, and virtually every other industrialized nation knows that’s where the 21st-century action will be—generating new jobs, new exports and new economic prowess. For the United States to stick with fossil fuels at this juncture leaves the woolly mammoths trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits looking like brainy long-term planners, and a sizable chunk of corporate America knows it. That’s why the most consequential pressure on Trump to stick with the Paris accord didn’t come from wild-eyed eco-warriors; it came from the business community.
Trump’s base will get fed up with him as the economic consequences of woolly mammoth-hood sink in.
But he ignored it, partly because he’s ignorant and partly because governing in the national interest is alien to him. Discarding Paris was all about keeping the Redcaps thrilled at their Dear Leader’s xenophobic truculence, and the country’s greater good be damned. Even so, Trump’s confidence that placating his MAGA base equals a successful presidency is mystifying, since that’s what makes him unpopular with the majority of voters he’ll be facing in 2020 if (a) he’s still in office and (b) actually thinks he’s got a snowball’s chance in hell of being re-elected, which right now doesn’t seem too plausible. If anything, it’s more likely that his base will get fed up with him as the economic consequences of woolly mammoth-hood sink in.
In the short term, however, the other big winner besides Europe and China is Steve Bannon, which ought to send a chill down everybody’s spine. Remember how his malign influence was supposedly on the wane? Pulling out of the Paris accord is the ultimate gratification (so far) of Bannon’s nationalist fantasy of America against the world, and the reason he doesn’t care about our collateral loss of diplomatic and economic leverage is that it leaves our military power as the only chess piece on the board. Despite supposedly being a history buff, he’s plainly never heard the one about how empires always fall once they depend exclusively on armed might to get their way.
What President Bannon and his cosplaying Oval Office sock puppet either didn’t foresee or may even welcome as a goad to more domestic civil war was how quickly “the world” would turn out to include California. Governor Jerry Brown’s nascent People’s Republic of Up Yours has been joined in pro-Paris rebellion by other heavyweight blue states–almost 200 U.S. mayors from L.A. to Chattanooga—and interested private citizens from Michael Bloomberg on down. There hasn’t been so much open pushback at the state and local level against a Federal policy decision since the bad old days of Dixie’s battle to preserve segregation and this time, the pushback is on the side of the angels.
So let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we? If this coalition’s members figure out how to flex their considerable muscle, they’re probably the U.S.A.’s last, best hope of ensuring that the environmental consequences of Trump’s version of Brexit won’t be as catastrophic as they look. Just for the hell of it, they may want to consider holding their first summit meeting in Paris, Texas—or maybe Gettysburg.