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Trump's total nationalism

Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl
August 9, 2016

Donald Trump has offered up his economic strategy. The billionaire made several promises, but above all his speech showed the dangerous nationalistic course he would take as US president, DW's Ines Pohl writes.

USA Republikaner Donald Trump in Ashburn
Image: Reuters/E. Thayer

Donald Trump's concept is simple, and simply dangerous. Superficially, the economic plan offered by the Republican presidential candidate on Monday covered taxes, child care costs, jobs and how America can be made great again.

At the heart of Trump's hour-long speech, however, was the blueprint for how the US could upend the current world order. Trump put forth a vision in which the United States would have no obligations to fulfill the conditions of treaties on trade or the environment and would abolish all regulations that hinder the incomes of US companies and citizens.

It's a vision for a nation that puts itself above all others at whatever cost. Trump is developing an isolationist concept of an economic order that is ultimately the opposite of what presently exists. He wants self-sufficiency and seclusion instead of globalization. In Trump's mind, the United States is big and strong enough to carry on independent of all alliances, whether economic or military. And anyone who might disturb this would be at the very least punished - and possibly destroyed.

DW: Ines Pohl
DW's Ines Pohl is covering the US presidential electionImage: DW

In recent weeks, Trump has lost a reasonable amount of ground to his main opponent, the Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They had been neck and neck going into the party conventions, but the former senator has since taken advantage of Trump's gaffes to build a solid lead in opinion polls. With that in mind, all eyes were on Trump's important economic policy speech in Detroit. The billionaire needed to do more than convince with his words: He had to prove that he could act in a presidential manner.

Twitter train wreck

Trump - whose recent off-the-rails posts on the social media site Twitter have incensed even Republican diehards - spoke well on Monday. He kept his cool in the face of a concerted protest that interrupted his speech 14 times. The real estate magnate read dutifully from his teleprompter and stuck to the specifics.

Content-wise, Trump's speech was in direct opposition to the foreign and economic policies endorsed by many in the Republican leadership, such as free trade agreements and NATO cooperation. Trump doesn't listen to such voices of reason. On the country, he showed that - even at the expense of alienating potential voters - he will not deviate an iota from his extreme nationalistic vision.

Trump knows that no one can take the Republican presidential nomination from him. And so he plans to rely on the corruptibility of the people. And he does that skillfully, stoking fears of the future in order to present himself as the savior with a concept as simple as it is strong: When we put our country above all others, everything will be good again.

Monday's speech should trouble the world, and not just because Trump has shown for the first time that he can use complex themes such as tax plans as propaganda for his extreme nationalistic vision. He has visibly fallen into his presidential role. Just before, he had appeared so close to throwing in the towel.

Donald Trump wants to be a player. But he is also a fighter. The man wants power. And he intends to use it.

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Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl Bureau head of DW's Washington Studio@inespohl