The Straits Times says

Put Trump presidency in perspective

United States President Donald Trump's first year in high office has been a tumultuous one indeed. It saw the overturn of shibboleths about foreign policy, trade, healthcare, immigration and the environment, to name a few. From the world's perspective, what is unnerving is the way the Trump administration has contributed to the decline in America's global leadership, a steadying presence since 1945.

Over the years, American Century and Pax Americana had come to stand for widespread peace and growth which benefited many around the world.

Mr Trump is now viewed as the antithesis of the spirit of that era. To the dismay of allies, he trumpets an "America First" outlook rather than close international cooperation to solve issues affecting one and all.

What Americans and others saw earlier in Mr Trump, during the presidential race, was what people got last year. He was true to form but, in fairness, he did not bloody-mindedly pursue all of his campaign promises and has moderated a number of his positions.

While he ditched the path-breaking Trans-Pacific Partnership, he did not abandon the long-standing military alliance between North American and European states. And while he quit the vitally important Paris climate deal, he has pulled back from labelling China a "currency manipulator" and taking punitive action which would have harmed crucial ties.

Mr Trump's bluster and chaotic style of governing have earned him epithets like being "a Frankenstein's monster of past presidents' worst attributes", in the words of a commentator in The Atlantic. But other mainstream journalists recognise that it was precisely Mr Trump's insurgent streak that put him in the White House. Rather than look askance at his moves, his supporters still believe he is "doing his best to change the way things are done in Washington and to put ordinary Americans at the heart of the political agenda", as noted in Time magazine.

If Mr Trump does indeed succeed in this effort by using his unconventional methods and riding on the back of a strong economy, he would transform not just the American presidency but plausibly also the prospects of political renegades elsewhere seeking to upend the status quo.

Looking beyond the first year, what his opponents ought to focus on is not more bile directed at him, which could deepen partisanship in American society. Rather, their energies should be devoted to grooming a powerful new leadership capable of inspiring voters of all stripes, rather than simply relying upon a spent line-up of presidential hopefuls. Many would welcome an inclusive alternative to the Trumpian model of common man politics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline 'Put Trump presidency in perspective'. Print Edition | Subscribe