Erik Jones. Why Donald Trump could become Obama’s successor

Professor Erik Jones collaborated on Barack Obama’s political campaign. What has changed over the last 8 years? Why could Donald Trump succeed Barack Obama? Here’s what he told us.

To get a – general, non-comprehensive – picture of him, saying that, as an American, he’s been called as “European” expert by US President Barack Obama during his political campaign in 2008 could be enough. Erik Jones is a United States citizen, but he has lived in Europe for the last 25 years. He worked at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, and is currently Director of European and Eurasian Studies of the John Hopkins University in Bologna, Italy. On 17 March, he was invited by the United States Consulate in Milan at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) to talk about the on-going US primary elections. This is what he told LifeGate, in order to make us better understand, as Europeans, how to keep up with one of the oddest races for the White House.


Erik Jones at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), Milan, on 17 March


Marco Rubio has quit the race. What does that mean to Hillary Clinton? Does the Democratic Party now have more chances to win?

That’s an interesting question. The assumption underlying that question is that Marco Rubio was a threat to Hillary Clinton. And Marco Rubio is probably the only candidate that she can beat easily. The other candidates are much more challenging for Hillary Clinton because they’re very different from the mainstream. Hillary Clinton is nothing if not a creature of political mainstream. I think she would have liked to have gone up against an establishment candidate on the Republican side because I think she could have beaten an establishment candidate, but she must be more apprehensive about one of these unconventional candidates.


What about Bernie Sanders? Do you think he’s out of the race?

Sanders succeeded in changing the agenda on a number of issues. So he will step back from this contest having achieved this objective. He’ll certainly get a prominent slot speaking at the Democratic convention.


Is there something left unsaid about Donald Trump? Why does a person like Trump might be elected after a president like Barack Obama?  

There’s nothing that’s hasn’t been said about Donald Trump. There are three lines of argument that people are making to connect Barack Obama to Donald Trump.


One has to do with extent to which the Democratic Party appears to have lost a lot of support among white urban middle-class voters. This group particularly, as you push the middle class down into what used to be called the working class or the lower class, they have been disaffected by politics for a long time but they’ve been particularly disaffected in the context of eight years of Obama, which coincide with eight years of essentially unrelenting economic crisis. Because although it’s eased up on the Wall Street side, it hasn’t eased up on the mainstream side.


The white majority is becoming no longer so preponderant and may become a minority in terms of births – it’s not a minority, that’s inaccurate, it’s a plurality, but it’s not a majority anymore in the racial dynamic. This is something that has been illustrated by Barack Obama but for all the complaints that you hear about the extent to which it has been rubbed in their faces, Barack Obama as president has actually been very reluctant to engage racial discourse so imagine if we have more pro-African American president, then we would be really in a different situation with that particular line of argument.


The third thing about Trump is a general disaffection with the elites – this is a universal phenomenon, we’ve seen across Europe. So I think there’s a lot that explains why you want someone completely unlike anyone else in the political arena, and that is Donald Trump.


Let’s talk about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Just a few people talk about it and aspects are still unclear. What are its real objectives and when it could be adopted?

The real objectives of the TTIP are to create regulatory convergence across the United States. So that we can eliminate the so called Non-tariff Barriers to Trade, which is to say regulatory differences resulting in high levels of expense for cooperation. So it makes things easier. That’s the goal. It is not an agreement that you sign like a traditional trade agreement where the tariff barriers go down, regulatory convergence is a process so if we get to it we can start the process. It’s a very difficult project to sell both in Europe and the Unites States. So there is no real impetus to complete the agreement within Obama’s administration, and certainly no indication to complete the agreement before the Congress. So there’s going to be something for the next administration.

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