Learning from Trump’s defeatU.S. President Donald Trump failed to get re-elected despite the many advantages of an incumbent presidency — the first since George H.W. Bush’s botched attempt at re-election in 1992. Only five out of 20 U.S. presidents failed to get re-elected since 1900. Trump’s defeat can be attributed to many reasons, but they converge into one: dividing the people into friends and foes. U.S. voters chose Joe Biden in a clear show of support for his crusade toward reconciliation, not fragmentation.
Throughout his term in office, Trump was bent on fueling hatred against immigrants and racial conflict in a land usually thought of as a melting pot. Upon taking office, the Republican president clashed with the Democratic Party over the construction of a wall across the southern border to block illegal immigration from Mexico. The standoff led to a shutdown of the federal government. After nationwide protests occurred over the tragic death in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Trump blamed a leftist terrorist group. When the issue of white supremacy groups arose, he refused to condemn them to ensure his base of support among white people.
Trump took the same approach to international relations, as exemplified by his decision to secede from international organizations and treaties, including the Paris Climate Accord, one after another. His signature America First policy embarrassed U.S. allies, which finally wondered if the world’s lone superpower — and a model democracy — could take such a drastic turn in just four years.
The dramatic fall of a self-centered president offers a lot of lessons to South Korea, a country sharply divided over ideology as is the United States. Since taking office in 2017, President Moon Jae-in has sharpened the social divide by trying to root out what he called “accumulated past evils.” The nation is still split over the Cho Kuk scandal. Whenever friction with Japan erupted, the Moon administration and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) intentionally split the people into “pro-Japan” and “anti-Japan” groups. The DP has solely counted on its supporters since taking power to run the country. That’s a stark reminder of its similarity with the Trump administration.
In his inaugural speech in May 2017, Moon promised to be a president for all Koreans. But how many of them think at this point that he kept that promise? Could Moon take a path to unity, not bisection, of the country just as Biden professed in his inspiring speech on Saturday?
Healing is needed not only for America but also for Korea. We hope Moon changes course now. We hope he learns from Trump’s phenomenal fall from grace before it’s too late.