"He is dangerously close to getting re-elected!" This is how, in a recent issue, the London weekly The Economist presented Donald Trump's chances of returning to the White House next year. This was based on a few polls indicating that, if nominated, Trump would have a chance of winning next November.
One must always be careful about predictions, especially by the press.
The Economist put Indonesian's ruler General Suharto on its cover and predicted he would emerge as the most powerful leader in Asia. Less than a year later, Suharto was swept away by a popular uprising.
However, let us not dismiss the magazine's prediction about a second presidential term for Trump because, even if he fails to win the nomination, he has already had a lasting impact on American politics.
Trump's first effect has been to de-sacralize the US presidency as an institution. On the negative side, by refusing the results of the last election and by treating President Joe Biden as a "usurper" he has brought the American political discourse closer to that used in the so-called "emerging nations" of the Third World.
Worse still, he has ended decades of manufactured consensus on a set of foreign and domestic policies by adopting a winner-take-all attitude.
On the positive side, however, Trump has given a voice to millions of voiceless Americans who feel uncomfortable within the status quo and harbor fears, genuine or imagined, about the future.
Trump won his presidential term by riding an emotional tsunami and without offering a coherent political program. This was partly why his term was as chaotic as it was, ending with his real achievements in both domestic and foreign policies occulted by peccadillos and scandals.
This is why Trump is now trying to seek a second term on the basis of a program.
He calls it Agenda 47 because; if he wins next November he would become the 47th president of the United States. And on 4 July 2026 he will preside over the 250th anniversary of the foundation of the United States
An army of researchers and analysts are already working on that agenda both in the US and across the world.
Judging by what is already known about "the agenda", Trump promises to introduce policies that would transform not only the Republican Party, which he still regards as his nominal base, but also the American political model as a whole.
Over the past two centuries, both the Republican and Democrat parties have undergone major changes.
Initially, the Democrats were the party of the southern states, seeking a confederal system and, representing the slave-owning cotton barons opposed abolition.
The Republicans represented the northern states with their industrial barons and working class. Democrats opposed free trade because they feared competition from the European nations and their imperial possessions. Confident that US industry could face any competition, Republicans were champions of free trade.
Democrats wanted a small confederal government while Republicans urged a stronger central executive built around the presidential institution.
Over many decades, the two parties swapped positions in many domains. Republicans became the party of the south while Democrats developed strongholds in the north and states located on the shores of the two oceans and the Great Lakes on the Canadian border. The once slave-owning Democrats attracted the support of the black minority while the once rural Republicans attracted suburbanites.
Trump II could bring other major changes. If Agenda 47 is implemented the presidential institution will achieve greater powers by using Executive Orders and Presidential Findings on a range of issues, by-passing the Congress.
Under Agenda 47, the US will cease to be a champion of free trade and thus of globalization which Trump believes harm American interests. A policy of re-localization of industry and imposition of higher tariffs could shake relations with both the European Union and China.
Agenda 47 promises bilateral trade verging on a medieval barter system that, in theory, would always be advantageous to the US because it is Washington that controls the supply of dollars.
The promise of cheap and abundant energy could not only end Washington's promises under the Paris Accords, which Trump opposed, but also throw a challenge to both oil-exporting and oil-importing nations across the globe. Another blow to Paris accords is the promise of rebuilding and expanding the car industry at a time that the EU and liberal-left elsewhere hope to bring the car-age to an end.
Talking to those working on Agenda 47 it is not clear how far Trump wishes to go in reshaping NATO if not actually leaving it to become a pan-European military union. Although the US is too deeply involved in the Ukraine war to be able to simply walk out, it is clear that Agenda 47 will seek a "political settlement" rather than total victory over Russia.
Judging by what advisers are preparing on the Middle East, Trump II will focus on "closer ties" with allies, including Israel, and no more "favors" to the Islamic Republic in Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey unless he is back in line.
Leaving aside conjectural items on the agenda, perhaps the most important project of Trump II would be the control of the American system of higher education by government. This would be done through an "American Academy" which will collect all private and public funds given to universities and redistribute them according to a set of "values."
Trump thinks that Marxists and other "crazy leftists" have seized control of US universities and are brainwashing whole generations thanks to tax-exempt private donations and public funding. Part of the funds thus brought under government control could be used to support "home schooling", a system in which parents educate their own children.
Needless to say a tough immigration policy and measures against illegal immigrants form key elements in Agenda 47.
Under Agenda 47 Trump II will aim at reducing national debt which means cutting the size of the public sector. However, this runs contrary to policies designed to bring about cheap energy, expand the car industry and finance private education. A massive reduction in immigration would also deny the US industry and agriculture of an endless flow of cheap labor thus feeding the monster of inflation through higher wages.
So far the Democrats continue to mock Trump and refuse to take him seriously. This could cost the Democrats dearly. For even if the solutions that Trump suggests appear weird the problems he raises are real.
Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.
This article originally appeared in Asharq Al-Awsat and is reprinted with some changes by kind permission of the author.