HISTORY! SAD!

Over the past four days, Donald Trump has trashed the prime minister of one of Washington’s closest allies and given a beaming thumbs-up to a ruthless dictator whom the US has been at war with for 70 years. The foreign policy mandarins are scandalized, allies are confused, places in hell are being reserved for unlikely guests. What gives?


One way of linking these things together is that Trump’s worldview is, in a way, profoundly ahistorical. Not in the sense that he doesn’t know who burned down the White house in 1812. That’s just a common lack of information. Rather, he is ahistorical in the oddly liberated sense that he simply does not care about historical precedents as a useful guide to action.

For Trump, who became president by defying every rule, precedent, and assumption in the book of US politics, the past simply doesn’t matter except as a stylized provocation (Obama’s presidency) or as a dreamy ideal (the “Great” 1950s.)

So it doesn’t matter that Canada and the rest of the G7 have historically been allies — they are, in his view, robbing the US piggy bank, making them deserving targets for tariffs that are popular with the base. By the same token, it doesn’t matter that North Korea is a gruesome and serially dishonest dictatorship whom Trump was threatening to destroy just six months ago — right now Kim is a kindred and theatrical rogue spirit who can be a partner in the most norm-busting show on earth. Hell, maybe there’s even a slim chance it can work.

But the challenge with Trump is this: he isn’t replacing old norms with new ones so much as scrapping them altogether.

That makes it very difficult for anyone — jilted allies like Trudeau, feted enemies like Kim, or strange combinations of both like Putin — to plan constructive policies or to avoid destructive miscalculations. And as Trump’s wire act gets higher and higher, the potential falls become harder and harder.

It was inevitable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make India's elections a referendum on Narendra Modi, and now that the vast majority of 600 million votes cast have been counted, it's clear he made the right call.

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Among the 23 men and women now seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to take on Donald Trump in next year's election, the frontrunner, at least for now, has spent half a century in politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, first elected to the US Senate in 1972, is the very epitome of the American political establishment.

Yet, the dominant political trend in many democracies today is public rejection of traditional candidates and parties of the center-right and center-left in favor of new movements, voices, and messages. Consider the evidence from some recent elections:

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It's Friday, and Signal readers deserve at least one entirely upbeat news story.

José Obdulio Gaviria, a Colombian senator for the rightwing Democratic Center party, is an outspoken opponent of government attempts to make peace with the FARC rebel group after 50 years of conflict.

On his way into a meeting earlier this week, Gaviria collapsed. It was later reported that he had fainted as a result of low blood pressure probably caused by complications following recent open heart surgery.

A political rival, Senator Julian Gallo, quickly came to his rescue and revived him using resuscitation skills he learned as—irony alert—a FARC guerrilla. CPR applied by Gallo helped Gaviria regain consciousness, before another senator, who is also professional doctor, took over. Gaviria was taken to hospital and appears to have recovered.

Because some things will always be more important than politics.