An American Brexit?

Nov 10 2016 - It was beyond the imagination, even of the many diehard ‘Trumpians’ who, reportedly, were invoking a miracle for a Trump win. Donald Trump has proved the pundits wrong. He won by a big margin on electoral votes while most pollsters had given it to his opponent and many outside the US were hoping for a Clinton victory. For him, the road to 270 was tortuous with many permutations and combinations and lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. He belied all statistics to get to it. It is remarkable too that he has pulled it off despite the fact that several top ranking Republicans had deserted him and several among them did not even vote for him.

Supporters of then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer as they watch the election results during election night. PHOTO: AFP

Supporters of then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer as they watch the election results during election night. PHOTO: AFP

Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump were the two most unpopular candidates in US electoral history. And it was a choice between the lesser of two ‘evils’. Interestingly, according to the pre-election polls, Trump was the more disliked of the two. That being so, and when most people thought that he was not qualified for the job because he didn’t have the temperament for it, how come he carried the day? Do a hunger for change and anger with the government and government institutions account for it, and in spite of their dislike for Trump, the electorate thought that he could bring the change. But the question is whether it will be a change for the better or a regression backwards? He was a rank outsider who exploited the sentiments of the majority Whites. Would one be wrong to suggest that, if anything, Trump victory only proves that one can win a US presidential race with only White support?

While history was made eight years ago when the Americans sent a Black man to the White House first time in its 240 years history, by electing Donald Trump, America has created another kind of history; he is the first not to have held any public office, to be elected to the office of, admittedly, the most powerful presidency in the world.

Come Friday, January 20, 2017, there will be in the White House a fickle minded man with an erratic and wobbly mind with a finger on the nuclear button. By his own admission, Trump is not a politician. And at every opportunity he berated and excoriated politicians, blaming them for everything that is wrong in the country. But the US electorate has expressed their choice which must be respected but it is a choice which many in the rest of the world thinks would be a disaster for the US and the rest of the world. After all, a US president is not just a US president. His strategic, economic and social policies, if we go by his articulations, will have deep ramifications all over the world, as much as within the US.

However, what has surprised many people is that a candidate for the White House, who started on a negative note by abusing minorities of every hue, Latinos, Mexicans, black Americans, Muslims, war veterans, even a handicapped journalist, and made no secret of his deeply misogynistic attitude, and who objectifies women, should not only get the party ticket but go on to win the election. Is it American politics, the American society, or the system that this can be ascribed to? Or is that America is not yet ready for a women president?

We are glad that the election is, mercifully, over, mostly because it was perhaps the most divisive and rancorous election campaign in US history, marked by acrimony and name calling. The campaign saw little discussion of policy matters and more on the character of the candidates, though Trump’s indiscretions and off the cuff comments had much to do with the slump in his ratings in October.

Trump was thrown a lifeline just a fortnight before the election by the FBI boss’ announcement that he was not done with the investigation yet of the Hilary emails, only to announce a week later that there was nothing new to report. Only time can say what impact, if any, Comey’s letter to the Congress has had on the outcome of the results.

Trump created xenophobia, built on it and exploited it. It may have gained him the key to the White House, but, unfortunately, the campaign has left a deep scar in the country that may take time to heal. He drummed up support by rousing nationalist feeling which, disturbingly, resonated with a large number of Americans. And what should be worrisome for the American society is not that this has been reflected in the polls only, but that this divide has manifested in the behaviour of the American people towards each other.

The world is waiting to see how the Trump administration would look like in the next four years. He has promised to undo many policies of the Obama administration and cancel all executive orders that President Obama has issued. However, Trump did not offer any policy alternative at all. It will be interesting to see how he implements his immigration policy. It will be interesting too to see how he will fund the rebuilding of the military that he has promised alongside affecting the biggest budgetcut, and what he will do with NATO which he thinks has become obsolescent. He has managed to alienate many of his allies, how will heclose the schism?

As for Hillary Clinton, it is time for a very hard look back and ask what went wrong.

The US election results reflect the majority view of how and what America should be. But that is an America that many Americans and most of us who are not, would not be comfortable with.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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