Trump Victory Shock But Not Surprise, Brexit All Over Again
Republican contender Donald Trump has been elected 45th President of the United States – against the odds, and expert pollsters’ predictions – in what seems to many to be another ‘Brexit’ moment in this most tumultuous of years. With almost all votes counted, Trump won by 74 electoral college votes but received 200,000 votes fewer than Hillary Clinton.
There are over 220 million eligible voters in the United States.
About 25% of eligible American voters have thus chosen the leader of the United States, the most powerful political office-holder in the world.
The Republicans have held onto the US Senate and the House of Representatives. A system famously wedded to divided government now has a clean sweep at major reversal of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, to cut social security, slash taxes for the rich, abolish corporate regulation, institute immigration reform, among other things. Don’t even mention climate change.
Stock markets around the world reacted negatively to the news due to Donald Trump’s unpredictability and divisive rhetoric but will likely recover before long as the victor does not take office until January 2017. But they have a way of taking care of themselves.
In the short term, if the analogy to Brexit is viable, hate crime against minorities and immigrants is likely to increase, as indeed it did after candidate Trump began branding Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers early in his campaign. We should expect more street protests.
What does Trump’s victory signify? It signifies nothing less than a rejection of the politics of the past, of politics itself, and of the leadership of the Republican party, and the political and moral bankruptcy of the Hilary Clinton-led Democratic party.
Trump has changed the face of US politics. He has never held elected public office. He has used language that has never been used by a main party candidate. He has legitimised the reduction of women into sex objects and of minorities as suspect and second-class. He has shown that racist appeals to white identity combined with promises of industrial jobs aplenty can still win election to America’s highest office. He has shown that Wall St money alone cannot buy an election.
Yet he was fortunate with his opponent, Hillary Clinton – mired in Wall St donations, the epitome of the establishment politician when it was anti-elitism that was the order of the day. That fact stared her campaign in the face – literally, in the form of Bernie Sanders – but went unheeded.
It was clear from the moment that Clinton selected Tim Kaine as vice presidential running mate that the triumph of Wall St in the Democratic campaign was complete. They had, through numerous machinations, seen off Sanders and prepared Hillary for her long-hoped for coronation. Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton was not an outsider but the ultimate insider. She proved too cautious, too conservative, too timid to embrace what was an historic opportunity.
What was meant to be a coronation turned into a civil war, one that Trump was better suited to waging.
She promised more of the same to a nation that, after 8 years of Obama’s presidency, was more unequal and seething with discontent on Left and Right. The last thing they wanted was someone attached to the centre-ground. And, on top of that, who had already helped herself, and her family, to vast amounts of corporate funds – over $3 billion over 4 decades of ‘public’ service.
And outsourcing the State Department’s emails to herself, along with the role of the FBI in keeping the issue alive right up until polling day itself, proved the final nail in her political ambition, the Clinton house of cards.
Trump and Sanders each won 13 million votes in the primaries – 26 million in total – to Clinton’s 16 million, and that’s without accounting for Sanders’s victories in caucus states. The anti-establishment tsunami passed Clinton and her centrist strategists by, consigning them to the dustbin of history.
Donald Trump was lucky with his opponent. Had Bernie Sanders been the Democratic candidate, we might have seen a real challenge to Trump’s racist, misogynistic, right-wing campaign. Indeed, in that contest we might have seen the emergence of synergies that seem to have made nonsense out of the Left/Right divide. Perhaps Bernie Sanders Brand New Congress, Our Revolution, and Sanders Institute, will show their mettle in the political struggles to come.
What will Trump do? At home, he has a conservative congress and senate. As he has rowed back on his promise to raise taxes on the rich and big corporations, Republican lawmakers will embrace him like one of their own. As Trump has relied heavily on the Heritage Foundation for his tax policy, attitude to welfare and ‘entitlements’ like social security, we should expect a major attack from the Republican Right.
This would be contrary to promises made and implied on the campaign trail and likely to alienate his political base among workers. But many of them – inspired by Trump’s giving them their country back – might not care, at least in the short run. The psychological wage of white male power has often proved seductive in a racial order based on divide and rule.
Trump will appoint a Supreme Court justice opposed to the landmark Roe vs Wade decision of 1973 which made abortion legal. This would set back women’s rights and is likely to generate massive resistance.
The Heritage Foundation has not only produced its Blueprint for Reform to which the Trump camp appears closely attached, but also seen its former president, Ed Feulner, appointed several months ago to chair of the Trump Transition Team – the group developing policy options and possible appointees to cabinet and other governmental positions.
America is in for 4 years of the most right-wing conservative government since Ronald Reagan; it may leave Reagan in the shade.
Overseas, Donald Trump questioned the whole edifice of the US-led world order since 1945, especially its military alliances and agreements – NATO, the treaties with Japan and South Korea, intervention in Syria, the war on Iraq, the rising confrontation with Russia in the Baltic States and eastern Europe. He has indicated rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement.
He has promised to wipe out ISIS, re-introduce water-boarding and torture as policy against terror suspects, and to bomb and kill their wives and children. His election will strengthen the belief in some circles that the United States is at war with Islam.
Yet, again, Trump appears to have drawn his military policy from the Heritage Foundation. And the Republican party platform adopted at the Convention notes the indispensability of American power, the necessity of “vast superiority” of military power over rivals, of maintaining America’s alliances and treaties, of checking Russian “expansionism”.
This is contrary to the rhetoric of the Trump campaign and may well be a source of tension with fellow Republicans in the House and Senate. It will test Trump’s deal-making skills.
It is to be hoped that the growing confrontation between NATO forces and Russia might be defused by Trump’s personal negotiation with Putin. It is, after all, NATO that has expanded its operations all the way to the Russian border.
It would also be welcome to many on the Left and in general across America should the United States draw back from and reduce its military commitments around the world. But Trump would have to fight fellow Republicans to achieve that.
America has chosen its mercurial man of destiny to lead it for the next 4 years. His policies at home will re-ignite mass opposition that might regenerate the moribund politics of the Democratic party.
The rest of the world must learn to manage President Donald Trump, whichever one finally shows up.