For months, I have worried about a Trump victory, and it has become a reality. Donald Trump won the US presidency yesterday. He achieved a political upset that makes this year’s baseball World Series victory of the Chicago Cubs pale in comparison. As they were in Brexit, the polls and pundits were wrong.
The dominant image is that this is a victory for racism, misogyny and anger. Americans have been grappling with the decline in global power and rising inequalities. Insecurity and fear have been underlying drivers of angst and despair. The dark forces in America have been growing stronger and empowered, with Trump representing and channelling them to his side.
To say the campaign has been ugly would be an understatement. From the onset of the campaign, Trump controlled the narrative and ultimately Hillary Clinton was not able to project as powerful an alternative message. Buttressed by massive media coverage, an effective use of social media (especially when he was not controlling his Twitter account) and a partisan FBI director, Trump won out against the odds. Like the famous Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The campaign however was won in the middle ground. Two additional important and more positive factors shaped the outcome. Trump tapped into a part of the American psyche that offered a return to the past, a nostalgia for the times when America was respected and economically thriving. The salesman he is, Trump sold the dream of the past. And there are many people who live in the past. At the same time, he represented change.
Moreover, he was (and is) an outsider. Americans have deep distrust for those inside the Washington DC Beltway, and the media and intellectuals who are seen to represent them. Hillary Clinton embodied, for many more of the same. She was seen as too smart, too connected to the establishment, especially corporations.
For some who voted for Trump, they did so out of a desire to make the system better, to shake up the system with the hope that something positive would result. My own view disagrees with this sentiment, but in understanding this election outcome I appreciate it is not all about hate and negativity.
The world is grappling with what this means, and it will take some time for things to settle and for the new administration to find its footing. As someone who voted for Hillary, I take solace from three features of American politics...
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