It was a bad night for democracy and a good one for demagoguery, racism, misogyny, ignorance and fear. Trump’s win in the Electoral College has seen a flood of analysis and opinions trying to explain, understand and normalise such a result. This was not a normal Left/Right contest. The US and the world are significantly less safe now and the next few years will test the limits of democratic politics in the US and elsewhere. There is hope but it will take all the resources of those committed to liberal democracy to fight back.
Economics did play a role. But not a simple one. Many rich people voted for Trump knowing he’d probably make them wealthier. There was, though, a significant ‘Blue Collar’ vote for the Republican candidate. Despite good economic numbers during the Obama years, there remains a part of the heartland who missed out on the recovery. No point in trying to say that Trickle Down Economics has made their lives miserable over the last 30 years; they were angry and didn’t want to listen. They lashed out. They heard the voice of a ‘saviour’ and they were prepared to put their trust in a uniquely unqualified individual.
Trump’s racism throughout the campaign was gross. Calling Mexicans ‘rapists’, pandering to the worst elements in a divided society, refusing to take his responsibilities seriously, and offering religious discrimination as security policy, all made him a grotesquely unworthy Presidential candidate, let alone President. There’s a ‘John Birch’ core in America that never accepted a black man as their Commander in Chief. The election was payback time for these racists. Let the aphorism be repeated that was said after that fateful Tuesday night; not all Trump voters were racist, but all racists voted for Trump. The party of Lincoln has never fallen so far. American politics is broken.
Sexism was a cause of Secretary Clinton’s defeat. For many Trump voters, they just didn’t care that their candidate seemed to admit to serious sexual assault. Hillary Clinton was subject to some vile abuse. Too often, the facile pseudo-machismo of her opponent was contrasted to trivialities of her demeanour or tone of voice. Trumpers loved this. They’d believed the years of online scuttlebutt and anti-Clinton hysteria. No matter that their own hero said some of the vilest things, even if he believed them or not.
False equivalence in the media was flagged throughout the campaign and really hurt Hillary Clinton. So for every Trump outrage, every mocking of a disabled reporter, every foreign policy statement inextricably linked with the Kremlin’s point of view, what did we get? We got Hillary Clinton’s wretched email server – for which the FBI Director should hang his head in shame for distorting the race – and more innuendo about the Clinton Foundation. So, an opponent who refuses to disavow the KKK is treated as just as reprehensible to one who has no legal stain to her name. And he threatens to jail her. It would have been unbelievable if it hadn’t actually happened. Heads up, some of Trumps supporters were deplorables.
Oh, how cool you millennial non-voters are. Yeah, Trump and Clinton, they’re just the same. Try fooling yourself on that one as the most right-wing and brutish government in modern American history prepares to take the reins of power. Watch how the courts are stacked and rights you took for granted are taken away from you and your friends. That’s reality. If you couldn’t be bothered voting, or voted for a third party in a swing state, don’t expect a special hearing from those that saw this coming down the line and repeatedly warned you.
Ignorance is sweeping the body politic. Whether it be the rise of fake news, or the lamentable return to gullibility in populist easy fixes, it has never been easier to use lies to attain high political office. It’s not just a vast swathe of Americana that would believe anything. Look at how the Brexiteers are suddenly discovering that there is a price to be paid for populism. Encouraged by a diet of propaganda for years, it has become de rigueur to line up with the loudest guy in the room.
There are huge fears for domestic and foreign policy. It is impossible to give Trump the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise. If the US is lucky, lucky!, he will turn out to be a Berlusconi, lining his and his cronies pockets in a kleptocracy the likes of which you’ve never seen in a democratic country. Then there’s a worse case scenario. Egged on by White Supremacist, he begins to dismantle democratic norms. He becomes a Putin. Russsia takes notes and slices & dices the Baltic Republics, full EU and NATO members. He aids and abets the National Front in France and they take power. It is a nightmare scenario; but it is more than plausible.
The United States is an imperfect democracy but one that has a residue of institutional strength. The risk is just too great that this will not endure the next four to eight years. The Electoral College should come into play. It should recognise that Secretary Clinton got two million more votes than Trump. It should perform its constitutional duty and elect a suitable President. If this doesn’t happen, and there’s no swift resignation or impeachment of Trump, let’s just hope, for all our sakes, the US gets a Berlusconi, and not a Putin.