AS with the Brexit result in June, the Irish government seemed to have been blindsided initially by the election last week of Donald J Trump as President of the United States of America. The only initial strategy it had was to instruct ministers not to make any comment on the result on the morning of its announcement.
After curt and not-very-enthusiastic messages of welcome by our Taoiseach and President, their initial nervousness about the result was assuaged somewhat by a re-assuring invitation by the American President-elect to the Taoiseach to visit him at the White House next St Patrick’s Day. As it will still be within Trump’s first hundred days in office, Enda Kenny may need to try to dissuade him from rounding up thousands of immigrants and deporting them.
Hopefully, as with some of his other populist election promises, Trump will row back on this, however he will still need to keep most of his promises if he wants to retain the faith of the people who voted for him and helped get him elected. Many of these would not have been regular voters, but the promises the Republican Party’s standard-bearer made of shaking up the political system for their benefit got them out to the polling stations.
Ironically, the Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton, who was only offering voters more of the same, finished 250,000 votes ahead of Trump in the popular vote, but he won because of the way in which the electoral college system works there. The result was an anti-establishment vote with almost half of the mainly white population – male and female – of America being radicalised to demand more from their politicians.
The surprising amount of support Trump got from the Hispanic community, which was expected to go to Mrs Clinton, has since made him water down his plans to build a wall between the USA and Mexico and get the latter to pay for it! What has been most interesting in the wake of the election result has been the wave of street protests across the United States against Trump’s election; even if people did not like the nasty things he had to say during the campaign, he won it fair and square.
It is difficult to comprehend that this is the first political office that the new President of the USA has ever been elected to. While Trump is an experienced businessman, there is a lot more to politics in that it is more of a people than a money business. His lack of political experience and more importantly – as we’ve seen during the election campaign – nous, is a worry and nobody has any idea what to expect from the Trump presidency.
As a businessman, he was used to making pragmatic decisions – many of which were gambles that did not work – but as President, he will not have any scope for recklessness and we can only hope that he will acquire the wisdom to listen to expert advisers and level-headedly heed their counsel.