WHATEVER one may think of it, the choice of the people of the United States of America of Donald Trump as their new president has to be respected. As election day dawned on Tuesday, there was nothing between the Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton and the Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, who certainly divided opinion with his utterances – many of them off-the-wall – throughout a deeply-divisive campaign, which saw him coming from being a rank outsider, even within his own party, to snatching the big prize.
In the final eleven days leading up to polling day, the Trump campaign was given a badly-needed boost when the controversy over the use of a public email server by Ms Clinton when she was US Secretary of State was re-ignited by the FBI’s director James Comey. The timing of the latest revelations led to allegations of unwarranted political interference by the FBI man which was wholly inappropriate and, even though he subsequently said there was no case to answer, the damage was already inflicted.
The prospects of Donald Trump being elected grew at just the right time for him and the more his chances were talked up, the more likely the prospect of his being elected became. It all came down to which candidate was able to get more of their supporters out to vote, especially in the so-called swing states.
Eventually, most of the high-profile Republicans who had been reluctant to vote for Trump – because they considered him a maverick and not truly representative of the party’s values – rowed in behind him. Ironically, the powerful Christian right faction backed him too despite the fact that many of his utterances on the campaign trail were both uncharitable and unchristian.
A lot of those who voted for Hillary Clinton did so because they considered her the lesser of two evils – hardly a great endorsement to give to a potential leader of one of the most powerful countries in the so-called free world. Despite the amount of groups that Trump insulted during his campaign – from African Americans, Muslims and Hispanics to all the women who viewed him as a misogynist – he prevailed.
President Barack Obama was given the job of mobilising the African American vote that was so crucial to his election for two terms of office at the White House to back Hillary Clinton, however it seemed that they were not prepared to turn out in the same numbers to endorse a rich white woman, largely funded by big corporate donations. Her biggest constituency comprised the more liberal female voters across all ethnic groups hoping to see the proverbial glass ceiling broken by electing the first woman President of the United States of America.
Trump, on the other hand, tapped into the anger and insecurity of the millions of blue collar workers across America who lost their jobs, especially in manufacturing, as globalisation saw them outsourced to other countries offering cheaper labour, leaving vast industrial wastelands and their attendant social problems. This large, mainly male constituency liked his ‘Let’s make America great again’ rhetoric, his macho posturing on the Second Amendment right to bear arms and his locker room talk.
They are people who had nothing more to lose by electing Trump as nobody else in the political establishment had done anything for them, only let their plight and disaffection fester further. Even though it was opportunistic on his part, Trump’s campaign did a great service by highlighting the huge divide in the United States between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ which both the Democratic and Republican parties, heretofore, were content to sweep under the carpet to a huge extent.
The new incumbent will be forced to address this problem because there are a lot of disaffected people out there who have been exercised by the Trump campaign and will want to see his words backed up by addressing their plight addressed in a tangible way.
Alienation seemed to be Donald Trump’s stock in trade and, despite his personal achievement of going from being a no-hoper to become the American president-elect, he was not a team player within the party he aligned himself with. The Republican Party is going to have to integrate Trump and his supporters into the fold and has some rebuilding to do after it was, effectively, used by him purely to pursue his own personal ambitions.
Things like the mutual admiration society that he created with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin also frightened a lot of Americans, but not enough to reject him at the ballot box. In his acceptance speech on Wednesday morning, which was gracious and statesmanlike, Donald Trump promised to be all things to all people and rowed back on the hateful sentiments that ignited his campaign by saying that his presidency would be inclusive of all of Americans, however these words need to be backed up by sincere and meaningful actions.
When this extraordinary US presidential campaign is analysed in greater detail by both of the main parties and political pundits generally, it will provide plenty of food for thought. It highlighted the growing disconnect between the mainstream political parties and the ordinary people, and it will be a case of God help America if they and the new president ignore this seriously worrying worldwide trend.