Well, the unthinkable has happened. Three months ago I wrote an article here suggesting that I didn’t have faith in Americans and that I believed they would find Trump more palatable a candidate than Hillary. Sadly it has come to pass.
America has always been a deeply divided country with a tempestuous past, from the conflicts between the indigenous American Indian population and the European colonists, to the patriots winning the Revolutionary War to the American Civil War and latterly the battle for civil rights. However after seemingly uniting historically eight years ago when they voted in their millions for Barack Obama to be the first man of colour to hold the highest office in the state, in 2016 America is more divided than ever.
Many quarters have decried the deplorable lack in quality of presidential candidates and they were right to do so but you have to look at the context and the reasons why America ended up with the two most reviled candidates in American political history. After 8 years of the Obama administration which many deem to have been an ineffectual and toothless presidency people were looking for change. Obama rode the crest of hope but almost immediately it was obvious that while he was young and telegenic that the conservative right was going to hamstring him at every move. Obama’s strength, his youth, turned out to be a weakness too as I believe he lacked the gravitas and political chops to play dirty enough to bring his detractors on side. Obama’s presidency promised much but delivered little if you were a god fearing, gun-loving white republican over 50, and to be honest not a lot for democrats either.
The anti Obama murmurings would grow even louder during his second term and while they did,the mood in Western European countries began to change too, questioning the old order, the political elite and the liberals. Most recently we have seen the resurgence of the far right in Germany, France and most famously in Britain with the Brexit vote which stunned the world. It seems the world over that people are circling the wagons, they’ve had enough of ‘porous borders’ and in the aftermath of a debilitating world recession want to see a bigger piece of the take home pie. Europeans, most particularly the over 50s brexiteers and now the Americans have said enough is enough, they have according to them ceded enough financially and culturally to external forces.
Hillary Clinton had been many things to many people over the last thirty years but first amongst them a former first Lady and a left leaning political powerhouse. Her career however has been mired in controversy from the Lewinsky affair, the nefarious Clinton Foundation to most recently the email scandal. However more than anything Clinton suffered from voter fatigue having been in mainstream politics for 30 years, she was resented by many for being the embodiment of the untouchable political elite and many voters simply didn’t like or trust her. To vote for Hillary was to vote for another 4 years of democratic rule, this simply was not going to wash with a disgruntled electorate left disaffected by Obama’s presidency.
Donald Trump in comparison to Clinton has zero political experience, in fact it’s quite extraordinary that he has ascended to the highest political office in the state of America having never run for office even at a local level. Trump is primarily a businessman and a showman whose raison detre is brand Trump. Trump is always selling brand Trump, and he managed to sell it to the electorate hook, line and sinker. However Trump won the election not just because of his sales and branding skills but because of his communication skills. Trump’s plain and often crude talking spoke directly to middle America. He gave a voice to the suppressed politically incorrect who could hardly believe they had a kindred spirit running for the Oval Office. The poignant part in all of this is I don’t believe he set out in the beginning of this Presidential race believing he would actually win. As Trump competed with and defeated his republican competitors one after the other, as momentum grew it became apparent that many people liked Trumps no nonsense attitude. He had the temerity to say in public what many people only said in private. He like many Americans is pro gun, anti immigration, pro indigenous business, and culturally intolerant.
The Clinton / Trump presidential campaign was probably the ugliest and dirtiest in American political history, devoid of common decency and humanity. Trump has vilified everyone from the physically disabled to the entire Mexican population to every woman on the planet. Nobody it seems was spared from his mouth, yet in spite of making numerous statements, statements that would have ended the political careers of most other people, people were emboldened by his honestly and momentum swung his way.
It also has to be said that Trump had the good fortune of coming up against the deeply unpopular Hillary Clinton, it’s doubtful he would have succeeded if the Democrats had had a more likable candidate with less baggage.
Trumps win has been lamented as a victory for fascism, for intolerance, for sexist and for hate. Certainly Trump’s stream of consciousness vitriol at the least is an attack on common decency, pluralism and inclusiveness at worst it taps into and bolsters something much more sinister in society which is deeply worrying. For this uncertainty alone Trump’s victory is not welcome.