It’s official, Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States. Here’s why.
When the now President summoned a bemused press to Trump Tower last June, and, in his typically sensational style, announced a run for the White House, few believed they were witnessing the advent of a new political order. But Donald J. Trump descended that garish marble and gold escalator of his, and, as it would turn out, changed our world in the process.
Surveying the oh-so-long course of the campaign, one eerily powerful moment stands out; at the crescendo of his RNC acceptance speech, Trump made a direct appeal to those Americans “who work hard but no longer have a voice”, and looking directly into the media’s cameras, pointing down their lenses, forcefully proclaimed “I am your voice”.
Since November 8th, the notion that Trump’s win was powered by a wave of white working class anger has gained cliché status, and for good reason. Trump shifted the rustbelt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan with the support of blue-collar whites who voted twice for Obama. Overall though, The Donald achieved a bigger swing among Latinos and African-Americans than he did among whites, dismissing the emotionally appealing but evidence-light portrayal of Trump supporters as “deplorable” participants in a racist ‘whitelash’.
Instead, the Trump-Pence victory marks the beginning of another round in the ‘culture wars’ which many presumed the left to have won. Counterintuitively, the ‘conservative’ side find themselves represented by a brash, egoistic serial-adulterer, seemingly the living antithesis of conservative values. Self-declared ‘liberals’, on the other hand, now dedicate themselves to policing the minutiae of language, and indulging simplistic forms of ethnic and gender sectarianism. Trump’s movement is in part a rejection of such sectarianism and in part a further contribution to it. Though the President-elect has made an effort to appeal to some minority groups, for instance pointedly challenging prejudice in his own party by affording the LGBT community a special place in his RNC address, it is clear some of his backers have other ideas. At the very least, Trump’s core supporters were animated by frustration at the fashionable, sneering degradation mainstream American culture and national-pride have been subject to in recent years.
To their great alarm, Hillary’s disciples have now discovered that those they claim to represent – particularly women and that idealised, largely non-existent ‘middle class’ – do not entirely share their ideological concerns. Clinton made a bet that Trump’s lurid sexual boasting and petty school-boy persona would send women voters running for the hills, but instead plenty were willing to disregard these, whilst others admired his border-wall-building ‘machismo’.
The inability of most liberals and leftists to comprehend support for Trump has a lot to do with the idea that there is all that much to comprehend. Close psychological investigation as to the mental processes that prompted these curious creatures to cast their votes as they did is not necessary. When all is said and done, Trump’s voters threw their weight behind him for the same reasons any one of us lend a politician our vote; they cared about the issues he raised, and wanted to see his policies, to the extent he had any discernible policies, implemented. Crucially, they made a comparative judgement between the candidates on offer, many voting as much against Clinton as for The Donald. On illegal-immigration, the costs of badly-configured trade, and the priority of security, Trump somehow had his finger on the pulse of the American people, so much so that whatever other gaffes he made, and no matter the incompetence he revealed, his core vote remained with him.
In one realm of campaigning, however, Trump has proved himself a consummate master: branding. His brutal summation of ‘Jeb’ Bush as “low energy” and rechristening of his rival as “Crooked Hillary” undoubtedly contributed to his win. The Trump mantra “Make America Great Again” seems mostly to have been received by supporters as a spirited contention that the U.S. should not be run by those who feel the need to apologise for it. Many conservative Americans felt humiliated and angered by Obama’s so-called “Apology Tour” in the first years of his Presidency. Obama’s infamous reference to the Crusades in connection to modern jihadism, as if to say ‘we’d best not get on our high horse about this’, drew deserved ire.
On the terrorist front Hillary appeared similarly out-of-touch, but was at least able to eject from her lips the oddly platitudinous phrase ‘radical jihadism’ – need we only revive good ol’ non-radical jihadism? Hillary’s own role as Secretary of State in the recent destabilisation of North Africa, prompting a mass exodus of refugees into Europe, likely played on U.S. voters’ minds. Of course, the GOP had already done a splendid job fanning the flames of hysteria about Syrian refugees entering the U.S.; by November 8th, plenty of voters had accepted the demonstrably absurd notion that their country was facing a huge incursion of child-rapists and jihadi-john wannabes. Dangerous delusions have proliferated on both sides of the U.S. political aisle, and Trump, like a great orange inflatable, has risen up out of that toxic mist.
Featured Image: flickr