US ELECTIONS: WHAT WENT WRONG?

by Gunnar Eigener

The victory of Donald Trump to become the 45th President of the United States has shocked and dumbfounded many. What does it say about the state of politics when the first female major party presidential candidate – who was, by far, the most technically qualified – is defeated by a man who has never held any political office?

Unlike any other election most of us have ever seen, this is one of the first that represents a clear anti-establishment action. Often before we have heard that politicians should be punished at the voting booth or polling station. This is what it looks like. Political analysts have worked out what has happened and it isn’t taking people long to figure it out either: Trump has secured so many votes because he has been simple and loud. Many politicians cloud their decisions and opinions in vague rhetoric so as to leave themselves some wiggle-room when things don’t go their way. Trump has taken the more direct approach. He says what he thinks and he gives the people a target to focus on. While he most certainly isn’t right in many instances, the fact remains that this appeals to society.

Trump has secured so many votes because he has been simple and loud.

Donald Trump is in many ways a traditional Republican. Despite his 1998 comments that Republican supporters are dumb and would vote for whoever Fox News told them to vote for, he acts in a neo-conservative manner. He will cut taxes, increase spending on military and infrastructure and move towards trade deals that protect the US at all costs, regardless of global consequences. With Republican control of the Senate and House, he will have plenty of support for such spending although there are plenty of indications that what he has in mind will possibly triple US debt. So too will he attempt to appeal Obamacare, plunging many people back into an insurance nightmare. He also will be able to appoint Supreme Court judges. This poses a significant risk to the advances in same-sex and LGBTQ+ rights that have been gained over the past decade.

What will perhaps raise a question mark over his presidency, certainly amongst his own voters, will be his ability to carry out his more outlandish policies. The building of the Mexican wall and the accelerated deportation of immigrants are a large obstacle. He built a large portion of his voters based on these policies. Although the economy was, amongst exit pollers, the most important issue, immigration and US jobs sourced abroad most definitely play a big part in that. Republican politicians will fall in line with his neo-con favoured policies, but the wall and deportation may well take a lot more to achieve. Like Brexit and the failure to deliver the £350 million extra a week for the NHS, amongst other promises, Trump could lose face and so the risk is that he may feel compelled to move forward with these agendas to keep his voters happy. To not do so may cost him in the mid-terms.

( Trump and Clinton © Reuters; Salon )

( Trump and Clinton © Reuters; Salon )

There are other dangers. He devotion to rebuilding the US coal industry and his opposition to the Paris Climate Agreement will have devastating environmental consequences. Renewable energy will probably fall by the wayside. His stance on anti-abortion is unclear although it is likely to tip in favour of Republican beliefs. Gun laws won’t change, and his dislike of NATO is clear to see. Any future deals with Iran hang in the balance. Despite a very open acceptance speech, Trump’s promise to have Hillary Clinton investigated may yet happen.

Despite all of this being known before the election, he still won. A CNN exit poll showed that by September, 60% of people had already made up their mind as to who they would vote for. So with all the other polls and media interest, how is it that Clinton didn’t win?

So with all the other polls and media interest, how is it that Clinton didn’t win?

The problem here is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Traditional states that tended towards Democrats voted for Trump because he made an effort. States like Michigan and Wisconsin, with large rural working-class communities, were barely visited during the Clinton campaign. There remained, up until Tuesday night, a certain element of arrogance about the campaign; namely, that people wouldn’t vote for a madman and so vote for Clinton. But the Democrats vastly underestimated the appeal of Trump and vastly overestimated the loyalty that they expected. So too did the Democratic Party underestimate the consequences of its action. The undermining of Bernie Sanders would have greatly affected their reputation, the primaries affected by a number of scandals and illicit play. This only served to make Clinton look even more like a political elitist. She also neglected to build on the votes of minorities. Clinton generally under-performed compared to Obama amongst African-Americans and Hispanics. Trump on the other hand increased his voting margins in comparison to Mitt Romney’s presidential election campaign. The media didn’t help either. So much of the media is seen as a mouthpiece of the political establishment so is it really a surprise if people go out and vote for the person the media tells them not to?

( Sanders Scares Trump GIF via Imgur )

( Sanders Scares Trump GIF via Imgur )

However, there is something good that will come out of this. The fanfare surrounding this election and its result will have left the Democrats with a lot of soul-searching to do and the Republicans, while sighing with relief that their man won, wondering what is to become of their party’s values. Trump has done something that no other contender has done; he has broken the mould. Elitists are no longer welcome, this is the clear message. The electorate will vote with its heart and US elections will become more about having people who society can imagine being one of them and someone to aspire to leading the helm. What choice do they have? This election was about electing an insidious liar or a loudmouth financial crook. Come back Bernie Sanders, we’ll give you another chance.

Featured image via TheStar.com

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