YESTERDAY the shock, today the waves.
My last blog was written as the news broke on the television and I tried to make sense of Donald Trump winning the US election. Is today the time to be calmer? Well, serenity is going to be in short supply for a while yet.
Why did Trump win? Because more people voted for him. End of story (although the US electoral system does seem complicated to Brits). He won, it is being said by many, because disaffected white voters turned out in their masses. And other races, too. But his support was solidly white.
Yet not only those who were poor, angry and white voted for Trump. White college graduates went Trump too, as did 48 per cent of those who earn more than $250,000 –according to a New York Times exit poll.
As with Brexit, this is a divisive victory. At the time of writing, people are protesting across the US. Having their own “not in my name” moment. Taking their anger and incredulity out on to the streets. Hardly surprising when the rallying Trump insulted women, Hispanics, Muslims and more in speeches which had racism and misogyny as their pulse. Speeches which viewed all forms of otherness with intense hostility.
A piece by the editor of the New Yorker dropped into my in-box yesterday. In this, David Remnick argued: “The election of Donald Trump to the presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the constitution, and a … sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy … It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.”
Yesterday the morning, today the mourning.
What sort of a president will Donald Trump be? No idea, not a clue. And you suspect he doesn’t have a clue either. His victory is personal, a massive point scored for the can-do, butt-kicking, insult-spraying candidate. People went for him, or enough people went for him, because he is Donald Trump. Not because he is a Republican. Hell, even many Republicans didn’t warm to Trump. And now they’ve got him as their president. Don’t expect a smooth ride once the initial shock dies down.
Trump pledged much in those speeches. Sprayed out promises with incontinent fury. Did he mean what he said and will he deliver? Nobody knows, not even the Donald. But if he doesn’t make America great again; if he doesn’t overturn what he sees as hostile trade arrangements; if he doesn’t build that stupid wall on the Mexican border – well, if he doesn’t do those things, his supporters may feel let down.
They are headed for disappointment station eventually. Or they are if they believed all those Trump testaments. Did even Trump believe all those things he said? Again, who knows?
America has always gone big on personality politics. You could say that we are less keen over here. Or you could if we hadn’t voted in Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron. But at least they rose through the political ranks, they belonged to parties. Unlike Trump who is wholly of himself. Madly and deeply of himself.
Trump supporters interviewed on the television often said they believed in him because he was a businessman. He knew how to strike a good deal. He would get things done. Well, next year we will begin to find out. And if stuff doesn’t get done, his supporters will feel disappointed in the man their anointed with such enthusiasm.
I suspect that one person who is shocked over this result is Donald J Trump himself. He wanted to win because he doesn’t do losing. He wanted to win because that was striking the biggest business deal on Earth. And then he did win. Now he will govern as a Republican president, even though he doesn’t much love them. And they don’t much love him. Or they didn’t until he went and won.
One problem with personality politics is that the job is too big for a personality, even one as ego-pumped as Trump’s. His successes will have Trump written all over them but so, too, will his failures. They will be just as emblazoned with his name as that ridiculous tower of his or his private jet. A billionaire man of the people comes with a lot of expensive baggage (all with his name on it).
A divisive victory, as I said, with protesters taking to the streets. A victory built on an unstable stitching together of hope and hate.
The times seem to be moving against liberals and those who prefer the left side of the street. Well, liberals need to find their voice again. And soon.