The impossible has happened and Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States of America.
No matter who you are and who you supported in the US election race, Trump’s victory is a massive surprise that went against all predictions and one that shakes the political system of the world once more in what has already been a tumultuous year.
We’re now left picking up the pieces of a campaign season that’s not only been one of the most divisive and partisan in history, but of an election result that few saw coming and even fewer prepared for.
This blog will cover the answers to some of the questions we’re all asking after the historic events of November 8th.
How did we get here?
Yet again we have seen opinion polling fail when predicting a close race, with the narrow Clinton lead in the national popular vote failing to materialise in the swing states where she needed it most.
Nate Silver and co. will be at pains to tell you that the opinion polls in general fell within the margin of error of the final result, but what that fails to explain is the consistency by which swing state polls skewed their results in favour of Clinton when Trump ended up on top in most of them.
The truth is that in the US, as in Britain with Brexit and the 2015 General Election, there has been serious errors in the way the polling industry samples the population it covers and that has meant that the biggest surprise of all has come to pass.
An exit poll by the New York Times shows the clear demographic problems that the Clinton camp faced and why they couldn’t mobilise the support they needed to make their national advantage count.
The key findings from that poll that stand out to me about why Clinton lost the election are:
- Clinton winning the women’s vote by only 12%, while losing the men’s vote by 12% (Obama won by 17%)
- Support for Clinton down 7% and 8% from 2012 among blacks and Hispanics respectively
- 5% fewer supporters in the 18-29 age bracket
- 13% lower support among those earning $30,000 or less
- Clinton trailed Trump by 39% points among white people without a college degree
- 9% of Democrats voted Trump while only 8% of Republicans voted Clinton; Trump won independents by 6%
This lack of enthusiasm for Clinton cost her dearly, and that’s why she couldn’t capitalise on some of the advantages she had over Trump in terms of the public’s evaluation of their abilities.
Both candidates were the two most unfavourable Presidential options in history, but it’s beyond explanation how Trump secured so much of the vote when his figures were so abysmal:
- 61% of voters saw Trump as unfavourable compared with 54% for Hillary Clinton
- 64% of voters said Trump did not have the temperament to serve as President
It amazes me that both these candidates must have gained votes from people who considered them unfavourable and untrustworthy but still the best option to lead the country.
The final post-mortem of the election can be that Trump managed to motivate a higher turnout than ever before of non-educated white people, who make up a larger population in most swing states – and that’s what edged him over the line in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote. It’s the same story of far-right victories across Europe in recent years, as a disenchanted ‘indigenous’ population feels left behind and hard done by economic conditions and seeks to pin it on a “foreign enemy” as proclaimed by a charismatic leader.
Clinton wasn’t popular enough to inspire support among the demographics she had hoped to win big, and that cost her particularly in the likes of Florida and Pennsylvania, a combination that would have seen her has winner of the election instead. She could well have halted the tide that Trump’s revolution was a part of, but instead she has been swept under by it as well.
What will President Trump be like?
Trump’s victory has been seen by many as a dangerous step and one that leaves the world a more uncertain place, and it’s hard to disagree at least with the latter.
Financial markets around the world have had palpitations since Trump’s victory became apparent (and the Mexican Peso even crashed to its’ lowest ever value against the US Dollar), as they see the Republican as a wild card that could jeopardise world stability and economic growth.
A Trump Presidency has been debated for the last few months, but we’ve had little-to-no detail on what it might actually look like. 2016’s campaign was a partisan mud-slinging contest where the character of Trump and Clinton was analysed to the microscopic level, but discussions of policy and planning were fairly scant.
There’s an old saying that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. The thing is that I can’t imagine for the life of me that Trump can grasp the nuance needed to put the outlandish and sometimes outright mad proposals he has into place.
The problem with electing someone with absolutely zero public policy experience is that we have no clue on Trump’s track record when it comes to implementing policy. It’s a startling fact that Trump will be the first US President in history that has never held public office or a military position.
While his domestic policies are unclear, it’s the foreign policy realm that is most terrifying about a Trump presidency. Without being too negative or going into much detail, here are just a few of the positions he claimed to have held during the campaign and how he might go about dealing with them when he walks into the White House on January 20th:
US-China Trade War
Trump has repeatedly singled out relations with China as an area he wants to reform, which will be difficult as the Sino-US relationship is the highest volume trade deal in the world and the US is in a $1.18 trillion debt to China.
Involvement with Islamic State
Trump has called for further action to wipe out Islamic State including deploying troops on the ground. This will represent the first large-scale escalation of conflict by the US since George Bush’s “surge” in Iraq, and will put the US troops within range of Russian warplanes that are operating against Islamic State and Syrian rebel targets in the area.
A cornerstone, no pun intended, of Trump’s campaign is his assertion that he will build a border wall with Mexico and make them pay for it. Estimates of this border wall project have run as high as $25 billion, and there is no legal means by which Trump can force the Mexican Government to pay for it, leaving the only recourse for a Trump-led administration looking to punish Mexico being to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA (which Trump has described as one of the “worse trade deals of all-time”), massively undermining the USA’s position as a free trade country.
Donald Trump has said before that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, an opinion so flagrantly against scientific opinion it boggles the mind. Trump’s victory signals a clear sign that the US, the world’s biggest emitter, will likely take a step back from climate change fighting for the next four years at least – just as crucial international accords are coming into force to make a real difference to what may be the defining threat of our existence.
I firmly believed and hoped for a Hillary Clinton victory in the election, as I feel the interests of the American people and the world are better served by a compassionate President who seeks to unite communities, embrace civil rights, open relationships across the planet and combat threats such as global warming.
With Trump we have for a President a closed-minded populist who has an erratic list of policy positions that tend to be exclusive, offensive and hurtful to minorities and foreign countries, meaning that for the first time since before World War II we may see an isolationist USA that neglects to live up to its’ role as the world’s only superpower.
With the results of this crazy election now in, it’s clear that we have another 4 laps to go on this Trump rollercoaster, with ups and downs aplenty headed our way. I just hope that, in his own words, his Presidency can begin to “bind the wounds of division” that have been created in recent years. Although somehow I just don’t think that will be the hallmark of President Trump’s term office.
The long and winding road to the White House that started almost 18 months ago has ended, but the path for the future may be even more uncertain than ever.