Donald J. Trump will be the next President of the United States. The world is stunned. Many people are fearful and doubtful of America’s future and the repercussions. It is an astounding victory, but whether or not Trump will be able to effectively manage the complex system that constitutes the most powerful nation in the world remains to be seen. His words and deeds would be under microscope.
By traditional matrix, the competition was between the “most qualified” and “least qualified” candidates ever to vie for that position. It was her resumé versus his judgment, but he managed to make the election about her judgment. She argued that he did not have the temperament to become the nation’s president and he countered that she was not worthy of occupying the White House because of her character. After a hard-fought race, which divided the American electorate across multiple realms – race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, and geographic location, Donald Trump won. What lessons can we learn from the American presidential elections?
First, elections are not always about the quality of the candidate’s resumé when the society is brimming with a quest for change no matter who the instrument of that change is. An experienced politician, Hillary Clinton had been a first lady, senator, and secretary of state. Those splendid credentials in domestic and foreign affairs were diminished by tapping into the fears of the poor and working class Whites.
The improbable became possible because Donald Trump put the legacy of the incumbent president on the ballot. As President Barrack Obama and his wife made themselves and the president’s legacy on the altar, Donald Trump, the nativist candidate, called on the White working class electorate to repudiate it. He stoked their fears, anger, and hatred and extended the divide. White collar White voters, Latinos, Blacks and women failed to forge a coalition to blunt Trump’s momentum.
Second, candidates cannot be over-confident of victory to the extent that they lose their sense of the political and socioeconomic realities in which the election is embedded. All the gauges that the elites used to predict the voters’ intention missed the mark so miserably. Pundits, pollsters, and the media made Donald Trump’s character and celebrity, howbeit malignant, the lenses through which they viewed his prospects. They did so devoid of the groundswell of anger and mistrust that existed among Whites in the rustbelt states juxtaposed with the apathy of some non-White groups, principally, African-American voters who failed to vote in record numbers. Donald Trump still did better than expected with African-Americans and Latinos, which had been solidly assumed to be a Clinton constituency. These two groups plus college-educated White women, who were understood to be turned-off from Trump because of his policy and acerbic rhetoric disappointed Clinton in her historic quest for the presidency. Essentially, when you are a known quantity in politics, overcoming associated deficits might just be harder than expected.
Third, the fascination of the political establishment with the candidate does not equate to the appeal of the broad spectrum of the ordinary electorate. Yes! Even a large swab of the Republican leadership lined up against Donald Trump, and some past Republican presidents expressed the desire to vote for Hillary Clinton. Clinton became the center of gravity for the political and moneyed elites, even some in the liberal media. But her campaign did not track the reality of a populist fervor, the fear, and loathing of a majority of poor and working class Whites who were attracted to Donald Trump’s protectionist rants and raves. As Trump exploited the class gap, it depicted that he understood something about the slice of the electorate that the political classes did not. Trump delivered the “greatest upset” in American presidential history by neutralizing the gender gap and by appealing to the feelings of hostility and disaffection in the constituency.
This is incredible and surreal moment that wrought a “new world order” is now one that requires a soul searching. The arrogance and smugness have come back to bite the political classes and the elites. Where does the country go from here? How do you bind the tapestry after it has been torn asunder in such a destructive and disabling way?
Fourth, in politics, perception is often reality. The fact that the American economy is doing well and yet, Trump’s “Make America Great” slogan resonated with those who elected Trump is surprising. Trump has set some high expectations. He promised a Moslem ban, building a wall to fend off illegal immigrants, and to investigate and prosecute his opponent.
Trump has set some high expectations. Winning the presidency is now insignificant in the face of the important challenges associated with governance. How would he overcome the underlying racism, sexism, and bigotry that he rode to the White House?
To the American liberal, capitalist democracy is resilient. It has impelled Hillary Clinton to concede. It has caused Donald Trump to tell his constituency that he intends to reconcile the country. He has been generous and toward his competitor. Where does America go from here? Like the country, democrats and republicans might need to muster the steel in their own spines to study what they each contributed to the rather dark universe that they created. The volatility and uncertainty associated with Trump’s election has pushed the markets downward, which is making many observers across the world anxious.
A threat to dampen America’s relations with many of its longstanding allies should the president-elect act on the many main-spirited, un-American utterances that he made looms largely. Trump’s presidency will be situated in a climate with a compliant Congress, a splintered country, and an era of widespread terrorism. Cumulatively, what does a Trump Presidency mean for America and the world? We all want to see better days ahead, and hopefully, this will happen soon.
THE AUTHOR: Emmanuel Dolo is the President/CEO of the Center for Liberia’s Future (CFLF) based in Liberia. CFLF is a progressive think tank which conducts studies in Public Health, Economics, Education and Social Policy. He formerly served as an Advisor to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and before that as Head of General Administration, Corporate Social Responsibility, Government Affairs and Human Resources at Arcelor Mittal.