It’s now getting more and more common to wake up, bleary-eyed, grab your smartphone, open the news app and see that the pundits, politicians and your peers are wrong, yet again. It’s quite disconcerting to realise that the ground has shifted beneath your feet or that the world has pointed to a new geopolitical axis within the space of seven hours.
The morning of the 09th of November 2016 will be another such morning. Much like the Brexit vote in June 2016, it demonstrated that America is a far more divided nation than many of us realised. With a long campaign, we all suspected as much, but to see it in stark voting patterns is quite another thing.
It looks like the United States is a ‘Mosaic’ of voting patterns, where voting is dividing along racial, educational and gender demographics.
The more liberal Eastern and Western seaboards of the United States are Democratic blue. ‘Overland’ country, encompassing the gigantic land mass in between is predominately Republican red. Within this are microcosms of the macro picture.
Trump managed to court the vote of the white working class and this may have secured his victory. He has been on message with this segment of society since the beginning of his campaign. He has been ‘their’ man since day one.
Exit polls are unreliable at best and predictive polling is now about as unreliable as Southern Rail, but the majority of these polls put the white male vote at 63% for Trump with only 31% voting for Clinton. Trump was very much an unknown quantity in this election and men, in general, are prone to more risk taking behaviour (I’ve never seen a video of a woman trying to jump into a wheelie bin from a second story building). About 10% fewer white women voted for Trump than men.
In a similar phenomenon in the UK general election, there was probably a large enough number of ‘shy’ Trump voters as there were ‘shy’ Conservatives to garner him a significant number of additional voters.
Given his rhetoric about ethnic minorities and immigration, Trump, unsurprisingly performed very poorly with this demographic. This in spite of stirring and inspirational speeches to the black community like this one:
‘What do you have to lose? You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?’
In the end, roughly 88% black voters backed Hilary Clinton.
In total, only an estimated 21% of the eligible non-white demographic voted for him on the day. The Hispanic vote, given his now infamous ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best’ speech, understandably never materialised either.
At the moment no one can tell really tell what kind of President Donald Trump will be. We have very, very broad policy outlines. He thinks that America should not be shouldering the unfair burden of policing the world. Given that ‘America First’ was a slogan used by a non-interventionist, political pressure group just before World War 2, this could hint at a more ‘live and let live’ foreign policy. From his speech on the ‘false song of globalism’, we can assume that perhaps free trade deals will be renegotiated. Given his stance on the proposed building of the now infamous wall at the US-Mexico border, he’s probably not in favour of uncontrolled and illegal immigration. On the 6th of November 2012 he tweeted that ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive’, with this, we can subtly garner that he believes anthropogenic climate change is a hoax.
We should acknowledge, as we should in Brexit, that many people have not benefited from globalisation and all that this entails; air travel, cheaper consumer goods and instant communication. If you’re working on minimum wage, living at home, have no savings and cant progress either vertically or horizontally in the workplace, you will start to weigh your options and vote for the candidate that says he will help you. Given that only eight years ago, the world had just suffered the largest loss of wealth since 1929 and America has fairly recently disengaged from two deeply divisive foreign interventions, it was never going to be ‘business as usual’.
There is every chance that Trump might grow into the Presidency. When President Roosevelt passed away in 1945, no one gave his Vice-President Harry S Truman much chance of ending the war in Europe and Japan and then standing up to communism. He did both and went on to win a second term in his own right.
President Trump will certainly not get his own way either. There are people who are hostile to him within his own party and mid-term elections are only two years away. Legislative checks and balances are in place to safeguard against abuses of power, plus there is always the possibility that he might do something stupid and get impeached.
Many of his opponents have likened him to a fascist. This is unhelpful. He may be many things, but he’s not a fascist. Indeed, in his first speech, since victory was declared, he appeared more presidential and calm than he ever was during the campaign trail, soothing frayed international nerves be stating that: ‘All people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.’ For the domestic audience, he had these words: ‘It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.’
The American people voted for him in a fair election. This was their choice. The sun will still rise, the planet will still spin on its axis and the American republic, its people and institutions will survive the next four years of Trump Presidency.