Donald Trump’s victory in the American elections last week has created seismic aftershocks in the psyches of not only Americans but most of what is known as the “western” world. What seemed inconceivable to most people, did indeed happen. A loud mouth who dispensed with the normal niceties of polite debate, indulged in misogynistic and racist tirades, made outrageous claims and promises, made up facts, statistics and history with little or no connection to facts and reality, and who reveled in mud-slinging and smearing his opponents, will shortly become President of the most powerful country in the world.
How Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, virtually all the pollsters and most of the media could have misjudged the mood of the electorate so badly, will be the subject of much analysis and debate for months, perhaps years to come. Nonetheless, a few things are abundantly clear. There was obviously a serious sense of disaffection and deep-seated angst within a substantial portion of the declining middle and lower classes of Americans who felt that the government and the political establishment of both parties had completely forgotten and sacrificed them to the vagaries of the global economy. They voted on the strength of their emotions and not on the basis of any rational analysis of the issues or the platforms put out by the candidates. In fact, Trump did not really have much of a platform, only slogans and sound bites. Nonetheless, Trump’s campaign strategy of appealing to base emotions and visceral discontent proved to be the winning strategy. He sold himself effectively as being the only outsider and antidote to the entrenched political establishment who would provide more of the same old same old.
Even now, a week after the election, the reality still has not sunk in for a lot of Americans. The internet media channels continue to be clogged with partisan vitriol, bitter debate, racist and bigoted rants, vicious propaganda and mud-slinging. Divisiveness and polarization appear to be continuing with an unabated fury. As Joseph Conrad might have put it, we are peering into the heart of darkness within the American soul.
As Trump’s transition team begins planning the future of his Presidency, some token signs of moderation are being offered to the very disgruntled and fearful majority of Americans that did not vote for Trump. His new chief of staff will be Reince Preibus, current chair of the Republican National Committee, and as establishment a figure in Washington as one can get. Trump himself has indicated that maybe he will keep some of the aspects of Obamacare. Maybe he won’t deport as many “illegal” aliens as he said he would. Maybe a lot of the rabid promises he made during the campaign won’t been implemented. There are a lot of maybes starting to come out.
The problem with Trump is that we don’t know whether any of this is real or just another smokescreen. Trump has no definable principles or ideology except for satisfying his own ego. He is not a Democrat, or Republican or alt-right or extremist or moderate. He makes things up as he goes along. This may have served him well during the campaign, but as President, this unpredictability and lack of discernable values will prove dangerous, and be of little help in resolving the serious issues that have caused Americans to indulge in an electoral primal scream.
The appointment of Preibus as his chief of staff indicates that Trump is at least aware that he will need to garner the support of the Republican-controlled Congress and Senate, many of whose members have no great love for Trump, his extremist proposals and his antics during the election. In there lies at least a modicum of hope that they will be able to moderate if not block his more outrageous promises. In fact, it is almost ironic that I believe that Trump’s primary political opposition over the next four years will likely come not from the Democrats, but from the Republicans.
In the meantime, the anti-Trump forces in the U.S. have given a clear indication that there will be no truce or acceptance of Trump as the next President. Large protests and “Not My President” demonstrations have been happening almost daily since the election. Any attempts at implementing some of the more controversial campaign promises will be met with stiff public resistance.
We are in for considerable political turbulence in the U.S. in the coming months and years, and one can only hope that the American constitution and elaborate system of government checks and balances will be able to survive the rule of a would-be autocrat who is used to breaking all the rules.