Defying all predictions, Donald Trump won the US presidential elections against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. He has exposed the US establishment and what it stands for.
There is much angst among media pundits and establishmentarians in the US at the election of Donald Trump as president. Many Europeans are also tearing their hair out at his rise to the “most powerful” office in the world. This is not how it was supposed to turn out. After all, on the day of the election, the New York Times (NYT), the establishment’s quintessential mouthpiece, had boldly predicted that Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election were 84% compared to Trump’s 16%. To be fair to the NYT, it based its analysis on compiling a composite data of results from numerous pollsters. Newsweek went so far as to print, in advance, 175,000 copies with Hillary’s photo on the cover with the bold headline: “Madam President.” How could the establishment get it so wrong?
It would serve little purpose to go into a detailed analysis of the why and how of the election result. The fact is, Trump is now president-elect of the US. It is, however, pertinent to state that the Democratic Party lost the day Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders for the party nomination. Regrettably, Sanders then acquiesced in the democratic charade endorsing Hillary. Further, the vote was not so much for Trump as it was against Hillary. People wanted change and the old woman simply did not offer anything to inspire even own her voter base, much less the broader electorate. The result was both a repudiation of Barack Obama’s silver-tongued but drone-laced legacy as well as the establishment. If anything can be said in Trump’s favor, it is that he consigned two dynasties — the Bushes and the Clintons — to the dustbin of history.
There was immediate reaction to Trump’s election from educated Americans: students and political activists. There were several days of protests in most major cities with slogans like “Trump is not my president.” These later changed to rejecting the electoral system, chiefly the electoral college itself. While such marches will achieve little by way of bringing about political change, they reflect the dissatisfaction brewing beneath the surface. The American system has failed to deliver. It is geared toward serving only the rich and powerful while ordinary people are impoverished.
Trump can expect a turbulent four years in the White House. He is a demagogue and a dangerous one at that. He is also a certified racist. But we may expect less belligerency abroad in his presidency if he implements his campaign statements. He has said he wants America’s allies to “pay” for their own protection. The Bani Saud free-riders who had invested heavily in Clinton, please note! Trump has also had detailed discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin and there is speculation that Trump may end America’s support for the terrorists in Syria regardless of their ever-changing labels. If it materializes, this would be good.
Trump’s appointees to critical positions at home — National Security Advisor, Attorney General, and CIA Director — clearly point to the fact that he intends to pursue his racist, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic agenda vigorously. Given that Trump is not much tuned in to policy — his interests are confined largely to making business, primarily real estate deals — means his advisors would have far greater say in policy formulation. The flip side is that he wants his own way. He is a bully and believes he knows what is best.
The American establishment has always been racist notwithstanding its contrived civility. If the establishment is upset, it is because Trump has torn the mask off its real face. America has the dubious distinction of killing millions people in the name of delivering democracy. It has always projected itself as the “shining light on the hill” and a “model for others” to emulate. Thanks to the internet, people around the world are waking up to the reality of America’s brutal nature. Trump will simply help this process by his antics.
If Trump concentrates on building America’s infrastructure that it badly needs, he will have fewer resources for wars abroad. It is no secret that America’s roads, bridges, water pipes, etc. are crumbling. Detroit is a ghost town; so are large sections of Philadelphia and cities in Ohio. America’s workers — white and black — have been dealt a cruel hand. The middle class is vanishing while the ultra-rich — the banksters and financiers — have never had it so good. America is a capitalist state for the poor and a welfare state for the rich.
The world of hegemons is crumbling. It started with Brexit but will not end with Trump. Major changes can be expected in France and Germany in the coming months. While the shift is to the right, it will also mean less foreign involvement. That should come as relief for Muslims even if NATO will not be buried!
Trump has exploded the myth of American exceptionalism even if he did not intend to do so.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT).