Our southern neighbours have chosen as their president a serial liar, a crude racist and sexual predator — someone who has grown wealthy by avoiding taxes, declaring bankruptcy several times and stiffing both his employees and his creditors. What’s more, Donald Trump is a potential demagogue similar in temperament to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Clinton won popular vote
What, then, does Trump’s victory say about the American electors and their political system? First, a major caveat. More people voted against Trump than for him. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, actually received two million votes more than did Donald Trump. So the outcome is not the “rigged election” that Trump darkly warned about if he lost. Rather it is an idiosyncrasy, some would say a flaw, embedded in the way the American electoral system is designed.
During the 2016 U.S. election, Trump made the vetting of immigrants the central part of his platform, and it worked for him. He described Mexicans as rapists and drug pushers while promising to build a wall to keep them out. He berated Muslims, even those who live or were born in America, saying that he would shut the doors entirely to Muslim immigration.
That appealed to a fringe constituency, which Trump has now made mainstream. David Duke, a white supremacist and former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, issued the following Twitter message in the early morning hours following the election: “This is one of the most exciting nights of my life. Make no mistake about it, our people have played a huge role in electing Trump!”
The brutal fact is that the enslavement of black people, not to mention wars of extermination against aboriginals, was foundational to America. The ringing phrase in the Declaration of Independence — that “all [men] are created equal” — simply didn’t apply to anyone who wasn’t white. In fact, the U.S. was an apartheid country into the 1960s — something many people worked tirelessly — and even sacrificed their lives — to change. But there has been a continued, burning, racial resentment toward minorities and people of colour. Although it appeared that a new era had dawned with the election of Barack Obama, Trump has been able to harness this tiger of racial resentment.
Poor trade deals
Unfortunately, he was able to do that in great measure because poor trade deals and deliberate actions by a succession of American governments, including Democrat-controlled ones, have created a growing economic inequality in the U.S. Decades of tax breaks for the rich, union busting and public service cuts have left millions of Americans in a more vulnerable position.
The real victims
On Nov. 8, the narrative was that white men without post-secondary education are the primary victims and that their anger led them to support Trump. That is only partly true. For the most part, black people, aboriginals and immigrants have been victimized to a far greater extent than whites have been, and that remains the case. Trump, however, has odiously assisted in turning people against one another rather than trying to bring them together.
White nationalists gaining
This same sad tale had played itself out in the Brexit vote in European and in the rising tide of white nationalist parties gaining strength in Europe; but it is, if anything, even more dangerous in the U.S. because of the country’s size and the leadership role that America has played in the world.
Yes, we live in perilous times, but we can take heart that, indeed, more Americans voted against Donald Trump than for him. The question is what those people can — and will — do in the months and years to come.