“Veni, vidi, vici”, Julius Caesar once said after a successful battle: “I came, I saw, I conquered”. A fitting maxim, perhaps, for the most successful general of the ancient world, but also, surprisingly enough, for a billionaire businessman-turned amateur politician. Against the seventeen Republican candidates, Trump triumphed; against the Democratic nominee, he repeated the feat.
It was never supposed to end like this. All the polls pointed to a small Clinton lead; many thought a historic landslide more likely for the Democrats than even the narrowest of Republican wins. Yet in the end, Hillary Clinton has grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory. Donald Trump, against all the odds, has prevailed. He will become the 45th President of the United States of America.
Indeed, there will not be much today for non-Trump voters to take solace in. Firstly, it is clear that a man with no sense of morals or ethics has been elected to the highest office in the land. But the political repercussions of today’s defeat are more serious than that. The House of Representatives, which looked vulnerable during Donald Trump’s darkest days, will remain in Republican hands; so will the Senate, the return of which Democrats had so eagerly dreamed about and campaigned for. The United States will now enter a completely Republican administration, with a Trump presidency and a GOP congress.
But what does Trump’s victory mean? Despite the size of the personalities involved in the election, it was a battle between more than just two candidates, but also between two wildly differing world views. Hillary Clinton ran on the promise that she would essentially be Obama’s third term; she gambled that American voters, who gave the 44th president high approval ratings, bought her pitch that America is already great, and going on the right track. It was a gamble that she lost. It turns out that more Americans believe that it needs to be made great again, that the clock needs to be turned back to days for which they were more nostalgic, and that the establishment needed a stunning rebuke for continuing to steer the ship in a direction the sailors did not want to go.
And in the end, it is important to remember that this revolt against the elite is one hardly confined to the United States itself. The parallels with Brexit are perhaps obvious, but it is still one worth pointing out: a slim majority of a predominantly white country, motivated by a desire to”take back control” from a distant establishment, curb immigration, and “protect the economy” chose to vote for an outcome that numerous experts lined up to warn against. It is a trend that shows strength even outside the US and UK: Europe has also seen the rise of many far-right parties, appealing not to globalism but to nationalism. Citizens everywhere have shown themselves eager to vote for these candidates who preach the importance of the nation-state over global integration. And this is how Donald Trump saw it when he entered the field, and accordingly he has conquered.
It is, of course, easy to be condescending to these voters; frequently we see pundits calling Trump’s voters uneducated, or Leave voters misinformed. But the grievances and the depth of feeling is clearly real. The nation-state may be a dated artificial construct, but the resurgence as one of the most potent forces in modern day politics cannot be ignored. Whether motivated by real economic inequality or xenophobia, policymakers will need to address the concerns that voters have. If a democratic state is one that works for the people, what place do politicians have to reject the expressed will of the people? If Americans truly want a wall across the southern border or a ban on Muslims from entering the US, it would take a fair dose of moral superiority for someone in government to reject these desires once expressed through the ballot box. Yes, this is a flaw of democracy: the decisions that the people choose are not necessarily the ones that actually make any sense. But since the United States insists on preaching democracy to the world, they will have to accept their own democratic result. The American people have now chosen a new nationalist, right wing agenda: it will now be up to President Trump to deliver it.
The question remains, however, on whether President Trump will actually be able to follow through on any of his promises. It could be assumed that he will not; after all, this is a man who has no knowledge of anything about policy whatsoever, and that his incompetence will be his own downfall. In that case, Mike Pence would be left to do the heavy lifting- but Pence is a much more typical GOP politician than his atypical boss. In addition, Trump is nothing if not inconsistent on policy positions- so we have no idea what he truly believes in, and what he wants to do.
Only one thing is clear: this stunning revolution against the political establishment in the United States, a continuation of a global trend, has now succeeded. Donald Trump has won. What he will do now that he has won remains to be seen.
Leave a comment.