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The pollsters and pundits got it so wrong, and so did I. I just couldn’t see this outcome. Many readers may be shocked, upset, angry or a mixture of all three about the US election results and that’s fine, I include myself in that number. Today we get to be angry, today we get to be upset and even afraid. Give us time to gather ourselves, to get over the shock. Just a short time to be mad as hell, in a state of disbelief. God knows, those of you on the Trump side would do the same if the result had gone the other way.
In a democracy – a free society – we are allowed to voice our opinions, even when we lose. We are allowed to voice our dissent with the government, even when we voted/supported the other side.
Just give us time. ‘Tomorrow’ we start to accept. Tomorrow we face the reality of the next four years. Yet we will continue to be vocal about what we think is right and wrong. We will be vocal against hate in this new age of post-truth politics. This political age that I do not understand yet I know we can no longer just brush aside.
This is twice now the anti-establishment rhetoric has won the day. No matter how qualified or how many experts you have backing the establishment, if the anger is that deep and that raw, then things like this will continue to happen.
We may go over and over again the things that went wrong in this election, looking for a single answer as to why Trump got elected, but the truth is, there is no single answer. We have to acknowledge that this election was fought by two greatly unpopular candidates, Clinton represented ‘everything wrong with the political establishment and the status quo’. Trump, as the opposite of that, represented the politics of hate and division; he was the anti-establishment candidate who hasn’t served in office before; a reality TV star and a member of the 1%.
The electoral turnout was only 56.9%. Trump won with the backing of 26% of the eligible electorate, Clinton took 27% winning the popular vote but lost out on the Electoral College. It’s a familiar story to us in the UK.
So what’s next? We saw a mellowing of Trump in his victory speech. He firstly acknowledged the hard work of Clinton and said the country owed her a great debt of gratitude. He talked of healing wounds and being a president for all Americans and promised not to let the country down. This was all rhetoric of a very different tone to that of the Trump campaign.
The cynical view is and that all victors make similar speeches, regardless of their political intent and later actions. I noted, too, that Trump was incredibly fixed on his autocue whilst making that speech. But he’s not the president yet – not until midday on 20 January 2017.
In the meantime, we’ve seen Trump meet with Obama to discuss the transition of power, the first such meeting between the two men. We know in the past Trump has been a critic of Obama, even questioning his place of birth in order to disqualify him from the presidency, yet once again Trump was mellow and even referred to Obama as ‘a great man’. We may find that Trump’s ego may guide his presidential style, and the need to go from maverick anti-establishment candidate to presidential statesman may, I hope, change him.
Another thing to watch is who he picks to be in his cabinet. His transition team is headed up by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was one of the many who ran against Trump for the party nomination. Christie is tipped for the post of Attorney General, however former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who also ran for party nominee in 2008) has also been tipped for this role. Former Speaker and 2012 party nominee candidate Newt Gingrich has been tipped for Secretary of State, however Trump has previously said he would make former Alaska Governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin Secretary of State. Other names that have been mentioned include former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ran for the nomination in 2012 and 2016, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who ran for the nomination in 2008 and 2016.
For an anti-establishment candidate, Trump is now surrounding himself with the right wing establishment of his party. We are also yet to see what kind of role Vice President Elect Mike Pence will have. It was widely reported that Trump had offered to make Former Ohio Governor John Kasich the most powerful vice president if he accepted. We also need to see what sort of relationship Trump will have with congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan was critical of Trump and refused to support him in the election. Will Trump seek to block his re-selection as speaker?
One thing to note is, the sky did not fall down, the sun did rise. Elections come and go, sometimes your side wins, and other times your side loses. For me this loss hurts as much as Brexit, having been emotionally invested in the Clinton candidacy, however tomorrow we carry on as before. Though there is uncertainty and some may fear about what is yet to come we should and will continue to voice our opinions on what we think is right because, to quote Clinton, ‘It’s worth it’. The political process doesn’t just request our participation every time there is an election, it is an ongoing thing. A thing that anyone can take part in regardless of whether your side is in government or not. So be angry, be hurt, but put that emotion to good use and let us move forward.