It’s been a bit of a week. Seven days’ ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton looked likely to become the first woman President of the United States of America at the end of an election campaign that had focused almost exclusively on the personalities, and had featured virtually no analysis of their policies or proposals for government. Donald Trump’s achievement in securing a majority of the electoral college votes with fewer popular votes than his Democratic Party rival may yet lead to a review of that system ahead of the next election in 2020. Before then, the transition of Trump the anti-establishment ‘outsider’, through Trump the President Elect, to Trump the “Leader of the Free World” will be fascinating to watch. The early indications are that he is already backing away from some of the more controversial pledges of his campaign. Obamacare may not be swept away quite as comprehensively as his supporters may have expected, and he has put some distance between his promise to “lock her up” and any commitment to launching a formal investigation into Clinton’s unorthodox use of e-mail servers as Secretary of State.
Global markets – initially jittery in the wake of Trump’s victory – appear to have taken things in their stride since, perhaps providing further evidence that in 2016, governments (even those in the largest territorial economy in the world) are of only passing interest to and influence on world trade and capital.
The mysogyny, racism and demonisation of minorities that characterised so much of the Trump campaign has already shown itself to be a major challenge to politicians from other countries. Diplomacy has been strained to its farthest limits as statements seek to congratulate Trump’s success whilst stopping short of endorsement of the means by which it was achieved. This was perhaps best illustrated by Angela Merkel, who stated that: “Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”
The claim of Trump supporters that those who continue to call out the discriminatory nature of many of his pre-election statements are simply sore losers, mimics the labelling of those in the UK who continue to campaign against Brexit as “Remoaners”. It is unlikely that the deep divisions that have been riven on the basis of gender, race, sexuality and religion during the Presidential campaign can be healed simply on the assertion that the vote has happened and everybody should now just accept it.
What has been interesting in the last couple of days, as the initial surprise and novelty of the election outcome has given way to more sober reflection, has been the emergence of a narrative that seeks to connect Trump’s victory with Brexit in the UK, and Putin’s rise in Russia. This (from historian Tobias Stone) is one of the more academic analyses and is quite depressing for those of us who value liberalism, equality, and openness.
So what can we do to prevent the creeping intolerance and ‘fear of the other’ that seems so endemic in the arguments that underpinned the Trump campaign, the Brexit campsign before it, and so much of what we see emerging from Putin’s Russia? Ultimately, we have to take our lead from people like David Remnick, writing in the New Yorker magazine earlier this week :
Remnick’s ideals are not exclusively American of course. They are the same things that Angela Merkel highlighted. Now, of all times, we have to believe that they will prevail.