By Dr. Monish Tourangbam
Image Attribute: The file photo of President-elect Donald J. Trump by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons Licensing.
The political atmosphere in the United States has been shaken and there is no doubt that there are more questions than answers after the electoral verdict in the 2016 US Presidential election. When the primaries started, it would have been difficult not to think that establishment candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush would walk the aisle as nominees. But as the race progressed, political arithmetic and studied probabilities were thrown out of the window. Even for many Republicans, it seemed hard to believe and accept that Donald Trump was their Presidential nominee. Now, Donald Trump is the new President-elect of the United States of America. Proving most political pundits and pre-election polls wrong, Trump has thrown research puzzles and questions that election watchers and scholars will grapple with for some time to come.
The verdict is a product of socio-economic and political undercurrents in the United States that many political pundits didn’t see as important enough to impact the result in the way it has. Most analyses and polls showing Hillary Clinton as the frontrunner between the two, probably injected a sense of complacency in the Hillary team as well as supporters, while it might have had the opposite impact of energizing the Trump team and Trump supporters to go out and vote. Although the close probability of Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman president of the United States was significant, there were overwhelming forces affecting US electoral politics that was reflected in the rise of two insurgent voices, Donald Trump in the Republican Party and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party.
There seemed to be more novelty seen in the imagination of Bernie Sanders who called for an egalitarian America, at the cost of being labeled as a socialist. Then there was Donald Trump, who was never politically correct, but all the way, stuck to projecting himself as the ultimate outsider to beltway politics, someone who could run his own campaign, could not be corrupted by funders and was the only one who would “Make America Great Again” and bring jobs back to America. It hardly seemed to matter, that Donald Trump’s campaign was racially tinged, which promised to lift the subdued voices of the white working class, even at the cost of drowning the voices of minorities in the United States. Voters wanted change, and in Trump, they saw more change and in Hillary, they saw more of the same. Whether more of the same could be better than change at any cost, is another debate.
Now, President Donald Trump is the fact of life for the US and when one looks back at the political environment during the campaigns, it seems that a Trump presidency was not so unlikely after all. Beyond the educated class in the US that undoubtedly favored Hillary Clinton as the President, there is a different America that just did not care the lack of preparedness in Trump or the racist and misogynistic comments that he had made during the campaigns. What does the result tell about US politics?
Those with college degrees and more mostly voted for the Democratic candidate and those without mostly voted for the Republican candidate. In that way, this election proves yet to gain the deep political polarization in the United States, where both parties seemed to cling to different demographic groups. While the Democratic Party seems to have given up on the white working class, the Republican Party seems to have given up on minorities generally. While demographic profiling in terms of voting bases is not new to politics in the US, or for that matter, to politics anywhere in the world, such a scenario does not bode well for an inclusive America. If the debate is really about lifting the 99% as against the 1%, and finally standing up for those left behind by the forces of globalization, then parties and politicians should stand up for all in the 99% sans race.
The economic disparity in the US is apparent and given how Trump carried the rust belt economies, previously the industrial heartland of America, it is quite clear that the country is divided into economic lines more than ever before. Hillary Clinton more than any other thing captured status quo in the political sense, and the feminist story of her candidature failed to stand up to the larger economic forces and the divisions it was creating among the US populace. But then, it is also true that she was not popular among all sections of women voters, cutting cross-racial as well as age lines.
Millennial women voters did not exactly come out as too supportive of her candidacy, neither white women, in general, proved to be her strong base. The popular reaction, in general, to women aspiring to top positions, in this case, the Commander-in-Chief of the US, has not been found to be too positive either. Besides, she has been known to have a trust gap with American voters in general and had all the trappings of a hardcore beltway insider.
But, the bottom line is this: regardless of the loser and the winner, the 2016 US Presidential election has thrown up difficult questions regarding deep fissures in US society and politics cutting across class, race and gender issues with huge toppings of anger against the political system. Candidate Donald Trump had the rhetoric but will President Donald Trump have the answers? The US is truly at an inflection point, internally as well as externally. How America grapples with these issues will have ramifications not only in its domestic environment but for its foreign policy, and hence for the world at large.
About the Author:
Monish Tourangbam (TR RID: L-2939-2016) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University (Karnataka), India.
Cite this Article:
Tourangbam, M. "OPINION | A Trump Win Wasn’t So Unlikely After All" IndraStra Global Vol. 002, Issue No: 12 (2016), 0002 | http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/OPINION-Trump-win-wasnt-so-unlikely-after-all-002-12-2016-0002.html | https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.4276328 | ISSN 2381-3652