PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP sounded remarkably magnanimous making his victory speech. Flanked by his family, the angry orange lump set to lead the free world spoke of the need to unite his country, after the vitriolic campaign for which he was largely responsible. Although his youngest son, a dead ringer for Damien Thorne from The Omen, stood beside him, there was little sign that Donald Trump was poised to bring about the apocalypse. Nonetheless, a dark four years lie ahead for the West.
The hope and jubilation that greeted Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 seem a lifetime away; now there is only the grey silence of uncertainty. Trump, backed by a Republican Congress and – given the likelihood of imminent deaths and retirements – a Supreme Court stacked with conservative justices, will have almost free reign to pursue his bizarre, hateful, right-wing agenda, that if left unchecked will set civil rights, press freedoms, and environmental protection back by years, utterly erasing the progressive legacy of the Obama years.
It’s understandable that women, LGBT people, and ethnic minorities are worried. Trump, in his courtship of the white working and middle classes, has led a dogwhistle campaign of thinly veiled hatred against immigrants, Hispanics, and Muslims, and has aligned himself with anti-abortion, anti-LGBT policies.
The selection of Mike Pence as his running mate – a token gesture towards the right-wing evangelical establishment of the Republican Party – emphasises his conservative credentials: Pence is a man who sought, as Governor of Indiana, to criminalise applying for a gay marriage licence, state-sponsored gay conversion therapy, and mandatory funerals for aborted foetuses. Even if Trump withdraws from the day-to-day business of government to focus on aggravating foreign nations, a Pence-led regime will curtail the rights of women and minorities. He will face little scrutiny from Congress and the Supreme Court. Indeed, if the President is impeached (not unlikely given the slew of sexual assault allegations, an impending trial for child rape, and numerous accounts of fraud – including Trump University – that may be brought forward by revanchist Democrats), Pence may find himself in the Oval Office before the 2020 election.
It is probable that a Democrat – one more in the mould of Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton – will occupy the White House once again come January 2021.
In 2018, the Democrats will look to take back Congress during the midterms. If they are successful, Trump’s agenda may be curtailed, just as much of President Obama’s has been by the obstructionist Republican-dominated legislature.
The real danger comes from the appointment of Supreme Court justices. Sitting for life (or until retirement), The Donald may have the chance to nominate as many as three conservative judges, giving the Republicans an unprecedented degree of control over the process of government for many years to come.
This may, conversely, benefit the Democrats in the medium term. If they can reform their internal structure and repurpose themselves as the liberal-progressive party of the working class they claim to be, they will be poised to take advantage of the sorry state in which Trump’s lack of experience, bigotry, race-baiting, and unfettered authority will have left the United States. It is probable that a Democrat – one more in the mould of Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton – will occupy the White House once again come January 2021.
A clip from CNN’s election coverage has gone viral in the aftermath of the election result. Van Jones, an African American political analyst, his voice thick with resignation, called Trump’s victory ‘a whitelash against a changing country.’ For the first time, white people voted like a minority group: en masse for a single candidate whom they perceived to represent white issues.
In a few short years, white people will no longer be in the majority, and much of the older generations and lower classes already find it easy to blame the ‘other’ for their ills. They feel that the old order has betrayed them. Hillary Clinton’s defeat represented the repudiation of this establishment. Trump, as a reactionary political outsider, rejected ‘political correctness,’ the globalist agenda, and the tolerance of demographic change: these are now ‘white issues,’ just as police oppression and voter disenfranchisement are black issues. This rent in society has become so profound that a billionaire racist, sexist, potential rapist with no political experience and a string of failed business ventures is seen as a the best possible representative of white Americans. It is an unparalleled lurch to the extreme that has allowed latent and systemic racism to freely emerge.
Over the course of four years, they will quickly find Trump’s promises to be empty, the wall go unbuilt, and the growing spectre of minority population growth unchecked.
Trump’s vague solutions to the the fears of the white working class will be his undoing. Over the course of four years, they will quickly find his promises to be empty, the wall go unbuilt, and the growing spectre of minority population growth unchecked.
It is a situation not without precedent: Finland, like all European countries, has had a strong right-wing movement elected to Parliament. The True Finns, the typical anti-Europe, anti-immigrant party, has been a member of the ruling coalition since the 2015 elections. As a party of government, their polling numbers have plummeted from 17.7% to 9.1% in a little over a year.
Right-wing populism responds to economic stagnation and societal change with scapegoating and nationalism; the absence of real, workable solutions utterly discredits these parties as soon as they have a taste of power. The same will be true of Donald Trump. He can’t deliver what he promises. The Democrats, however, still have to work to regain the trust of white Americans. If they fail to address the hubris they displayed during this year’s elections, whites will become disaffected non-voters, rather than energised progressives.
It won’t be until January that Trump takes office. Looming ahead will be elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany: his victory may empower the reactionary nationalist right-wing to take hold of government. Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, and Alternative für Deutschland have all gleefully welcomed Donald Trump’s triumph; the worst may be yet to come. Unless action is taken swiftly to welcome the disaffected white working class back into the mainstream, unless concessions are made to anti-globalist sentiment, and unless popular fear of change is addressed, things may get much worse before liberalism can be allowed to return.
Now, we mock America for surrendering to the politics of hate, but it could be that they start to correct this mistake as soon as 2018, just as European countries are only beginning to make their own.
As for the United Kingdom: if Trump withdraws from NATO, we may just have no alternative but to stay in the EU to maintain a European security alliance. Silver linings.