When George W. Bush, a highly disliked president worldwide for his gung-ho policies and wars across the globe, was reelected in 2004, the London Daily Mirror, in a banner headline, asked, “How can 59,054,086 people be so dumb?”
Though no global newspaper had a similar headline On Wednesday, many people who hoped for a Hillary Clinton victory and feared the triumph of Donald Trump asked, “How could 59,611,678 Americans be so idiotic?”
Post-mortem examinations are galore as to how Trump won. CNN analyst Van Jones invented a word to call the victory a ‘whitelash’, meaning it was the angry white vote or revolt against an Afro-American President. Some blamed the third party candidate for the Hillary Clinton defeat, while others pointed their fingers at FBI chief James Comey for announcing the reopening of the email probe during the final stages of the campaign. Some criticised Clinton’s strategy, style and failure to say what each segment of the voting public wanted to hear from her. Her plan to revive the economy was unappealing. She virtually personified the establishment which the average voter wanted to defeat. In the end, it is a combination of all these factors that led to the Trump victory. So it is unfair to label all those who voted for Trump as racist, uneducated and illiberal.
Trump was easy to beat but the Democratic Party insisted on fielding Clinton, a highly disliked candidate. The party leadership conspired to defeat Bernie Sanders, her contender for the party’s nomination. Many analysts say if Sanders had been the party’s candidate, he would have defeated Trump. Being a businessman, Trump used his skills, acumen and marketing strategies to reach the voter. He was like the crafty salesman who sold refrigerators to Eskimos. And his voters knew politicians rarely keep their promises.
Now that Trump, who was vilified by his opponents as an obscene charlatan and no respecter of women’s dignity has been elected, the question is, “Will he make America great, in keeping with his campaign slogan, or will he drag America into depravity?
In his acceptance speech on November 9, Trump appeared uncharacteristic of his usual self. Instead of the usual ‘lock her up’ remark, he sounded gracious and spoke highly of Clinton. He appealed for American unity. The wall and the ban on Muslims entering the United States did not figure in the victory speech. The speech gave an indication that President Trump may be different from Candidate Trump and allayed, to some extent, the fears he was stoking by his outlandish utterances on the campaign trail.
His world-shaking victory was remarkable – a political earthquake with immeasurable magnitude, because his own party leadership had abandoned him. His was a virtual lone battle. Although Clinton won the popular vote, he won the electoral college, defying opinion polls and pundits’ predictions.
Trump’s victory cannot be construed as America’s unwillingness to send a woman to the White House. Rather it is about hope and delivery. Obama was elected not because the Americans wanted their first Afro-American president. He won because the American people saw him as a leader who could deliver. His slogan ‘Yes we can’ was so appealing that the working class, the whites, the blacks and the Hispanics, gathered around him.
So this time, too, the voters, especially in the mid-America, wanted change, and placed their faith in a non-politician who thought differently, campaigned differently, and appeared as a leader who could deliver, who could improve the lot of the working class people struggling to make ends meet.
His party is now rallying behind him and it now controls both the houses of Congress and the Supreme Court.
In the United States, the President cannot be a dictator even if he or she wants to be one. The government system comprising powerful democratic institutions is well protected with checks and balances, giving little space for abuse of power. For instance, Trump as President will not be able to declare martial law without Congressional approval. Neither can he use his powers as Commander-in-Chief in an arbitrary manner to order armed forces to deport Muslims or Mexicans. Any unconstitutional act or abuse of power can lead to the impeachment of the President. Besides, US laws demand that troops disobey unlawful orders even if such orders come from the Commander-in-Chief. Also US laws – especially, the Posse Comitatus Act – do not permit the military to engage in law enforcement activities unless Congress approves such a role. So there is little possibility that Trump will become a Hitler.
There is also the extra-constitutional mechanism – the establishment or the Oligarchy -- in operation to check the powers of the President. Trump may have stood against the Oligarchy. But once in office, he will have to go along with it.
During the hustings, he declared that the system of election was rigged and that he would drain the swamp of corruption. But once in office, whether he would be able to clean the stables is a big question. John F. Kennedy after being elected as President tried to be independent of the system, but he was assassinated.
Barack Obama tried to challenge the establishment and bring peace to the Middle East, but failed miserably. He realised that the establishment or the Oligarchy comprising Wall Street, the arms lobby and the powerful media conglomerates, among others, was stronger than the president. Before long Trump will also learn that wars, injustice and mass misery worldwide are part of the dirty strategy that keeps America going. The swamp is too huge to be drained by one man. Besides, he is not a messiah the Americans have been waiting for to turn their country into a haven of morality. The wealthiest person to run for president, Trump is a ruthless ‘hire-and-fire’ businessman, thinking in terms of profits and losses.
But the billionaire real estate tycoon, who is an economics degree holder from the University of Pennsylvania, could be different. He was a boss and would not like to be bossed around by the Oligarchy. We will have to wait and see how just and independent he would be; or how controversial and preposterous his presidency would be.
Give him time. Anti-Trump protests we saw yesterday across America may be little too early, although we read in the social media complaints by Muslim women that Trump’s white supremacist supporters have forcibly removed their hijabs and hurled verbal abuse at them. Wait for at least the first 100 days in office and see whether he would implement his evil promises such as lifting the ban on torture or see whether the white supremacists such as Ku Klux Clan members will have a field day under his presidency. If such things happen, then put pressure on him to step down or impeach him. Thankfully, the Americans have elections every four years.