Pres­i­dent-Elect: The man who tapped into Amer­i­can anger

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

When Don­ald Trump glided down an es­ca­la­tor in Trump Tower in June 2015 with his wife Me­la­nia and an­nounced his bid for the White House, he was prob­a­bly the only one in the room who thought he could win. Seven­teen months later, the 70-year-old Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire ty­coon and for­mer re­al­ity TV star who has never held pub­lic of­fice has, against all odds, been elected the 45th US pres­i­dent.

He surged to vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton on the back of acute anger among part of the elec­torate: those Amer­i­cans who feel aban­doned and be­trayed by estab­lish­ment politi­cians, and wor­ried over free trade ac­cords they see as threat­en­ing or hav­ing al­ready stolen their jobs. In his fi­nal cam­paign ral­lies on Mon­day, Trump promised a Brexit-style win an al­lu­sion to the un­ex­pected win of the ‘leave’ camp in the Bri­tish ref­er­en­dum in June in fa­vor of quit­ting the Euro­pean Union. Trump has kept his word. And in de­fy­ing polls that made Clin­ton the fa­vorite, Amer­i­can voters have de­cided to give him a chance, even though two-thirds of them think he does not have the tem­per­a­ment to be pres­i­dent. The im­prob­a­ble vic­tory has placed the world in deep un­charted wa­ters.

Amuse­ment to as­ton­ish­ment

US me­dia ini­tially ex­pressed amuse­ment over the pres­i­den­tial as­pi­ra­tions of the brag­gado­cious real es­tate ty­coon with a stream-of-con­scious­ness speak­ing style, the one­time tele­vi­sion re­al­ity star with the weird yel­low­ish hair. Trump had al­ready flirted with the idea of a White House run a few years back but noth­ing came of it. In his speech an­nounc­ing his bid, Trump painted a hor­ri­bly grim pic­ture of Amer­ica, say­ing it was turn­ing into a third world coun­try.

He com­plained about politi­cians who were “all talk, no ac­tion.” “I will be the great­est jobs pres­i­dent that God ever cre­ated,” Trump promised. He also pledged to build a wall along the bor­der with Mex­ico to keep out un­doc­u­mented for­eign­ers and said Amer­ica’s south­ern neigh­bor was send­ing rapists and drug deal­ers across the bor­der. The com­ment raised howls of protest, and was just the first of many that would earn Trump crit­i­cism that he was big­oted and racist.

As he made the rounds of TV talk shows and in­ter­views in the weeks that fol­lowed, Trump con­tin­ued to pro­vide a sort of punch-in-the-gut en­ter­tain­ment. Amer­i­cans re­acted with be­fud­dle­ment and indig­na­tion. But there was no deny­ing Trump res­onated with work­ing class whites who feel left out by the fast­paced change of eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion and ig­nored by Belt­way in­sid­ers. Trump faced 16 other Repub­li­cans in the pri­maries, in­clud­ing for­mer Florida gover­nor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of ex­pres­i­dents who had the sup­port of the party and ma­jor donors. Trump ridiculed Bush as be­ing “low en­ergy” and gave other ri­vals in­sult­ing names such as “Lit­tle Marco” for Florida se­na­tor Marco Ru­bio. He made fun of busi­ness­woman Carly Fio­r­ina’s face. The Repub­li­can Party tried in vain to keep Trump in check.

Anti-elite

Trump pledged to “make Amer­ica great again” with his shock­ing com­ments crit­i­ciz­ing im­mi­grants and promis­ing to tear up free trade agree­ments that the United States has signed. Trump pro­posed sim­plis­tic so­lu­tions to com­plex prob­lems, promised to de­stroy the Is­lamic State group with­out say­ing how, and had kind words for Vladimir Putin, call­ing the Rus­sian au­to­crat a strong leader. Crowds of mainly white peo­ple packed Trump ral­lies, chant­ing his slo­gans and for­giv­ing him his gaffes and in­sults. They loved his po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect talk, which re­flected their deep-seated frus­tra­tion and worry over their place in a cul­tur­ally shift­ing na­tion.

The Man­hat­tan prop­erty mogul, who in­vited Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton to his third wed­ding and played golf with Bill, took on the role of the out­sider fight­ing what he called the cor­rupt elite, and the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and econ­omy. With sup­port so widely dis­persed in the pri­maries, Trump was able to win the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. For­mer pres­i­dents Ge­orge W Bush and his fa­ther Ge­orge HW Bush de­clined to take part in the con­ven­tion at which Trump was nom­i­nated, as did Mitt Rom­ney, who lost in 2012 to in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. The party hi­er­ar­chy held its nose but could not stop Team Trump, which he fi­nanced with his own money.

On Twit­ter, Trump spoke his mind-ad nau­seum-with no kind of fil­ter. In three pres­i­den­tial de­bates against Clin­ton, a pol­icy wonk who came out very well pre­pared, Trump seemed to just wing it, with lit­tle de­tailed knowl­edge of pol­icy and lit­tle ap­par­ent in­ter­est in it. In these clashes Trump said so many things that were not true that fact check­ers lost track. The first de­bate was watched by a record au­di­ence of 84 mil­lion peo­ple. His cam­paign was marked by myr­iad self-in­flicted wounds as Trump locked horns with a judge of Mex­i­can de­scent and the Pak­istani par­ents of a Mus­lim soldier who died in Iraq. He came to call Clin­ton “crooked Hil­lary.”

Trump also reshuf­fled his cam­paign lead­er­ship sev­eral times. Sev­eral times the press gave Trump up for dead, es­pe­cially af­ter the re­lease in Oc­to­ber of a 2005 video in which Trump boasted that his fame al­lowed him to grope women with im­punity. He promised Mon­day to “close the books” on the Clin­tons and what he called their lies and cor­rup­tion. De­spite all her decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in pub­lic life, Clin­ton could not with­stand Trump and all the anger that he has tapped into. —AFP

Sup­port­ers of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump pose for pho­to­graphs dur­ing elec­tion night at the New York. —AFP

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