President-Elect: The man who tapped into American anger
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.
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