Trump vic­tory threat­ens gains of free trade era

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/worldwide - Rea­son Wafawarova

WEST­ERN Europe’s po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment has been shaken by Don­ald Trump’s pop­ulist vic­tory in the United States — not ex­actly a pop­ulist one con­sid­er­ing that the mav­er­ick ty­coon did not win the pop­u­lar vote. But the fear among West­ern Europe’s politi­cians now is that pop­ulism may start shak­ing the tra­di­tional es­tab­lish­ment, threat­en­ing heav­ily the gains of the free trade era.

Politi­cians in the West have re­lated Trump’s vic­tory to the Brexit pop­ulist wave that shocked the world in June this year. Trump has never held po­lit­i­cal of­fice or a govern­ment job in his life, and his vic­tory is most cer­tainly the big­gest up­set known in Amer­i­can his­tory — over­shad­ow­ing that of farmer Abra­ham Lin­coln, or that of Dwight Eisen­hower.

The world is gen­er­ally just as stunned as most po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors and an­a­lysts around the world, es­pe­cially given that the polls gave Trump a ceil­ing of only 44 per­cent. Any an­a­lyst or com­men­ta­tor who wanted to be taken se­ri­ously pre­dicted that Hil­lary Clin­ton would eas­ily beat Trump, but now that turns out to have been mere pro-es­tab­lish­ment cor­rect­ness. Or was it a guised ef­fort to try and stop the un­avoid­able?

Trump knew how to shake the es­tab­lish­ment, from pol­i­tics to busi­ness, and the me­dia, and just about ev­ery ma­jor player in any of these fra­ter­ni­ties was shaken, that way cre­at­ing an anti-Trump bias across the spec­trum, with the me­dia tak­ing the lead. He had no ad­mir­ers in the main­stream me­dia, and no ad­mir­ers out­side Amer­ica ei­ther. He was por­trayed as a sad joke, a clown­ish ac­ci­dent in the US pres­i­den­tial race, and even a plain id­iot with no re­gard for hu­man de­cency and com­mon sense.

We heard the up­roar over Trump’s lewd and of­fen­sive re­marks on women and sex, com­bined with what ap­peared to be an es­ca­lat­ing num­ber of al­leged women vic­tims who lined up to cru­cify the man po­lit­i­cally. His cam­paign seemed fin­ished, and right up to the af­ter­noon of that fate­ful Tues­day no sane po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst wanted to be as­so­ci­ated with a Trump vic­tory pre­dic­tion (with the no­table ex­cep­tion of Nathaniel Man­heru), not even one came out pub­licly. To many a com­fort­able Clin­ton vic­tory was fore­gone and safe con­clu­sion.

Tues­day came, and Trump tri­umphed em­phat­i­cally. He had sweep­ing vic­to­ries in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio – all de­ci­sive states in the his­tory of US elec­tions. By the time the Democrats lost Penn­syl­va­nia, Michi­gan, Wis­con­sin and Iowa Clin­ton was star­ing de­feat in the face – her­self a highly dis­trusted po­lit­i­cal fig­ure in the United States. By that time it was clear that Trump was head­ing for well over the 270 elec­toral votes needed to se­cure the pres­i­dency. There were rivers of tears among Clin­ton sup­port­ers as the re­sults painfully kept com­ing in.

Many peo­ple in­clud­ing my­self have in the past writ­ten that the me­dia and other pro-es­tab­lish­ment forces make up Amer­i­can pres­i­dents, and that the pub­lic vote is only there to rat­ify the wishes of the pow­er­ful few. Noam Chom­sky even wrote a best-seller book ti­tled Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent, and the whole book gives an in depth view of how the me­dia helps to man­u­fac­ture pub­lic con­sent in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory seems to be a telling de­par­ture from this the­ory, and the ques­tion that needs a speedy an­swer is why?

It would ap­pear like there were shy vot­ers who were not de­tected by poll­sters and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts and pun­dits. Trump must have ben­e­fited from a silent vote that ev­ery­one failed to pick up, a vote that in­cluded the ed­u­cated class who silently agreed with some, if not most of Trump’s out­ra­geous cam­paign rhetoric.

State by state polls pre­dicted Hil­lary Clin­ton would win at least 300 elec­toral votes, and na­tion­wide polls gave her an av­er­age 3-point lead. Po­lit­i­cal pun­dits en­dorsed the polls; but it turns out all was just ter­ri­bly wrong.

Many peo­ple are of the view that the ex­tra­or­di­nary role of the FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey played a huge part in Trump’s vic­tory, or pre­cisely in Clin­ton’s de­feat. On Oc­to­ber 28, the man just woke up with a let­ter to Congress, an­nounc­ing that the FBI was re­open­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Clin­ton’s State Depart­ment emails, only to an­nounce that there was noth­ing to in­ves­ti­gate just two days be­fore the elec­tion. That to most peo­ple changed the mo­men­tum of the race in favour of Trump.

The poll­sters did not seem to think Comey’s let­ter mat­tered in the race, and they masked its ef­fect, quickly restor­ing Clin­ton’s com­fort­able win pre­dic­tion. Clin­ton least ex­pected she would be giv­ing a con­ces­sion speech within 24 hours in­stead of an ac­cep­tance one.

It ap­pears like Trump’s silent vot­ers sim­ply re­fused to co­op­er­ate with the pro-es­tab­lish­ment poll­sters, or to be part of the man­u­fac­tured con­sent. No me­dia could sway the voter from Trump’s vul­gar and rogue rhetoric.

What this elec­tion has done is to put into tat­ters the im­age of the polling in­dus­try, and it will be hard in the fore­see­able fu­ture for peo­ple to trust pub­lic opin­ion polls.

Politi­cians be­lieve in po­lit­i­cal mo­bil­i­sa­tion, and this tra­di­tion made Trump an un­der­rated un­der­dog. Many peo­ple thought the man had no po­lit­i­cal his­tory, and as such had no grass­roots sup­port, and that made a lot of con­ven­tional wis­dom sense, but not after this elec­tion.

It turned out that Trump only needed him­self to sell his ideas to the peo­ple. He did not need an or­gan­i­sa­tion, not even the Repub­li­can Party, which also mu­tu­ally did not need or want him, stuck as the party seems to be with him.

Trump had celebrity sta­tus to his name, and he en­tered the race with bet­ter name recog­ni­tion than Bar­rack Obama did in 2008, per­haps with 100 per­cent name recog­ni­tion across Amer­ica. The man is a loud and pompous busi­ness­man and a for­mer TV star per­son­al­ity.

As it is some­times said, there is no such thing as neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity. Trump’s en­try into pol­i­tics at­tracted mas­sive me­dia at­ten­tion, most of which was neg­a­tive, but it turns out this ended up work­ing in his favour. There is a study car­ried out by Mar­ket Watch in May that said Trump had re­ceived the equiv­a­lent of $3 bil­lion in free ad­ver­tis­ing by that time. This came from the me­dia cov­er­age his cam­paign at­tracted.

Each time Trump got at­tacked for a con­tro­ver­sial re­mark, he sim­ply fol­lowed it up with a more con­tro­ver­sial re­mark, and he knew that he was cap­tur­ing the vot­ers’ at­ten­tion more than the pol­ished pol­icy speeches could ever do.

He said con­tro­ver­sial things in very sim­ple and com­pre­hendible terms, like I will deport 11 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants, I will stop Mus­lims from com­ing into Amer­ica, I will build a wall to stop Mex­i­cans from com­ing into Amer­ica, and so on and so forth. It was such crazy but pop­u­lar rhetoric that en­deared him to the vot­ers that gave him vic­tory.

Trump was just ob­sessed with his pop­ulist rhetoric and his open con­tempt for po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and com­mon de­cency, and strangely that seems to have worked in his favour, con­nect­ing him dearly to the Repub­li­can sup­port base. He de­rided the nor­mal rules of the po­lit­i­cal game, and the more he did that the big­ger the crowds at his cam­paign ral­lies be­came.

Per­haps Kanye West’s pres­i­den­tial dreams are not that delu­sional after all. Trump’s vic­tory might as well have opened a new era of celebrity politi­cians. The man has just trumped on the tra­di­tion of pol­i­tics with enor­mous ease, although it can be ar­gued that his op­po­nent was a highly dis­liked can­di­date from more than one an­gle, a dis-re­puted liar of note.

Trump’s blunt rhetoric on im­mi­gra­tion must have res­onated well with most of the peo­ple that voted him, per­haps as much as his rhetoric on pro­tec­tion­ism and bring­ing back Amer­i­can jobs was. The slo­gan “We will make Amer­ica Great Again” was also highly en­dear­ing to the vot­ers, what­ever those words mean.

At all his ral­lies, Trump sim­ply pro­moted pop­u­lar hos­til­ity against im­mi­grants and free trade poli­cies, and that has pro­pelled him to the White House, liv­ing the en­tire world search­ing for an­swers on how next to deal with the United States.

Sim­ply put Trump has marched to White House chant­ing xeno­pho­bic and na­tion­al­is­tic slo­gans, and that alone made his cam­paign a suc­cess. The more crit­ics ham­mered on Trump for his vi­cious and un­pro­voked at­tacks on Mex­i­cans and Mus­lims, the more Trump em­pha­sised how ruth­lessly he in­tends to deal with these nui­sance mi­nor­ity groups, and he knew ex­actly what he was do­ing. He knew that hos­til­ity to­wards im­mi­gra­tion and glob­al­i­sa­tion was a deeply shared feel­ing among a crit­i­cal mass of Amer­i­can vot­ers.

The elec­tion re­sult shows that Trump ben­e­fited a great deal from the white work­ing class vote, even in tra­di­tional Democrats strongholds like Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia.

In­stead of be­ing a li­a­bil­ity, Trump’s lack of govern­ment ex­pe­ri­ence be­came an as­set. The man did his tim­ing well. Bush lied and an­gered the peo­ple, and vot­ers thought Obama would bring the change they wanted. Obama and Clin­ton lied too, sell­ing a fake legacy of suc­cess when the peo­ple on the ground saw oth­er­wise.

Don­ald Trump must have re­alised that the peo­ple had lost trust in po­lit­i­cal, busi­ness and me­dia es­tab­lish­ments, and he sim­ply at­tacked all of these, en­dear­ing him­self to a dis­en­chanted pop­u­la­tion in the process.

Trump kept ham­mer­ing on the fact that the United States is head­ing for di­min­ish­ment and many vot­ers be­lieved him, even silently so for some.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cau­tious, pol­ished and con­trolled ut­ter­ances sim­ply came across as the usual pol­ished pack of lies from the lips of politi­cians; while Don­ald Trump’s vul­gar, in­tem­per­ate and un­ortho­dox vit­riol was wel­comed as more gen­uine and truth­ful. He tells it as it is, they kept say­ing.

Some­how Don­ald Trump be­came the agent of change, while Clin­ton be­came the es­tab­lish­ment’s can­di­date, even ad­mired by some sig­nif­i­cant se­nior Repub­li­can fig­ures. Trump kept telling the crowds that Hil­lary Clin­ton rep­re­sented the sta­tus quo, and that she was not go­ing to bring any­thing new to the White House.

This strat­egy was not a Trump in­ven­tion at all. Bill Clin­ton used the anti-es­tab­lish­ment gim­mick to win the pres­i­dency 24 years ago, de­pict­ing Ge­orge HW Bush as a clue­less elit­ist in­cum­bent. Ge­orge W Bush em­ployed the same tac­tic to gain his con­tro­ver­sial win against Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore in 2000, and Barack Obama suc­cess­fully tainted McCain as a tired old Sen­a­tor with noth­ing new to of­fer in 2008.

Soon the cul­ture of out­sider can­di­dates im­press­ing the voter more than sea­soned politi­cians will take root in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, and per­haps even wider across the world.

Although the ac­cep­tance speech by Trump was rec­on­cil­ia­tory, one can­not dis­miss the fact that the elec­tion it­self was premised on deep di­vi­sions and po­lar­ity based on race, gen­der, class, and re­li­gious lines.

Trump was not a nor­mal can­di­date, and he will surely not be a nor­mal pres­i­dent. Trump backed by a Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the House and Se­nate is a scary thought for many peo­ple, even among the United States’ trusted long time al­lies.

Prob­a­bly Trump is the first US Pres­i­dent-elect to face protests im­me­di­ately after elec­toral vic­tory, and that only marks the be­gin­ning of a four year tur­bu­lent jour­ney in Amer­ica’s his­tory.

What does Trump mean to Is­rael, to the Mid­dle East, to Africa, to Rus­sia, to China, and to the rest of the world?

It is safe to say at the mo­ment no­body knows. For Africa a great Amer­ica built on na­tion­al­is­tic pro­tec­tion­ism and an­ti­im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies will not be good news. The United States is a strate­gic trad­ing part­ner for many African coun­tries, and also a big em­i­gra­tion desti­na­tion for many Africans.

For Zim­babwe the ques­tion is will Trump ig­nore Zidera, re­peal it, or en­force it even fur­ther?

Again no­body knows yet, not even Am­bas­sador Thomas, de­spite what he has said in pub­lic.

It is, how­ever, safe to say that Trump will not be too keen to per­pet­u­ate any of Obama’s poli­cies or legacy, even in­her­ited poli­cies from Ge­orge W Bush; whom Trump does not ad­mire a bit ei­ther.

Zim­babwe we are one and to­gether we will over­come. It is home­land or death.

Rea­son Wafawarova is a po­lit­i­cal writer based in SYD­NEY, Aus­tralia.

Don­ald Trump

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