Trump is the 45th President of America. We were all wrong.
We were all wrong: journalists, analysts, pollsters and financial operators. The majority of us were completely wrong in our assessment of what was happening at the heart of the United States. Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections is not only a defeat for the democrats but a rejection of the established way of doing politics that hitherto was relatively staid and restrained. It is also a defeat for those whose job it is to report and comment on the facts, making them accessible to the widest possible audience. It is a defeat for the markets, which had more or less taken a Hillary Clinton victory for granted. Those who had thought along similar lines had a rude awakening when they opened their eyes to the world on November 9.
- Wednesday, 09 November 2016
It was meant to be the democratic candidate’s night. It was meant to be, at least in our minds, which had been blurred by months and months of chatter, analysis and polls. It was, however, the night of the outsider. It was the night of the bizarre billionaire New Yorker, misogynist, racist and loud mouth that we had all derided for his crude and trashy approach to politics. But it is clear that the shouting of the construction magnate won out over the forced smile of Hillary, who had never really managed to win over the hearts of the American public. Voters abandoned her at the crucial moment on her path towards the White House, just as she seemed to have one foot on the red carpet leading to the office previously occupied by John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Barack Obama.
North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, even Pennsylvania are some of the states that the former Secretary of State seemed to have in the bag. They ended up, however, at best evenly split between the two candidates and, in the worst case, convincingly backing the most hated republican candidate in history, a man loathed even by numerous colleagues in the Grand Old Party (GOP). Those states that swept Trump to the presidency had been won over in the most simple way of all: by getting amongst the people, to the Rust Belt that had been decimated by the economic crisis, to the middle of nowhere ridiculed by the whole USA. He listened to the people’s anger; he channelled it and used it to his advantage. Did the polls manage to reach the middle of nowhere? Of course, and they showed a clear majority for Trump. But what wasn’t foreseen by the pollsters and analysts that we all believed over the last 18 months was that there is an America that is tired of the politics of career politicians and that America is not confined only to the Great Plains, it is the America of the suburbs of the big cities and the large metropolitan areas.
For her part, did Clinton do all that she could? No, the answer is no. She appropriated those socialist ideas of her main rival in the Democratic primaries, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but her downfall was her past. She said that she wanted to shift the focus away from Wall Street and towards Main Street to the people who live paycheque by paycheque but she failed. Was it her fault? Partly yes, because both she and her staff were unable to position her beyond any suspicion. The revelations of Wikileaks, which came to light perhaps thanks to Russian hackers on the orders of Vladimir Putin, influenced many but they were not decisive. What was decisive in these months was the lack of empathy of a candidate considered too cold, too much of an insider and too constructed. In the words of an old expert in domestic politics at the National Press Club during the long and interminable election night, “everybody hates Hillary because she’s that typical know-it-all auntie that you never want to go and visit.”
Gut feelings and emotions were what determined Americans’ votes. In the newspapers we can find analysis after analysis of the vote; examinations the educational profile of the voters, highlighting how graduates voted for Clinton and illiterates for Trump. The elites will ask themselves how and where they failed to communicate their message of peace to people worse off, to the middle class that is on its knees and unable to climb back up again after years of malaise and difficulties. What we can be sure of is that the elites will not criticize themselves as they cannot manage to avoid being swept up by their own arrogance. They are also set to be swept up by the next recession, given that the US economy is being kept afloat by the Federal Reserve. A Fed that, in light of Trump’s victory, will almost certainly be forced to delay its normalization of monetary policy, with all of the connected risks, from the creation of new price bubbles for certain assets to the emergence of new macroeconomic imbalances. The institution will most probably see its current governor, Janet Yellen, replaced by a more Trump friendly appointment.
Now the United States faces the hardest challenge of all. After the anger, which has been highlighted by the outcome of the elections, it is necessary to find the political awareness to recognise that a new Cold War even more dangerous than the previous one, is not what is needed for a world that has lost its way following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Neither does the US need a new class war. What’s needed is that the USA returns to being an example of democracy for the rest of the world. Trump might have earned the benefit of the doubt given his electoral performance but based on what he has said and done over the last 18 months it would be difficult to predict good things on the horizon for the United States and for the global balance. Some are sure to write that America is experiencing a nightmare. That would be incorrect. Trump is not the nightmare. The nightmare is having ignored the existence of an America that has suffered and that continues to suffer and whose rage against the establishment found its lightning conductor. Trump is the vehicle but the problem remains unresolved, who knows for how long: the problem is the fury of the American people.