THE American voter has demanded change – radical, wrenching and searing change. In electing Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, change is what the American voter, and the world at large, is on the threshold of getting. It is impossible to know at this stage what a Trump presidency will mean in practice, but with the Republicans retaining a majority the House of Representatives and the Senate and Mr Trump sweeping to an impressive victory in the electoral college, it seems likely that the new president will try and quickly deliver on his signature campaign promises.
Building a wall along the US-Mexico border; imposing severe curbs on immigration from Muslim countries; dismantling Obamacare; rewriting major trade deals; ramping up the fight against alleged Islamist militants abroad while pursuing an isolationist policy elsewhere – Mr Trump has every reason and likely congressional support to implement the agenda he promised the voter on the campaign trail. Why has the US decided to change direction so abruptly and wrenchingly? Surely, some of the factors are international such as the growing and recognisable opposition in swathes of the developed Western world to the post-Cold War, neoliberal economic order.
Long-term economic stagnation suffered by large sections of the populations compounded by the great recession triggered by the financial crash in 2008 has undeniably helped create a volatile constituency for change. Yet, there does appear to be identity and racial politics at work too in the US case – so-called Old America rejecting the rapid social and cultural changes being pushed through by the more diverse liberal America. Trumpian slogans ‘Make America great again’ and ‘Take back your country’ converged in a way where the desired American future is rooted in a perceived glorious past and now president-elect Trump has the mandate to try and effect his and his voters’ vision for America.
Undoubtedly aware of the anxiety his election has triggered inside America and in the world at large, Mr Trump’s first comments since winning a historic election in the early hours of Tuesday morning struck a conciliatory and empathetic note. Perhaps Mr Trump will seek to govern in a radically different manner to his divisive campaign strategy – he has consistently surprised many and surpassed the expectations of all. But it must also be acknowledged that all freshly elected presidents, including the incumbent, Barack Obama, set out promising to heal wounds and bring the country together, while immediately pursuing policies that do the opposite. The facts are stark in America today: on the right and the left, the American voter is deeply unhappy about the path his country has been on and violently opposed to the political establishment across the ideological spectrum. To Mr Trump have gone the electoral spoils; America and the world can only hope he will be a responsible leader.