The triumph of Donald Trump over his much fancied Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has sent shock waves through out world capitals. Right from the beginning, Trump remained the under dog despised by his own Republican big wigs and dismissed by the media and pollsters who predicted a convincing victory for Hilary Clinton. A total of 170 newspapers endorsed the candidature of Clinton as president as opposed to only 17 newspapers backing Trump.
A string of polls taken during the last week before November 7 suggested a comfortable win for Clinton although some claimed the race is tightening. BBC, which uses the median average of the five most recent national US polls, had Clinton at 49 per cent and Trump at 46 per cent. Washington Post-ABC tracking poll had Clinton at 46 per cent and Trump at 45 per cent, including third party candidates. The polls and the experts and the data modellers predicted it would be a woman as Madame President for the first time in the nation 247 year’s long histories.
Trump enjoyed a slight surge in support after James Comey FBI director released the stunning memo to Congress leaders on October 28 that he is reopening the investigating against Clinton following the recovery of 2,500 emails during a sexting investigation of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced ex-congressman who is separated from longtime Clinton aide Human Abedin. The FBI said it is looking into whether there was classified information on a device belonging to the estranged husband of one of her closest aides. On November 4, Comey confirmed that there was no new evidence against Clinton and he is closing the file. It is open to debate whether the initial news that broke out on October 28 by itself would have changed the minds of many voters about her. However, after the defeat at the polls, Clinton claimed that she lost the elections because of the political sensitivity created by Comey reopening the probe days before the elections.
Like pollsters, the bookies were also busy when they accepted betting at 11- 4 meaning Trump has only 26.7 per cent chance of winning the elections. His previous odds stood at 5-1 or 16.7 chance of winning.
Based on the polls, Democratic Party leaders predicted Clinton would win 300 electoral votes or more. And Clinton herself the day before the election held a victory celebration on a campaign flight plane. Law enforcement officials and the FDNY were told to prepare for a barge-launched pyrotechnic display off Manhattan’s Javits Center, where Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine planned to join thousands of their supporters for the November 8 night celebration.
But, what man proposes the god disposes, the stunning win by Trump shook the ground under the feet of Clinton and her supporters. What should have been a grand celebrations turned into a nightmare of gigantic proportions. Throughout the election campaign that commenced in June 2015, Americans didn’t take Trump seriously. Trump, a brash real estate billionaire and media personality whose biggest previous achievement was building his glitzy Trump brand hotels, Casinos, towers pulled off the greatest presidential victory feat of all time. Today, Donald J. Trump is president-elect of the United States of America busy forming his cabinet.
There were several road blocks placed against a Trump win. Some of his own party leaders first conspired to deny him the GOP nomination. Once Trump won the primaries, once again some GOP leaders, including senators, congressmen and governors refused to endorse him. This is understandable for two reasons (1) Trump never held any public office before he jumped into the fray. (2) Trump through out of his campaign slandered not only his opponents, but also the stalwarts of his own party. His language was definitely un -presidential, heated, hostile, and uncivil and included a lot of finger-pointing.
Trump was accused of making outlandish and outrageous statements about building a wall on the US border with Mexico to stem the flow of rapists and sexists, deporting 10 million illegal immigrants without documents out of USA, cutting taxes for the wealthy and bombing the ISIS out of existence. A dozen women accused Trump of sexual harassment, spanning from groping on planes to unwanted advancement at parties. He lost three straight debates against Clinton and earned the disapproval of roughly 60% of the voters. He threatened to lock Hillary Clinton behind bars once elected. Trump spent years claiming President Obama was born outside the country and, therefore, an illegitimate president though he has retracted now. While he bragged he earned tens and millions of dollars each year, yet he paid no taxes. He refused to disclose his income tax returns. Despite all these accusations and his own failures he defeated one of the most seasoned and famous politicians in the world, a former Secretary of State, US Senator and First Lady by a convincing margin, though losing the popular vote.
How a president does get elected once in 4 years? Each of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, where Washington is located, has a number of votes in the Electoral College to award to a candidate. The number of votes is based on the number of members of congress (Not Senate which is 2 per state) the state has which is in proportion to the population of the state. All states bar Maine and Nebraska give their votes on a winner takes all basis according to which candidate received the most number of votes in that state. This means that it is important to win the states with a large population such as California (55) Texas (38) New York (29) and Florida (29). In the 2012 presidential elections, Obama secured 51.19 per cent of the total votes cast in the election but a whopping 68% of the Electoral College votes by taking these key states. The number of Electoral College votes required to take up residence in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is 270 that is 1/2 of 538 + 1.
In the just concluded elections only 131, 71,400 (56.8%) million voters casts their ballots out of 231,556,622 million eligible to vote. The balance 99,815,122 million (43.2%) did not vote. By international standards US voter turnout is low. Trump who won the election polled just 25.87% of the total registered voters! This is how democracy works out in practice. US presidential election system is different compared to some other countries with presidential system of government. The following Table 1 shows how the electorate voted for the two leading candidates.
In 2016, Clinton/Kaine received 3,942,570 fewer votes than Obama/Biden in 2012 which shows the white/blue colour votes that went to Obama/Biden went this time to Trump/Pence. As for Trump/Pence they secured 1,343,954 more votes this time compared to Romney/Ryan in 2012. Clinton’s Black voter support dropped 5 % compared to 2012. The support for Clinton among active black voters was still exceedingly high (87 percent, versus 93 percent for Obama), but the big difference was the turnout. Almost two million black votes cast for Obama in 2012 did not turn out for Clinton. If in North Carolina blacks had turned out for Clinton as they did for Obama, she would have won the state and collected the 29 College votes.
About 156 million non-Hispanic whites were eligible to vote on Election Day, compared with 70 million non-white voters. The shift has been fuelled by a growing Hispanic birth rate. Non-white voters represented 60 percent of the vote this year, down from 71 percent of the electorate in 2012. During that four-year period, 10.7 million more voters became eligible to cast a ballot, including 7.5 million Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and other minorities. The ranks of white voters, however, only grew by 3.2 million.
It’s not just that Hispanics are having more babies. Whites are dying at a higher rate. Since the 2012 presidential election, about 76 percent of all eligible voters who died, up to 8.7 million people, were white.
To many Americans, Muslim population growth through immigration as well as conversion is causing concerns. It has been estimated that there were more than 100 mosques in the US in 1970, but immigration of about a million Muslims since then have led to a boom in building mosques. A survey’s tally of 2,106 mosques marks a 74 percent increase since the year 2000, when 1,209 mosques were counted. Included in the tally are New York (257), California (246), Texas (166) Florida (118) and Illinois (109). However, Islam in the United States, even with its rapid growth, is still probably two to four percent (about 9 million) of the total population.
Many Americans fear that there is a real threat to the country’s security on account of radical Islam sponsored by outfits like ISIS. In particular, white Americans feel Clinton and her Democratic party is soft on Muslim immigration. Clinton supported the admission of Syrian refugees into US, but she wanted the number of Syrian refugees admitted to increase from 10,000 to 65,000. Vice President elect Mike Pence wants immigration to be freezeed. UNHCR has reported around 478,000 Syrians are in need of resettlement.
With the November 13th attack in Paris that killed 130 people and injured 368, many are asking what the risk is if a similar attack takes place in US soil. While France has a proportionately larger Muslim population than the United States (7.5% of the total population in France compared with 2% – 4% in the U.S.). It is feared that ISIS has already recruited supporters in the United States with the intent of executing domestic attacks in America. Not all Muslims in US are Arab; they consist of many nationalities, including Black and White converts. Of all the Muslims in America, only 63% are immigrants.
Republicans, Democrats and political pundits alike have described the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as a referendum on race relations in the U.S. This time around more male White voters supported Trump compared to Clinton. Noam Chomsky, the renowned scholar and MIT professor emeritus, told Huffington Post low-income Whites were fuelling Trump’s success at the polls.
“He’s evidently appealing to deep feelings of anger, fear, frustration, hopelessness, probably among sectors like those that are seeing an increase in mortality, something unheard of apart from war and catastrophe,” said Chomsky. Conservative newspaper columnists urged voters to cast their ballots for Trump to save America from dying! Of all issues, immigration both legal and illegal remained contentious among white voters. There was a fear that non-whites are taking over America and that their values are in danger.
“Foreigners come here not out of a love for America, but for a love of the cradle-to-grave welfare state that America has become,” Wayne Allyn Root wrote for the Las Vegas Review. The following Table 2 shows voter support to Trump and Clinton on the basis of Gender, Colour and Education.
During the election campaign Trump dished out a rash of promises to the voters what he will do or not do, if he gets elected as President of America. Trump’s core pledge to “Make America Great Again” was itself built on a host of lofty promises that galvanized his supporters and helped him clinch an upset victory. What Trump highlighted during his campaign was about American white and blue collar workers losing their jobs because of globalization and free trade agreements. American companies are moving in large numbers from America to Mexico. ‘Jobs, jobs and more jobs’ was his slogan. He also mentioned that they bring the goods to America without much or no tariff.
In the Brexit movement, the concerns were about Europeans coming and taking the jobs of the British workers. Trump also highlighted the high skilled migrants taking the occupations of the American professionals. Everything indicated towards renewed American nationalism and the sentiment became epitomized in the slogan “Making America Great Again.”
Another facet of the elections is how demographic changes influenced the election results. Of the more than 40 million immigrants who have come to America since 1965, half of them have been Hispanic and nearly a third of them have been Asian, according to census figures. Although the minority share of the electorate is growing, the electorate is still overwhelmingly white. About 70 % of voters were white working class/non-college educated voters decided to cast their ballots to Trump. In the 1990s when Bill Clinton ran for president, blue-collar whites who are were more or less evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. But, on November 7, Donald Trump won this group nationally by roughly 40 points. And that was how he won even key states like Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Those states were won by Barack Obama in 2012, but this time Trump won though with narrow majorities. Table 3 below shows the US demography for 2016 (estimated)
The U.S. Census Bureau defines the ethno Hispanic or Latino to refer to “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race” and states that Hispanics or Latinos can be of any race, any ancestry, and any ethnicity.
Below are Trump’s top 5 promises his supporters expect him to deliver when he takes office in January, 2017.
(1) To build a wall on the US-Mexico border. He claimed controversially that Mexico was sending “rapists” and “criminals” across the border.
(2) To lock Hillary Clinton in jail over a review of emails in her private server linked to her time as Secretary of State. At the second presidential debate, Trump told her that, were he to win, he would “instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation.” However, FBI Director James Comey said on the eve of the election that Clinton should not face criminal charges reaffirming the Agency’s findings during summer.
(3) A total and complete ban of Muslims entering the US until country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.
(4) Obama care will be repealed calling it a “disaster” and vowing to replace same with “the finest health care plan there is.”
(5) Scrapping NAFTA and TPP and promising to return their communities to the golden years by scrapping what he described as horrible deals for workers.
Election time fiery rhetoric is not the same as politics based on real considerations. Since getting elected Trump appears to backtrack or dilute down on his promises. The US – Mexican border will be both wall and fence. In his victory speech which sounded for the first time presidential, he said “Hillary Clinton has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.” This is a far cry from Trump’s promise to throw her in jail. He also told his faithful that it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time, I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
President elect Trump’s 90 minutes face to face meeting with Obama ended cordially, setting aside the acrimonious shouting match during election campaign.
Yet, it looks like Trump is blowing hot and hold. He has picked up known hardliners on immigration and security to fill top cabinet slots. This may not sit well with many moderate politicians on both sides of the divide.
Anti-immigration Senator Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest supporters during the campaign, has been nominated to be attorney general, signalling Trump is prepared to take his hard line on illegal immigration into the White House. To lead the CIA, Trump appointed hawkish Congressman Mike Pompeo, a strident opponent of the Iran nuclear deal and a sharp critic of Trump’s campaign rival Hilary Clinton during hearings into the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya. Trump also appointed retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, a top military counsel, as his security advisor. World is holding its breath to see who will be the next Secretary of State. Many GOP politicians, including Mite Romney are inkling for the job.
Normally foreign policy do not undergo drastic changes with change of presidents. But with Trump one can never be certain what he will do or not do. Regard to Russia he expressed his willingness to work with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, “I think I’d be able to work with him “said Donald Trump.
In regard to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap the US Ambassador in Colombo was asked whether there will be a change in the foreign policies between Sri Lanka and the US after the election of Donald Trump. “American Foreign Policy, like that of any country is based on American national interest and American national values and the values of interest in the American people overseas would generally remain consistent between administrations” she answered.
US traditional allies like EU countries, UK, Japan and Korea must be worried and anxious about the latest developments in Washington. Trump appears increasingly unpredictable. Nobody seems to know his mind one way or other. Donald Trump is unpredictable because he is not a traditional politician and never held public office. He is only a successful business tycoon, though Barack Obama uncharitably dubbed him as some one “unfit to be president.”
It is often said when America sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. During his election campaign, Donald Trump has promised to shake up the political establishment in Washington controlled by the rich and the powerful, big banks, multi-national corporations or corporate interests, lobbyists, traditional politicians and families. All that can be said now is US will not be the same after Inauguration Day. Strangely, it coincides with the alignment of 5 planets; Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn above the horizon, but planets and stars have no influence on the life of men and women on earth. It is a natural phenomenon that occurs every few years.
Whether Donald Trump is America’s asset or a global liability only time will tell.