The Victory of The Donald

trumpNow that’s a front page I never expected to see. I was confidently predicting that the Donald would be sent packing by the establishment candidate.

Just shows how wrong you can be…

Here’s some immediate reactions – written on an East Coast mainline train – to another of 2016’s seismic political events.

  1. More evidence, if it were needed that sections of the electorate, and not just white working class people, feel angry, disconnected and left behind. The failure of the liberal centre left to address their concerns or find an alternative narrative is once again exposed. That doesn’t mean they’ll never find a winning position in this post factual world, but they are way off it at the moment. Naomi Wolfe and Ed Miliband get this.
  2. Hillary didn’t help. I believe that she was a victim of historical circumstance – and it is an enormous personal tragedy for her – but the Democrats played right into the hands of ‘The Donald’ by picking the most establishment candidate on Earth. How much does she charge for a speech at Goldman Sachs? She was the wrong pick from the start.
  3. The US is no stranger to poisonous political culture. I was struck by a paragraph in Death of A President which describes how some Texans cheered news that Kennedy had been shot. It’s unfair to label Trump as the cause of this but his behaviour hasn’t helped and has inflamed existing tensions.
  4. We are in for a nasty bout of rabid anti-Americanism last seen during Dubya’s presidency. This noticeably died down with Obama’s election, it’ll increase again now. The US will once again become an international bogey man to some, particularly on climate change.
  5. The Donald faces some enormous policy challenges. Part of the problem is delivering his promises in the context of global complexities. I’d argue it’s harder to be an isolationist – because of trends and developments in communications and culture – now than it was 30 years ago. And building that wall is a mammoth construction and infrastructure task and that’s even before you try to get Mexico to pay for it.
  6. You could see the 2016 result as another example of the decline of US influence and empire. The theory runs like this – the 20th century was the American century when its ideas, culture, and foreign policy dominated the world. The end of the Cold War was its high water mark of power and influence, but since then things haven’t gone well either in domestic or foreign policy. This election could be seen as another sign of that sharp decline. The Roman Empire took 500 years to rise and fall, America could do the same in half that.
  7. I don’t buy the idea that this is the US right’s last great hurrah before it is overwhelmed by millennials and other demographic forces. Trump’s tactics were incredibly effective. Until the progressive centre left wakes up and offers a different vision and better candidates, people like him will continue to win power by appealing to people’s deepest, and often justified, fears and anxieties.
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