Donald Trump’s election victory shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. In the past year or so we have seen Jeremy Corbyn come from nowhere to win the Labour leadership on two occasions, and the UK surprise the international community in its vote for Brexit. This election was simply America’s turn to buck the trends of politics as we know it.
Most people would accept the fact that a Trump presidency spells disaster and disarray, both at home and in terms of foreign policy. He has been consistently racist, misogynistic, and holds seriously authoritarian views on issues like abortion and the rule of law. Yet despite all this, he won the election convincingly, and everyone who opposes him needs to seriously ask how this could happen.
This was a fight between the two most unpopular US politicians in decades – Trump’s unfavourability rating was at 60%, with Hillary virtually level on 59%. The election was lost by the Democratic Party by their refusal to engage with the working class communities they claim to represent. The effect of this was simply to drive many blue collar communities straight into the arms of the Trump campaign team. It is these communities that have consistently provided the Democratic Party with a secure electoral base, yet for decades both parties have continued to let down workers in post-industrial communities. States like Michigan and Pennsylvania have seen their industries decimated and successive presidencies do little to prevent this decline. Many believed that Obama would change all of this when he was first elected in 2008, but eight years on there is a strong feeling nothing has changed at all. Offering Hillary as his successor was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Clinton’s extensive list of flaws was widely acknowledged. Her questionable record on reproductive rights and gay marriage, her hawkish foreign policy, her secretive and careless e-mail policy, and her willingness to give private speeches to the big banks at $300,000 a shot all worked against her. Throughout the election, the only argument that could seriously be made in her favour was that she was the lesser of two evils, a factor that never strong enough to win an election on its own. Trump on the other hand was able to tap into this widespread dissatisfaction – more often than not in highly controversial ways – and this helped him to gain support from those who have been totally disenfranchised over recent elections. When large swathes of the population wanted to give the system a serious kicking, providing the career politician of Hillary Clinton as the alternative to Trump just proved how out of touch the DNC has become. We can only speculate how different the results may have been if Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic nomination back in July.
Many people have been left feeling disappointed by this result, and much like with the result of the EU Referendum, there has been an outpouring of self-righteous, elitism from certain groups, branding Trump supporters as ignorant and stupid. Whilst Trump’s rhetoric was undeniably xenophobic, this kind of name calling gets us nowhere. Calling Trump supporters stupid is a simple way of ignoring their grievances and dismissing their concerns. People across America feel let down by the system and it is incumbent on everyone who opposes Trump to engage with these people and address their grievances, rather than simply decrying them as ignorant.
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