As a rule, I sleep with ear-buds in, my iPod tuned into Radio Scotland. I’ve done this, ever since I discovered it to be a rather pleasant way to drift off to sleep, and then, some hours later, to gently, gradually awaken. Last night, Radio Scotland was supplanted by the BBC’s television coverage of the US presidential election, via the iPlayer app, which though playing on screen, I opted to listen to, eyes closed, rather than watch. After half an hour or so, I must have drifted asleep, as I’d thought, and indeed hoped I would. A few hours later, at 3am, I slowly come to, just as I’d intended (what a marvelous thing, our internal alarm clock!).
By then, it was already clear, that the momentum, if she ever truly had it, had shifted away from the former Secretary of State. Now, it was with the tangoed snake oil salesman, real estate mogul and former reality television personality I like to call the Trumpet. The seasoned, stalwart, presenters and pundits expressed their astonishment, that against all the odds, the self-professed anti-establishment crusader, could be about to vanquish the combined forces of the political class, the corporates, the majority of the mass media and countless other vested interests, to deny the Bush-Clinton dynasty the succession, to which they’ve come to believe they are entitled.
At the outset of their coverage, Andrew Neil, Katty Kay, and the wider BBC team, together with their many esteemed and expert guests, repeated what we’ve been being told for months. They told us, nay, reassured us, that the Trumpet’s path to the White House, was a narrow one indeed. They were wrong, for just a few hours, and in my case, some shut-eye later, we were being told just the opposite. It was, Hillary ‘crooked’ Clinton, the very embodiment of the establishment, who’s path was the narrow one. So narrow, it transpired, that it led only to defeat and despair.
Was it a surprise, or a shock? I’m not so sure it was. Those who say, that a number of people must have been less than honest, when asked by pollsters, about their voting intentions, may have been right. But what about those, off the radar, as it were, who weren’t asked? Or the quiet ones? For some time, I had had a sneaking suspicion that, like the Scottish independence and EU referendums, where a significant number chose to remain silent about their intentions to vote no, and leave, there were a good many shy Trumpeters.
A curious coalition saw the Trumpet emerge victorious. The following, is by no means exhaustive, but aims to paint a broad picture. Firstly, there were the died in the wool Republican’s who, when push came to shove, and though many were repulsed by their candidate, simply couldn’t bring themselves to vote any other way. Secondly, there were those who, relatively speaking, are doing just fine, but harbour an over-inflated sense of grievance, fueled by avarice, misogyny, racism and xenophobia. Together, those two multifarious groups, who are, by and large, at home on the right, wouldn’t have been enough to take Donald Trump all the way. Which brings us to a third group. Last, but by no means least, there were the dispossessed, the disgusted and the disillusioned. Those who feel let down and abandoned by the elite. It was arguably they, who carried their would be champion, the rest of the way to the White House.
Shamelessly, Trump was selling the same snake oil offered up by Nigel Farage and his fellow Brexiteers, during the EU referendum. And enough people swallowed it. His plagiaristic battle cry “Make America Great Again”, reminiscent of the Brexiteer’s equally vacuous “take back control”, was similarly simple, but effective. Like his new best friend, Farage, Donald Trump made claims that were both fantastical and frightening. Put bluntly, he made promises, he himself, those advising him, and many of those who voted for him, must know he won’t be able to keep. Yet, enough people, so disenchanted are they, with the great and the good on Capitol Hill, that they were willing to put this inconvenient truth to one side, and make Mr Trump their President.
People’s disdain of the American establishment, came to be personified, in their deep dislike, and distrust of Hillary Clinton. How much of that, is down to her considerable political baggage and how much of it is down to straightforward sexism, is not important here. Both factors, undoubtedly played their part, and the Trumpet played them for all they were worth. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it was probably a mistake for the Democratic Party to select her as their candidate. You might ask, if they felt she wasn’t the best bet in 2008, why would it be any different in 2016? Did the Democrats feel they owed her? Possibly. Would Bernie Sanders have defeated the Trumpet? Probably.
For better, or worse, Donald Trump is now the USA’s President-elect. And for what it’s worth, when making his victory speech, he chose to reach out, as the American’s like to say. He was calm, conciliatory and consensual, when he could have chosen to crow. He was even, shock, horror, respectful if not reverential towards his erstwhile rival. It was, just a little strange, after nearly a year and a half of bellicose, belligerence and bile. When Mr Trump said “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans”, let us hope he meant it. Many of us, will find it difficult to set aside his anti-immigrant apoplexy, the racist remarks, demeaning the disabled and appearing to boast of having sexually assaulted women, amongst other things. We can only hope, for example, that “The Great Wall of Mexico”, goes the way of the NHS’s £350million a week.
Like Brexit here, I very much doubt that Trump’s “Brexit plus, plus, plus” will come anywhere near providing anything like a panacea for all America’s ills. Time will tell, if now that the circus of the campaign is consigned to history, President Trump proves far more serious, stable, sane and sober that the ranting and raving demagogue, that blundered, belittled and bashed his way to the White House.