For the past 24 hours, we’ve all been thinking ‘what just happened?’ The Americans, most of all, but this is all too familiar even to us Brits. When we think back to the Brexit vote, we were all stunned for the same reasons, the polling was wrong, our predictions were wrong and we never thought it would really happen. Well, here we are again. I’ve spent much of the past few years travelling around the United States and have gained a perspective on the whole thing so here goes.
Trump seems to have appealed to certain groups while completely alienating others, and although voters usually support either of the two main parties, he has managed to gain the support of a previously committed group of Democratic voters. Blue collar/industrial workers, such as miners, automotive and steel workers who were typically loyal to Democrats have been won over by Trump’s promises to get them their jobs back. As a result Trump was able to win over some of the states that might have easily been Hilary’s.
While the minorities are understandably concerned, given Trump’s promises of building a wall and mass deportation, states with a large Hispanic population such as Florida have ultimately voted Republican. Why? Because they are voting for the party and not the candidate. I have a number of Republican friends in the US, some didn’t vote and others voted Republican even though they’re not sure Trump is the right guy. This puts the Americans in between a rock and a hard place. Do you vote for the party you support despite the unfavourable candidate, vote against your party, which means going against your beliefs or in the case of many Americans, do nothing.
One thing that may have turned this around and provided a very different result could have been the youth vote. Now that Trump is in, young people are absolutely devastated, students are rioting in Oregon, burning US flags and people are making death threats to Trump on social media. It’s clear that America’s youth are not pro-Trump. Even so, in the midst of all of Hillary’s campaigning, there wasn’t a big call for the youth vote. What’s more, in the lead up to the US elections, the favourite among young people was Bernie Sanders, one of the initial Democratic candidates. It’s this kind of progressive candidate that young voters are looking for. He supports issues such as global warming and LGBT rights. The young voter is far more in tune with these issues and I think the millennials, tired with the formulaic Democratic/Republican system , will ultimately be the ones to vote for a third party candidate.
So, what are we in for? A lot of what Trump does or doesn’t do in the next 4 years may not affect us much directly but this entire process is another reminder of democracy and how it can surprise us all. We will be watching closely to see if Trump follows through with his promises or whether he retreats in the face of resistance. We could learn something very valuable about our own situation.
Not so long ago, we were thinking the same thing, faced with the reality of leaving the EU and the potentially catastrophic consequences. In both situations, people have demonstrated that they are fed up with the politicians of today, all lobbying for special interest groups and big businesses instead of for the good of the people. Some of the Brexit supporters would argue that leaving the EU presents some opportunities to make our lives better. Maybe the same can be said for the Trump administration. The fact that Trump’s acceptance speech was conciliatory and not at all as aggressive as he’s been over the past 12 months, made me wonder whether all of his extreme views and promises were just a ploy to get him elected and maybe he will soften once he starts his term. Having a non-politician at the helm as the leader of the free world may be the start of the change this institution needs to shake things up.