Today was a huge day for the USA and the world. Donald Trump was elected president, against expectations and what polls told us. We were entertained, we were glued to our screens and our social media, we were amused at the absurdity of the whole situation, but we did not expect this to become real. But it did. We had our 9/11. Now the millenneals have their 11/9. All we can hope for is that Donald Trump is a con. That he galvanised feelings of bigotry and racism (in addition to feelings of disenchantment with Washington and the economic direction of the US) and said many horrible things, simply to get elected. Let us hope that now he will follow sensible policies and that his reign will not result in global uncertainty and a reversal of hard-won freedoms for those most vulnerable.
Trump’s acceptance speech was nothing like his utterances during the hard-fought election process. There was no talk of a wall between Mexico and the US; he said nothing about a ban on Muslims; he did not talk about defunding NATO, allowing more countries to get nuclear weapons, bombing ISIS families or starting a trade war with China; and he did not hint at prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Instead, he praised her for her efforts in the campaign and her meaningful contribution to US politics. This was a different Trump, a Trump that had achieved his goal (no matter the cost), a Trump looking for reconciliation, a magnanimous Trump even.
So maybe we will be lucky. Maybe most of the extreme things he said during his campaign were simply uttered so that he could ignite the heartland of America, the rustbelt, the South, the social conservatives, the evangelicals to support him. Maybe he did not really mean these things. Maybe it was all a con to achieve his ends, which was to occupy the White House. Not everything he said was predicated on hate of the foreign, distrust of the unknown and a yearning for a return to simpler times (at least for white people). Much of what he said was aimed at those middle class and working families that have seen their economic exclusion grow over the past 30 years. A grouping that have become exasperated and tired with the way that Washington operates. This is the same group of people that Bernie Sanders was targeting.
So if Donald Trump has just pulled off the greatest con in US political history, what are we to expect? Walls, bans, hate, trade wars, buffoonery and groping? I don’t think so. I see no wall being built and I see no ban on Muslims. Current immigration vetting is already very strong and I would not rule out an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
I would think that his presidency would have an internal focus with much less attention given to global diplomacy. He is unlikely to deviate from current US involvement in conflict areas such as Iraq and Syria, but would likely be pro reducing involvement over time. New hotspots will likely be left to sort themselves out – a new period of US isolationism.
A quick win in the US would be to commence a large (and much overdue) infrastructural spending programme, creating jobs and rewarding his base for their votes. This will likely lead to ballooning debt, but is a price that he may be willing to pay. Tax cuts will likely also be on the cards, but may be phased in over time, especially in the light of large infrastructural spend.
On the trade front, we may see a more protectionist attitude with the Trans-Pacific Partnership being the first victim. The biggest downside of such an approach would be rising inflation in the US, which could also usher in the end of quantitative easing and finally lead to a rise in US interest rates.
Interestingly, even though (Republican) Trump will have a Republican Senate and House to theoretically support his policies, it may not be that easy with many representatives not agreeing with his approach. We may find him having to build coalitions across the aisle to enact some of his plans.
On the positive side (for Republicans), the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is likely to commence shortly after his inauguration. However, it is not clear whether it will simply be rolled back or whether something else will be put in its place. Ironically, many of his (non-traditional Republican and even traditional Republican) supporters will probably favour some alternative rather than nothing at all.
On the negative side (for Republicans), Donald Trump may not be as conservative as Republicans would like in appointing Supreme Court judges. His progressive New York values (as Ted Cruz referred to) probably puts him on the side of at least maintaining the recently won (marriage equality) and entrenched (woman’s right to choose) freedoms. If I am correct (and he was conning his base), he may once again have to build a cross-aisle coalition to affirm his nominees.
If we are very lucky, he may even address inner city decay (as promised) and support reasonable gun laws. This may be overly ambitious, even if he conned the base, but we can hope. Global warming may be the biggest (and most serious) issue that is left unaddressed, regardless. On this topic, all we can do is to continue agitating.
If, however Donald Trump is not a con. If he meant what he said during his election campaign, the US and the world is in for a rough ride and the most vulnerable in the US and the world will suffer most. So, let’s hope that Trump is a con. Let’s hope that now that he has the position he sought, that sanity will prevail. Let’s hope that he does not do too much damage. And maybe, just maybe, he could do something good.
Are you exasperated after the US election? Are you scared of what a Trump presidency may mean? Do you think that maybe he was just conning (at least some of) his supporters to get the position and that his policies will be more reasonable than we expect? I would love to hear your feedback.
In the mean time, keep your talking straight!