From the UK it might have been expected that on landing at Dulles just a few days before election day there would have been a palpable air of outright ferocity, divisiveness and hostilities arising from the mutually corrosive election campaigns of Clinton and Trump.
In the event, all was calm. As were the mostly Republican friends encountered over the next few days. There was no great enthusiasm for Trump as President, but generally agreement that it should be ‘anyone but Hillary’.
At the same time, those voting in DC and Maryland didn’t feel any great pressure to vote Trump. These are Democrat territories, certain Clinton for President voting outcomes (as it turned out 92.8%/4.1% and 60.5%/35.3%, respectively); therefore, because of the Electoral College, a vote for Trump was going to be inconsequential in respect of the Presidential race.
The comparison of the Trump election with the Brexit referendum is overplayed, except in the visceral labeling of anyone supporting either as xxx-phobic. While such a strategy might have reinforced liberal/left (or the xxx-phobe) ideas about their opponents, it neither makes nor wins any argument – more likely closing down debate than illuminating or persuading anyone yet to make up their minds, and making no dent in the committed core votes of either side.
Indeed, listening to the excellent Ashcroft in America series of podcasts from swing States, labelling Trump’s immigration policy racist didn’t swing voters to believing that Clinton had any realistic policy of addressing an issue which was of genuine concern to many (even among ‘Hispanics’ in Florida).
Watching the TV election night coverage is always a treat for an election geek. The final call for Trump seemed to take an age. Time enough for Podesta to address the adoring Democrats gathered in the New York Javits Centre, with an upbeat message that every vote needed to be counted, when all in the room would have known it was the end – they were watching the same TV screens as those of us watching at home, checking each States election announcements which seemed ahead of what the TV stations were broadcasting. AP called it, and still we waiting.
Clinton’s non-appearance was noted on the night; as was the limited, invited and committed audience for when she finally showed up the following morning. Trump’s victory speech in contrast was almost Presidential, perhaps seemingly more so given the preceding campaign rhetoric which so often was pared to a few soundbites to maintain commentary on mainstream media. Perhaps though the whole speeches deserve closer analysis – identifying the initial keynote, and then distinguishing that from the consequent crowd-pleasing entertainment monologues of the Trump performances; a subtle but important distinction.
Obama has little legacy. Internationally, America has lost a sense of its place, projecting mission without much power. Domestically, while Obamacare certainly reformed the insurance market for healthcare, stories of personal, family and friends receiving fourfold hikes in insurance costs and astronomic rises in deductible contributions helped reduce Clinton’s appeal, even as Obama pitched up on the campaign trail in the final weeks to lend some of his magic to Hillary (future insurance premiums were dropping through letter boxes in the week or so running up to election day!).
The Obama promise of hope and change has proven empty, and new hope, and change, sought elsewhere though Trump.
Now is the time of transition.
Time will tell what a Trump Presidential administration will do. Given the apparent contradictions and vagueness accumulated over the years in respect of outlook and policy, and specifically through the election campaign, only time will tell.
On balance, comments around Washington on many individuals among the Trump staff and known transition teams were favourable: transition starts well before election day, just in case.
Of Trump’s team it should not be expected that he will chose people to please the media, or his opposition – that is one thing we can be sure about. Given that there will be a lot of high powered and successful individuals (and egos) around Trump expect fall-outs and rows in due course.
For all those out there who ‘hate’ Trump in that way only liberals can, a word from someone who has been around and seen many US President’s come and go:
‘Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen. I think he operates by a kind of instinct that is a different form of analysis as my more academic one.”
Specifically in respect of what foreign countries may have perceived from Obama’s Administration; that America may have withdrawn from international engagement;
“Here is a new President who’s asking a lot of unfamiliar questions. One could imagine that something remarkable and new emerges out of it.”
Henry Kissinger, on Face the Nation, reported in The Times 21 December 2016.