*All opinions expressed are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Leicester, its’ employees, or associates*
As I write this, it is very early in the morning on the day after the American presidential election. As an American Studies student, I regularly stay up for elections in the U.S. According to the BBC, Trump is currently projected 244 electoral college votes and has multiple pathways to get to the 270 votes needed to get to the White House.
It appears certain that a man that has never before been elected to political office is going to be the next President of the United States. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, boasted about the sexual assault of women, and offered few coherent points of policy throughout the campaign. His vision for America includes deportation, wall building, and restrictions on international trade. Trump wants to leave N.A.T.O, has referred to people of Mexican origin as criminals and rapists, and mocked a disabled reporter. He had to have his Twitter account taken from him during the campaign and has threatened to sue women who have accused him of assault. Trump even promised to implement a total ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. Yes, every single one of the 1.6 billion Muslims across the world. Regarding his opponent, Trump has at various times claimed he wants to put Clinton in jail or that he would refuse to concede in the event he lost. In doing so, Trump stands against almost everything I believe in. He has shown he is temperamentally unfit to be President and exhibited flagrant disregard for American democracy. It is unprecedented that a candidate for Presidential office would openly state their intention to refuse to conceded.
However, I won’t fall foul to hyperbole. For sure, Trump’s election seems a direct threat to many of my closest friends in the United States. I’m concerned for the safety of my female, LGBTQ+, Latinx, disabled, and visibly Muslim friends in the United States. Remember though, that the office of the President is limited by several checks and balances. His election is therefore perhaps more concerning for what it reflects about the attitudes of many Americans toward minority groups and economic liberalisation. Although we should listen to the voices of those who are scared, I think we should also be rational.
Like I said, Trump will be severely limited by Congress. Though it seems that both the House of Representatives and the Senate will go Republican, many Congressional and establishment Republicans are opposed to Trumpism. He can’t go ahead and deport all illegal immigrants and get Mexico to pay for that wall. He can’t even replace vacant spots on the Supreme Court without the Senate approving the nomination first. Although he may or may not be able to declare war, he can’t finance it without Congress. As a businessman, a skill Trump can perhaps bring to Capitol Hill is the ability to make deals. One of the most interesting aspects of the Trump Administration will be his relationship with Congress. If he doesn’t work with his Congressmen, dissident Republicans and Democrats could be enough to overturn any vetoes Trump uses.
As for what his election reflects about attitudes in the U.S., I believe many Trump supporters are decent, hard working Americans. Anecdotally, those I know who voted for Trump didn’t do so because they hate women or Mexican people. They feel left behind by economic growth in the United States, concerned about the impact liberal activist judges may have on the Supreme Court, and concerned about the impact of globalisation. Clinton represented the elite so despised by the middle and working classes and consistently took their votes for granted. In a similar way to Labour in the U.K, we saw Democrats struggling to connect with their base. Trump however bought out his core and encouraged some who had never voted before out to the poles.
Instead of being talked down to and referred to as deplorables, if ‘liberals’ had instead attempted to communicate with and understand those disenfranchised working class voters these frustrations may not have been expressed through a Trump vote. If the Democrats had not considered the Rust Belt a given and had talked to voters there, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. ‘Timid Trumpettes’ are hardly a surprise when the vitriol from both sides has been so poisonous. As much as I’m sad and appalled that someone like Trump could be elected, I’m certainly not surprised.
So please, don’t overreact so soon. What we need now is for those on one side or the other to cease tarring all others with the same brush. People with opposing viewpoints are not your enemies. Hillary seems likely to win the popular vote which means both sides are going to have to work to soothe the wounds create by this campaign. Imagine people complexly and try and show understanding, the United States and the world need it more than ever.