Trump loyalists said the media focused on interpreting Mr. Trumps’ toxic rhetoric too literally rather than taking him seriously. Despite polling data that indicated a Clinton victory, voters agreed and seem to have taken Mr. Trump seriously and not literally. America now has its’ strongman and the world is anxiously waiting to see if Mr. Trump will be presidential or a presidential strongman, writes Tomas Mega, our US correspondent
Improbability has become reality, leaving Americans and the world breathless. Pollsters, pundits, skeptics and even supporters doubted Donald Trump could ever make the White House his home. Now he’s moving in.
President-elect Trump’s campaign message was all about getting tough and being tough, and that would make America great again. He told Americans he was going to get tough on illegal immigration, deporting millions and building that big wall along the southern U.S. border (tough on bad trade deals that cost Americans their jobs and prosperity), tough on terrorism, tough on the threat of terrorism, tough on Muslims entering America as well as Muslims already here. He was going to be tough on the devastating impact of drugs and murder rates in American cities, tough on a crumbling American infrastructure, tough on painfully slow economic growth, crushing regulatory rule, low wages and stagnating personal incomes. Mr. Trump said only he could solve America’s problems. In contrast, Hillary Clinton ran mostly on her CV, a message that Mr. Trump dismembered in the campaign.
Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote, but that doesn’t elect a President in America. Remember Al Gore? He won the popular vote in 2000, but George W. Bush, like Mr. Trump, won the Electoral College vote. That election was a much closer battle, with Mr. Bush winning 271 Electoral College votes to Mr. Gore’s 266. With a few states still sorting out their ballots (as of this writing), it appears Mr. Trump may have beaten Mrs. Clinton by nearly sixty electoral votes.
Trump loyalists said the media focused on interpreting Mr. Trumps’ toxic rhetoric too literally rather than taking him seriously. Despite polling data that indicated a Clinton victory, voters agreed and seem to have taken Mr. Trump seriously and not literally. America now has its’ strongman.
How did Mr. Trump do it? By winning a few states with sizeable Electoral College votes that haven’t voted for a Republican President in 24 years; states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Mrs. Clinton was so confident that she would win Wisconsin she hardly campaigned there. He also captured major Republican prizes in the battleground states of Florida and Ohio. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio, and Mr. Trump won the state neatly. As expected, he also did very well with white working-class men and white non-college educated men. As implausible as it may seem, initial data suggests more Hispanics voted for Mr. Trump than Mitt Romney in 2012, and he captured the votes of white women who said no to Mrs. Clinton in unlikely numbers.
Perhaps more telling is the deep rural vs. urban divide in America. Rural counties, which are the majority in America, overwhelming voted for Mr. Trump. He also won counties that Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012. Voter turnout also did not ffavorMrs. Clinton. Nearly everywhere she won, she had less turnout than Mr. Obama did in 2008 and 2012.
The world did not end after Mr. Trump’s victory and despite global financial markets crashing after the results, American stock markets were not only stable, but also had surprising gains in the days following the election. That is perhaps due to Mr. Trump’s more humble rhetoric since his victory. Conceivably those who took him seriously were right, and those who took him literally were wrong. Who really knows; three days after his election Mr. Trump tweeted in response to anti-Trump protests in many cities across America: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” Nine hours later, the President-elect seemed to have a change of heart, tweeting: “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!” Perhaps someone close told him the campaign is over, he won, and it’s time to act Presidential. However, Mr. Trump is sixty-nine years old and has been a thinned-skinned, retaliatory man for much of his life. Any change to his persona will be an enormous personal challenge.
In less than seventy days, Mr. Trump will be inaugurated President. We learn more about his selections for a transition team and potential cabinet posts each day. Alarms are being sounded over his choice of Steve Bannon as chief strategist. Mr. Bannon took over as CEO of Mr. Trump’s campaign in the late going and is credited by many for Mr. Trump’s victory. As the head of far-right Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon has a reputation as an extremist and supporter of white supremacy ideology. A more conciliatory tone was sounded by Mr. Trump’s selection of Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff. Mr. Priebus has been the Republican National Committee chairman, having the unenviable task of trying to referee between Republicans who supported Mr. Trump and those who did not. Indications are that Mr. Priebus does not share many of Mr. Bannon’s views, and talk of a power struggle between the two is already emerging.
Like all strongmen who come to power, the first order of business is to surround yourself with loyalists and marginalize detractors, even if they reside in your own political party. If you are a disbeliever, you had better extend the olive branch very quickly to the strongman. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, no fan of Mr. Trump’s during the campaign, has already signalled he’s doing just that. Expect other Republicans politicians who are hoping for a future in a Trump administration to do the same. Some are likely to fall very hard; Mr. Trump does not take criticism well, nor does his family and close advisers. During the campaign, many Republican insiders angered Mr. Trump and those directly associated with him.
There is always a role for family in a strongman’s ascent and achievement of power. Mr. Trump’s children and son-in-law were highly visible during the campaign and he has indicated a desire for them to have top national security clearances. This has many in both parties worried. Will there be conflict of interests in Mr. Trump’s vast business empire, which spans the world? He initially said his children would manage his businesses if elected but family and loyalty are very important to him. It is hard to imagine his children will be relegated to the offices and boardrooms of his enterprises; strongmen really don’t work that way.
Following his election, Mr. Trump said he would be a President for all Americans. He didn’t campaign that way and loyalists in and out of his immediate circle may want him to be more like the man who campaigned than a man who has won. Americans will get some idea of what kind of President Mr. Trump will be in the days and weeks to come as his cabinet choices and the role of his family becomes clear.
And there is Mr. Trump’s bombastic rhetoric and toxic tweets. Twitter has emerged as his favored platform to excite his supporters. He’s suggested that he is going to soften his rhetoric and moderate the tweeting. The majority of American voters, and much of the world, wait anxiously to see if America has gotten a man who can be Presidential or a Presidential strongman.
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