Trump’s victory is not what it seems

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November 2016 will forever be remembered as the month when billionaire Donald Trump shocked much of America, and most of the rest of the world, by becoming President of the United States. For the first few months in which he campaigned against Hillary Clinton, many reporters and political pundits thought his candidacy was a practical joke, but “The Hair” is having the last laugh.

Trumps victory not what it seemsOf course, many jokes about Trump were doing the rounds just minutes after he was announced as President Elect. However, an equal number of panicked – and reprehensible – social media posts were going viral, as racial and gender tensions reached a fever pitch in the wake of Trump’s sometimes divisive political campaign.

USA Today reported that The Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 200 complaints of hate crimes in the week after Election Day. Pictures were posted of swastikas painted on walls, anti-semitic and anti-muslim graffiti, and the Internet exploded with allegations of hateful comments directed at people of colour all over the country.

This provided proof for Trump’s detractors that Armageddon had indeed arrived, and that America was going to go up in flames. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement that he was looking forward to working with the 45th US President to bring the two countries closer only added fuel to the fire.

The stereotype of those that voted for Trump seemed to be borne out through the increasing numbers of acts of hatred and racism across the country: White, uneducated, racist, sexist, homophobic and generally bigoted individuals were considered those that Trump’s message resonated with most, and those that ultimately voted him into power.

Polls, however, paint a different picture, indicating that just under half of the country’s black, Hispanic and female voters put their mark next to Donald Trump’s name. While a small minority of his supporters have brought the liberals’ worst fears to life, the majority of Trump voters chose his message over Hillary Clinton’s as a result of the stressful socio-economic circumstances that have put pressure on the American middle class for over a decade.

In a blog on UK magazine The Spectator’s website, writer Brendan O’Neill adds that Trump’s victory is proof of ordinary people’s fatigue with the political and social elites – in much the same way Brexit was. “This response to Trump’s victory reveals why Trump was victorious. Because those who do politics these days — the political establishment, the media, the academy, the celeb set — are so contemptuous of ordinary people, so hateful of the herd, so convinced that the mass of society cannot be trusted to make political decisions, and now those ordinary people have given their response to such top-down sneering and prejudice,” he writes.

In South Africa, as a result of our vastly different demographics, a similar sentiment was shared by the ANC about “the clever blacks” and their political views. They, too, responded by voting against the elites.

“The respectable set’s allergy to Trump is fundamentally an allergy to the idea of democracy itself,” O’Neill writes. To them, Trump’s rise confirms the folly of asking the ignorant, the everyday, the non-subscribers to the New York Times, to decide on important political matters. They’re explicit about this now. In the run-up to election day, big-name commentators wondered out loud if democracy is all it’s cracked up to be. Trump’s ascendancy showed we need better checks and balances on ‘the passions of the mob’, said Andrew Sullivan. We should ‘cool and restrain [these] temporary populist passions’, he said, and refuse to allow ‘feeling, emotion’ to override ‘reasoned deliberation’. The little folks only feel and wail, you see, and it’s down to the grown-ups in the system to think coolly on their behalf.”

O’Neill points to the Brexit mirrors of this phenomenon: ‘Why elections are bad for democracy’, a headline in the Guardian said. The people are deluded and it is the task of those with ‘reason and expertise’ to ‘un-delude’ them, said a writer for Foreign Policy. ‘What if democracy doesn’t work? What if it never has and never will?’, wondered a pained George Monbiot.

The type of leader Trump will turn out to be remains to be seen, but his election is the latest in what seems to be a worldwide trend of people using the democratic process to enact major change. While the elites question democracy, the people’s voices are questioning the status quo; and the answer is increasingly appearing in the form of major political changes. Who would have thought the day would come when Donald Trump spoke for the average Joe?

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Copyright: danielfela / 123RF Stock Photo

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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.

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