WHEN the country’s mood is the right, you cannot expect it to vote for Hillary Clinton who represents the left-of-the-centre if not the left. Donald Trump’s victory is an assertion of the white who constitute nearly 63 per cent and still have the phobia of being a minority. It is an unfortunate thinking but one cannot write it off because that is what America is today. Once again, the thesis of isolation is coming to the fore. There have been a substantial number of people in America who believe that they should go it alone and not bother about what the rest of the world feels about them. But this thought has not captured America at the White House. The outgoing President Barack Obama, had two terms although he represented the non-whites.
The policy of isolation has been tried before in the country but the people have come back to a secular policy, which has recognized the constitution more than the minority or the majority. President Abraham Lincoln was a Republican but he has gone down in the history as the most acceptable personality by the minority as well. Donald Trump has, no doubt, outlandish views on Muslims but he is bound to be influenced by the realities of the world. America cannot afford to have an anti-Muslim policy and still expect trade with the Middle East and other Muslim countries. The realities of economics are bound to guide the person at the White House.
In a country where unemployment is the main problem, the promise to give jobs has an appeal. The young voters have been very much influenced by this call because they are in the market to seek job. They have heeded to Donald Trump because he, compared to Hillary Clinton, represents that sentiment. She is seen to support continuity. If Hillary Clinton had won and had deal with a Republican Congress, she would have moved towards the middle as her husband did after the Republican Revolution of 1994. Hillary is regarded as more liberal than Bill Clinton on economic issues. On foreign policy, it is likely that a Democratic victory would have led to more international cooperation than a Republican victory. Democrats are generally more interested in promoting multilateral solutions and diplomacy than Republicans, illustrated by the Obama Administration’s agreement with Iran, which the Republican candidates denounce.
But in more ways than one, the presidential election of 2016 was a referendum on the eight years of President Obama. When he launched his campaign in 2007, Obama was an untried candidate who hoped to be a transformative president the way Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan had been, arguably the two most significant presidents of the 1900s. However, there are diverging views on his achievement, particularly after his final State of the Union Address. President Obama tried arguing why his presidency had been successful. He pointed out that 14 million new jobs were created during his presidency. These included 900,000 jobs in manufacturing that have been added during the last six years. The budget deficit was reduced by three-fourths, according to a transcript of his speech. No doubt, Obama had helped turn the economy around by regulating the financial sector in order to help prevent a new financial crisis.
However, the major disappointment of his regime was his own admission of not succeeding in bridging the divide between the parties. He had hoped to be the person to unite the country, but the nation had ended up even more divided than under President George W. Bush. In addition, the economic inequality had remained a major challenge. A president is both a head of state and cabinet leader. President Obama can point to significant legislative success and economic progress as a cabinet leader, but not everyone sees him as a great head of state. As for Hillary Clinton, their view was more or less similar because she was bound to pursue her predecessor’s policy. On the other hand, many voters saw Trump as a patriotic person with gravitas who could be a great head of state, in spite of his arrogant behaviour at times and big ego.
Widespread anger at the federal government is another key factor that helps explain Trump’s support. Trump generally receives a lot of support because he is an outsider who is not a politician. For instance, the entrance polls showed that a majority were angry and dissatisfied with Democrats. Trump is sceptical of free trade and China’s currency manipulation, and he wants to bring jobs back to America. Trump is a fighter and a successful businessman who understands the economy, many voters feel. Trump, a billionaire, gets credit for using his own money instead of relying on rich donors to private political action committees formed to back presidential candidates. Many people like that Trump is not beholden to anyone and that the Trump campaign has not spent large amounts of money on negative advertisements.
In an incisive and persuasive New York Times commentary, Steve Inskeep compares the New York real estate magnate to President Andrew Jackson of the 1820s and 1830s. Trump attracts a particularly large group of supporters in the disadvantaged Appalachia region, as Jackson did. Jackson was a populist who did well among a diverse group of people and was tough on Indians the way Trump wants to punish illegal immigrants. However, the unfortunate fallout is that America would cease to have active interest in what happens in the world. For example, the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would give a free run to the IS which represents a radical form of Islam. Even the Taliban are not relevant. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also conscious of this fact. This is probably the time when both India and Pakistan can have a joint front to fight for the people in the region. This would be good for the two countries and also for the world.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.