The day before elections in the United States, Khizr Khan, the Pakistani-American father, campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the state of New Hampshire. “Will Trump’s America have room for someone like my son?” he asked the crowd. In the months before the US election, American Muslims, likely galvanised by the fear-mongering rhetoric of Donald Trump, registered in record numbers.
Beyond the drama of results, however, this American election delivers important lessons for elections everywhere. Among them is the lesson of how divisive rhetoric based on the demonisation of minority groups can mobilise vast numbers of supporters, how science-based polling can reveal the status of candidates in voters’ minds, and ultimately, how changed demographics can shift elections and even lead to the downfall of political parties. The divisive nature of the US election campaign reveals how differences can corrode, even strong and old democracies. Several of these lessons are pertinent to Pakistan, where a fear of recognising demographic changes and their implications for political organisation has produced a disjunction between political representation and political reality.