Shocked, not surprised: preliminary throughts on the election result

Trump’s stunning victory and the closeness of the race (Clinton may have won the absolute majority but not the electoral college) will take time to settle in. My initial reaction is that the result reflects five features of contemporary US politics and the campagin for the presidency:

These include: The extreme political polarization of the nation; the profound dissatisfaction of American’s population with the conduct of public policy and the preception and reality that it has not produced improving living standards over three decades; The susceptibility of the US population – in particular, low-educated white voters, but also enough others – to a demagogic message; the declining quality of US political discourse, owing in part to the mass media’s insistance on placing style and ‘look at me!’ tactics over subtsance; and, not least the failed strategy of Hillary Clinton who, rather than delivering a message to all Americans, opted for a strategy that targeted specific groups, ignoring that social class in any country, though perhaps particularly in the US, is as much a cultural as it is an economic phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the cultural features of US politics that have delivered Trump this victory include, as we know observe, racism, anti-intellectualism, sexism, and little respect for democratic institutions. But please be clear: Clinton’s defeat owes not to her being a woman but to her unappealing policies, the perception that she is a disingenuous person, and her failed and excessively narrow electoral strategy.

It is hard to predict what America under Trump will become. It will most likely become more polarized, not only in political terms but also with respect to income and wealth. Racism was one of the big winners in the election. Hopefully it will not prevail.

As for policy, with respect to the domestic economy, conditions for the ultra rich are very likely to improve even beyond what exists today. Obama’s health plan will be vulnerable. Conservative justices will be confirmed for the Supreme Court. Recall that the Republican Party now controls the White House, the House, and the Senate. Indeed, the failure of the Democratic party to offer a vision for most American is striking.

Perhaps the only bright spot for those interested in truly making America great again (minus the racism) is if Trump can follow through on his pledge to invest massively and effectively in infrastructure and other employment generating projects. But we should note that plans for large scale investment sharply contradict the policies and ideology of his party. Perhaps large scale debt-financed undertakings can win political support from interests in both parties in exchange for massive handouts to large construction firms.

As for foreign policy, it is difficult to predict how Trump might conduct himself, particularly with respect to his East Asia policy and Putin. And let us not forget Mexico.

On a personal level, I am deeply unsettled by this outcome, perhaps especially because it appears that Trump,in addition to being a greedy capitalist and a serial abuser of woman, is also very likely a genuine racist and, despite his pronouncemetns, has little regard an equitable economy. Nor does he appear to see geopolitical stability as a major concern. Will his election spell the end of the Post WWII order? Time will tell.

Mostly I am sad for the US. The result says a lot about America, and the things it says are, to me, mostly ugly and dangerous. Let’s see, however, Once agian, time will tell. If the election result was a nasty shock, perhaps Trump’s performance in office will be somehow less nasty than envisaged. Let us all hope so.

JL

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