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After what seemed an interminable, often savage and always desperately hard-fought campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the USA stunned the world last week by electing Donald Trump to be the 45th President of the United States.
President-elect Trump was called a number of things during the campaign, including vulgar self-promoter, political neophyte and proto-fascist, and much has been written about how this shock result came about.
Michael Moore, American Academy Award-winning filmmaker and best-selling author, predicted Trump would win simply because of the anger that so many Americans felt towards their broken political system. He believed millions would vote for Trump “not because they agreed with him, not because they liked his bigotry or ego, but just because they could.”
President Barack Obama echoed the opinion of many during his recent visit to Greece, saying, “You know, presidential elections always turn on personalities, they turn on how campaigns are run, they turn on natural desires for change. If you’ve had an incumbent who’s been there for eight years, there’s a temptation to think, well, let’s maybe make a change.”
Others believe the result was due to “white male rage”, which would seem to be backed up by the voting statistics: 53% of white males voted for Trump, and 53% of these were aged between 45 and 64. The median income of a Trump supporter is more than $70,000 per year, which is well above the national average, and a 2016 study noted that it would take African Americans 228 years to equal the wealth of whites in the US. Perhaps, then, Trump’s victory had little to do with economic or political angst, or even simply the desire for change. Rather, the numbers indicate it may have had a lot to do with Barack Obama’s election and its powerful symbolism of black advancement, which triggered a backlash that paved the way for the likes of Donald Trump.
Since the election, demonstrations against him have broken out in over a dozen cities across the country, and people on both sides are on edge. What possible reason would Trump supporters have for being on edge? A bunch of them, as it turns out. The New York businessman-turned-politician flip-flopped on a number of policy positions during the campaign and has continued to do so since his election. Here are just a few examples:
- On the issue of deportation of illegal migrants, Trump originally said that he wanted to deport all of the approximately 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the US, despite criticism that this idea is both xenophobic, next to impossible and prohibitively expensive. His official policy now says only those with criminal records will be deported immediately, although immigration controls will still be massively beefed up. In an interview with Lesley Stahl from CBS he said, “After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on them [the remaining undocumented immigrants] who are terrific people, they’re terrific people but we are gonna make a determination on that.”
- On the issue of hedge fund managers “getting away with murder”, Mr Trump said that hedge fund managers and the ultra-wealthy did not pay enough taxes. However, after the campaign released specifics of his plan, analysts argued that hedge fund managers would actually get a tax cut along with the middle class.
- On the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato), Trump said it was a “rip-off” Why? Because the US pays more than anyone else. But Trump later said he was “all” in favour of the alliance.
- On the subject of abortions, Mr Trump initially said that if abortion were to become illegal, women should be punished for obtaining them. He then retracted this, deciding to blame and punish the doctors who carried them out instead.
- On the federal minimum wage, he initially said that workers should be paid more than the current level of $7.25/hour. He’s since repeatedly changed his mind about this.
To be fair, President-elect Trump does have some worthwhile plans that he’s stuck to, such as condensing the current seven tax brackets in the US to just three, with no income tax for “low-income Americans”, and taking China to task on a number of trade-related issues, such as making it stop its current practice of undervaluing its currency, and forcing it to step up its environmental and labour standards. He also wants to overhaul veteran healthcare in a big way, including significantly reducing waiting times for treatment, investing in the treatment of “invisible wounds” like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and increasing the number of doctors who specialise in women’s health to help care for the increasing number of female veterans.
However, this is a man who has also said that nuclear war between Japan and North Korea may be “terrible” but it would be “pretty quick”, who believes climate change is a hoax and it’s just “weather”, and that the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were still in power.
Whatever happens next, one thing’s for sure — no-one’s getting off the edge any time soon.