The fault-lines that caused a Trump-quake
‘I know it is huge but what does it all mean?’ How many times have you heard those words in the past 48 hours? So if you want one clear and simple response to the question, here it is.
Everyone agrees: the election of Donald J. Trump to the US presidency is by far the most significant news story of the year. It is bigger than the Zika virus in January, the Egypt Air crash in May, Brexit in June, the Olympics in August.
In fact, it is so big that it is difficult to understand what really happened.
He won 279 electoral college votes from 28 states. Across the country, 59,704,886 people ticked his name on their ballot card. He won votes from 53% of men, 42% of women, 58% of white people, and 52% of voters without a college degree. On January 20th 2017 he will be sworn in as America’s 45th president. Congress will be filled with a majority of Republican lawmakers, ready to turn his words into action.
Those are the raw facts. But what does it all mean?
One thing is clear: this was the biggest and most explosive example of a trend which is now sweeping the world. From Brexit to Texas, angry majorities are rejecting the powerful elites.
This was not caused by one factor alone. The best analysts point to three major trends which came together in a perfect Trump-shaped storm.
First, it was a reaction against the globalisation of the last 25 years. Multinational corporations have grown vast, avoided taxes, and shaped the world in their own image. Meanwhile, smaller communities have lost their traditional ‘blue collar’ jobs.
Second, although America’s economy has recovered from the financial crisis, most ordinary people have not felt it. Prices have gone up, but wages have not. Around 66 million Americans have no savings — and yet the number of billionaires has doubled since 2008.
Third, Trump’s election was a backlash against the spread of progressive, diverse values. The last decade has seen the first black president, equal marriage for LGBT people, and a resurgence of feminism. For conservative voters, the changing world has been a threat.
These are ‘the forgotten men and women of our country,’ said Trump in his acceptance speech. Sensing their discontent, he cast himself as an outsider, the antithesis to a ‘corrupt’ and ‘politically correct’ system which only cared about itself. His nationalist promise to ‘make America great again’ hit home — just as Brexit voters in England were desperate to ‘take back control’.
The Western world has split in two, say some. But this is not the left and right divide of the past. It is the very rich and everybody else; the elite and the ‘forgotten’; the globalist and the nationalist. For a long time, the anger of the masses has been bubbling under the surface, gathering in strength, unnoticed by those on top. With Trump it has burst forth, a volcano of red-hot emotion. There is no ignoring it now.
- Do you agree with the analysis above?
- Do you identify more as a nationalist or a globalist?
- Draw a political cartoon which you think sums up Donald Trump’s victory.
- Today’s article is different from our usual format; there is no rebuttal to our final paragraph. Write your own in five or six sentences.
Some People Say...
“Trump is the president the world deserves.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- How will all of this actually affect me?
- There are a few different ways that daily life might change over time. The first is the ripple effect this has on the mood and political discussions taking place around the world. Brexit and Trump’s election immediately upset global markets, as unexpected changes always bring economic uncertainty. Finally, the promise to strengthen borders could eventually make it harder to travel or move to new countries.
- Will other countries follow Trump’s lead?
- It’s possible. In 2017 there will be general and presidential elections in France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Kenya, and Chile — to name just a handful. Some of these already have strong nationalist parties — such as in France, where the National Front’s Marine le Pen is a leading candidate for president.
- Electoral college
- A system which gives each state a certain number of ‘electoral votes’ based on its population. Whoever wins a majority in each state gets all of its electoral votes.
- 59,704,886 people
- In a strange twist, Hillary Clinton actually received more votes overall (59,938,290). However, Trump won more swing states like Florida and Ohio, and took their electoral votes with him.
- 53% of men
- All of these demographic statistics are from CNN’s exit poll.
- The legislative branch of US government, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate. Since president and congress are elected separately, the House or the Senate do not have to be run by the same party as the president’s; for most of President Obama’s time, they were Republican.
- The trend for the world to become increasingly connected through trade, businesses and communication.
- Blue collar
- A term for working class, manual labour — like manufacturing, mining or construction.
- 66 million
- According to a report by Bankrate.com, released in June 2016.
- According to an Oxfam report in October 2014.