Wednesday, 14 December 2016

US Elections 2016 - Trump's Triumph

US Elections 2016
Trump’s Triumph: ‘Political Earthquake
In the US and the World’

Dr. Mozammel Haque

During the last two months – in October and November 2016, the world was in crisis; everywhere, whether in Europe, or in the Middle East or in the United States of America, there were lots of problems and calamities. In Europe, there was problem of Burkini issue vis-à-vis secularism and the future of Islam in France; in the Middle East, there is Battle for Mosul and the Aleppo onslaught, humanitarian crisis and the Syrian’s war and lastly, the US Elections of 2016 and the Donald Trump’s surprise victory as the 45th President-elect of the most powerful state of the world.

In this issue, instead of dealing with the Burkini ban, Islamophobia and Secularism in France, or the Battle for Mosul and the Aleppo onslaught and humanitarian crisis in Syrian war , I will mainly talk about, discuss and analyse the most ugly, nasty and divisive US elections of 2016; because the results of this election will bring major changes not only inside the United States of America but it will have far deeper, far reaching radical changes in the foreign policy of the Trump era which might affect the US relationship with Russia, Europe, Iran and the Middle East.

US Elections of 2016
In the Electoral history of America, this is one of the most nasty and controversial elections in so many respects: candidates, campaigns and controversies. So far as the candidates are concerned, neither the Democrat candidate nor the Republican candidate was most suitable for the White House. The Democrat candidate – Hillary Clinton, though she has  long experience of public office, such as Secretary of State and the political office, the Republican candidate – Donald Trump, property developer, billionaire businessman and TV Reality star, – on the other hand, has no experience of elected office of the country nor hold any public office. He has never been in political office of the country.

Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are two of the most hated and distrusted presidential candidates ever. Jeremy Paxman met political insider and voters on both sides of the gaping politics. Jeremy Paxman in his Panorama programme on Trump and Clinton: Divided America on BBC, said, Abraham Lincoln was the greatest President America had. He earned respect of the world. He asked where are the heroes now? Whatever happened on the 8th of November, the winner will be one of the two least popular candidates of all times. He again asked what has happened to the true democracy that the choice is so awful. “The supporters of Hilary and Donald have agreed on one thing – how despicable the other candidate is? The one is alleged to have risked the national security and the other is accused of multiple sexual assaults.” (Jeremy Paxman, Paxman on Trump and Clinton: Divided America, on Panorama Programme, BBC.)

The US Presidential election was the contest for the biggest job in the world. The winner will be the most powerful human being on earth. “On the 8th of November, 2016 American people has to decide who will be hired or fired for the White House,” said Paxman.

Election Campaign
As far as the election campaign is concerned, Paxman said, it is the most unusual campaign in America – it is unprecedented, most unbelievable campaign. This is the first time war of words – personal attack on the other candidate was made. Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton ‘nasty lady’, she should be inside jail and questioned the candidacy of the presidency of the birth rights of Obama and many senior members including President Obama said Trump is not fit for the Presidency. Hilary Clinton has been ‘mistrusted for several years’.

As far as the election campaign trail is concerned, “Trump political campaign characterized by an unprecedented level of venom and vitriol,” said Gwenda Blair (What makes the Donald Special by Gwenda Blair in The New Review, The Observer, Sunday, 13 November, 2016, page 4) Donald Trump has used incendiary, provocative pronouncements and inflammatory rhetoric. He made plenty of outrageous pronouncements:  jailing Clinton, building Mexican wall, he repeatedly contradicted himself. Most importantly, he campaigned not on policy but on a feeling.

Donald Trump frequently spoke in derogatory terms about Mexicans and Muslims. Toby Harnden from Washington wrote, “Trump’s crass vulgarity and inflammatory rhetoric and mockery of Mexican immigrants. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he thundered.” (Stepping into Donald’s America by Toby Harnden in The Sunday Times, 13 November, 2016, Special Issue, page III)

Donald Trump also said against women. He said he wanted to establish good relationship with Russian President Putin to solve the Syrian Middle East crisis. He said in his election campaign trail about NATO and attacked those members who do not contribute to the NATO budget. He also said against the climate change, the Paris agreement.

The Observer editorially summed up Donald Trump’s message of fear of the foreigner in America’s midst in his election campaign trail thus: “When he (Trump) spoke about curbing immigration and building a Mexican wall, when he demonised Muslims, minorities and people from foreign countries he does not know or trust, when he vowed to scrap international trade deals that he claims are destroying jobs in the Midwest, when he railed against selfish allies who do not pay their way, the subliminal message was always always the same: fear of the foreigners in America’s midst.. No wonder African Americans, Latinos and other dark-skinned minorities are frightened. No wonder US relations around the globe are in turmoil.” (.The Observer, Editorial, 13 November, 2016, page 36) “

Pollsters and Pundits
From the very beginning till 6th of November, 2016 pollsters, pundits and election experts were predicting the victory of the Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton. All the pollsters forecasted Clinton ahead of Trump. NDTV and BBC have also shown graphically how the Democratic candidate Clinton was going ahead of Republican candidate Trump since September to 8th of November before the Election Day. According to BBC Channel 4, the chance of winning the election was as follows on 6th of November 2016.

Clinton Democrat    60%
Trump Republican    34%
Source: FiveThirtyEight

Clinton Democrat    84%
Trump Republican    16%
Source: New York Times

So even according to the New York Times poll Clinton chance to enter the White House was even higher.

But as the Election Day was coming nearer, the gap between the two candidates was coming closer. Still Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton was ahead of her rival Republican candidate Donald Trump on 8th of November, 2016, according to BBC.

BBC Poll of Polls on the 8th of November 2016
Paths to the White House
Democrat     47%
Republican    43%

Democrat    44%
Republican   40%
Source: NBC/WSJ Poll

Democrat     48%
Republican   44%
Source: Fox News Poll

It is even said that mathematically it was still easier for Clinton to enter the White House. “The liberal establishment was so sure its candidate would win. As the election neared, the Daily Kos website put Hilary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency at 92%. The New York Times’s Upshot blog said 86%. The book-maker Betfair said 70%. Nate Silver, of the website FiveThirtyEight, went for 66.9%.” Niall Ferguson mentioned in his article in The Sunday Times.

Intelligentsia and Intellectuals
Not only that, intelligentsia and intellectuals mentioned how the pollsters were predicting the victory of the Democrat candidate Clinton.

The Sunday Times wrote editorially: “Pollsters, some using highly sophisticated methods, expected a clear win for Hilary Clinton. The most optimistic electoral model, from the president-elect’s perspective, gave him the 29% chance. Others saw his prospects in low single figures,” The Sunday Times editorial (Our mission to bridge the Atlantic gap, Sunday, 13 November 2016)

Dominic Lawson wrote in his article, “He (Trump) would defy the pollsters in the same way. That is what he (Trump) must have meant when telling crowds of his supporters on the final day’s campaigning: ‘This is Brexit Plus Plus Plus’ Well, Trump was dead right about that: his clear victory was a bigger shock to the pollsters and other so-called experts than even Brexit had been. On Thursday Newsweek had to withdraw an edition with a cover of a beaming Mrs. Clinton under the headline “Madan President.” (“Until the left gets beyond wooing ‘communities’, it will remain in the cold” by Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times, Sunday, 13 November, 2016)

Roger Altman wrote two months ago in the Financial Times column, reassuring its readers: “The biggest American political question today is not the outcome of the November election. For all practical purposes, that is over and Hillary Clinton will be the next president..Yes, an asteroid could collide with the earth before then.” (“Until the left gets beyond wooing ‘communities’, it will remain in the cold by Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times, Sunday, 13 November, 2016)

Election Results
President-elect Donald Trump
In the end, it is the clear win of Donald Trump. He swept in the industrial areas in America’s North-east. He secured 279 votes of the Electoral College guaranteeing him in the presidency.

Electoral College Votes

Mrs. Clinton                                                           Trump
218                                       270                           279

Donald Trump had a surprise and stunning victory after a long, bitter, ugly and divisive election campaign. Trump secured victory over Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, 9th of November 2016 to become the 45th US president-elect after winning more than 270 Electoral College votes needed to win. Al-Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from New York, described the result as “a political bombshell” the like of which had not been seen in modern US history.

According to American election system, Electoral College votes are vital to get to the White House. Trump gained a significant proportion of the votes of the blue-collar workers in north-eastern states, the so-called Rust Belt. Niall Ferguson observed, “The months-long ordeal that culminated on Wednesday will go down in history as one of the nastiest election campaigns of modern times.” He also said, “From the moment of his inauguration on January 20, 2017 the property developer turned reality TV star turned politician will be the most powerful human being on earth. The Donald will become the Potus.” (This was no whitelash, it was a vote to get America working by Niall Ferguson, The Sunday Times, Special Issue, Sunday, 13 November, 2016, page IV)

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton got the popular vote. A large majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton one million more votes went to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than to her Republican rival Donald Trump; yet Trump won the Electoral College votes and was elected president. Electoral College votes is vital to get to the White House.

Among the key wins of Donald Trump was in Florida that brought him 29 votes; in Ohio he comfortably beaten Mrs. Clinton. Both Ohio and Michigan have got support for Obama four years ago.

Florida  29 votes                Ohio – 18 votes                      Michigan 16 votes
Trump 49.1%                        Trump 52.1%                        Trump 47.7%
Clinton 47.7%                        Clinton 43.5%                       Clinton 47.2%

Same story repeated in the Congress. Republicans retained control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Democrats   47
Republicans 51

House of Representatives
Democrats  - 191
Republicans 236

In the Senate, Republicans retained its narrow majority but Democrats did make its small gains. The same story was in the House of Representatives: Republicans now controlled both the executive and legislative arms of the government.

It is interesting to note and point out that one political party has not held all three branches of US Government since the 1920s.

How did the polls get it wrong?
The natural question is why were the pundits so wrong? How did a victory that almost no one had predicted had come about? What does it say about the United States election system?

Battleground – Swing votes
This election is unpredictable. One day before the Election Day Hillary and Donald were campaigning in the Michigan and Washington, though those were the Democrat states. There were five battleground states; they were the key swing states whose votes would decide. The winner of the votes in the swing states will reach the White House.

Clinton won popular vote but loss
electoral college vote? Why and How?
Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote, probably by more than a million. It has to be remembered that she was the candidate of choice for most voters. But she was handsomely beaten in the race for Electoral College votes. You may be wondering why Hillary Clinton lost the election. Many explanations have been offered for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the election. These are: i) the complacency of the Democratic party and America’s liberal left; ii) Democrats took the ‘white working class’ support granted; iii)Mrs. Clinton ignored Bill Clinton’s advice: “Despite urgings from Bill Clinton, whose populist touch won these areas over in 1992, Hillary hardly campaigned in the area, focusing more on getting the black and Hispanic vote elsewhere.” (Niall Fergusan, The Sunday Times, Special Issue, 13 November 2016, Page V) Pennsylvania has been a Democratic blue since Bill Clinton won in 1992. Obama won there by 12,000 when he was re-elected for his second term in 2012. iv) FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails. And lastly v) the peculiarities and eccentricities of the American Electoral System.

How Donald Trump won?
On the other hand, Donald Trump strategy was: i) tap on the white working class, ii) his campaign won the support of the white supremacists; iii) tap on disillusionment and alienation; iv) play game of fear and rage and v) lastly, exploited feeling of whites.

Looking at how did Donald Trump win, Peter Trubowitz wrote: “Many things obviously: a politically vulnerable opponent, lower voter turnout, FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails, among other things. But at the end of the day, the single biggest factor was Trump’s ability to recognize and tap into a well of anger and resentment in the American body politic that others missed.” (How Did Trump Win and What Happens Next? By Peter Trubowitz, Chatham House website, originally published by the LSE US Centre).

That is what allowed Donald Trump to capture pivotal Democratic states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and possibly, Michigan and thus won the Electoral College votes while losing the popular vote.

Election Results:
Reactions and Responses
The surprise and stunning victory of Donald Trump has immediate reactions among the intelligentsia, intellectuals and other media analysts. Even the American common people came out on the streets protesting for four days against Donald Trump: ‘He is not our President’. In the following pages, I am going to quote the reactions and responses of intelligentsia, intellectuals and commentators. .

The Observer editorially described the results as disaster. It said, “It is no use pretending. Donald Trump’s presidential election victory is a disaster for the United States and the world. It is, at least in part, a victory for prejudice and fear, for ignorance and spite. It represents the triumph of economic nationalism and introspection over internationalism and global good. It is a victory built on fabrications. Because of this, Trumpism will ultimately fail, confounded by its contradictions and its immorality. It will be defeated. But correcting this deformation will not be easy. It will take time and the damage will be considerable.” (A victory for rage and fear. Trump will let down his supporters and the world, Editorial, The Observer, 13 November, 2016, page 36.)

The Guardian View On The Election Results
The Guardian editorially commented, “So it is with the global political earthquake that is the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. If he is true to his campaign pledges, which were many and reckless, Mr Trump’s win will herald America’s most stunning reversal of political and economic orthodoxy since the New Deal in the 1930s, but with the opposite intention and effect. It halts the ailing progressive narrative about modern America and the 21st-century world in its tracks. It signals a seismic rupture in the American-dominated global liberal economic and political order that had seemed to command the 21st century after communism collapsed and China’s economy soared.”

Commentators and analysts have seen the election results in the similar way. Andrew Rawnsley, writing on the election results in The Observer commented it’s a “great danger”

Andrew Rawnsley – Great Danger
Terrifying Trump will turn into Tamed Trump? It/s an illusion: His election presents great dangers for both the global economy and the international security system.

Rawnsley observed under the above caption, “A man with no experience of elected office will preside over a government machine with 2.8 million civilian employees and 1.5 million military personnel. A man who will be pursued into the White House by a pack of lawsuits will be in charge of FBI. A man repeatedly described as unfit for the office by senior members of his own party will be the commander-in-chief with his finger the trigger of more than 4,000 nuclear war- heads.” (Terrifying Trump will turn into Tamed Trump? It’s an illusion by Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer, Sunday, 13 November, 2016, page 37)

Andrew Bowen
Writing in Jeddah-based English daily Arab News, Andrew Bowen, Ph.D. visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, observed, “President-elect Donald Trump fundamentally is a departure from any of his Republican predecessors in both his outlook and tone. He’s neither the pure globally orientated real politick Richard Nixon nor the conservative internationalist Ronald Reagan. Trump is Trump and his views of global affairs have been shaped by his own vantage point and experiences. Trump may meet with Kissinger, but it by no means is a sign that Washington is going back to the days of George H.W. Bush and James Baker.,” (Trump’s trump: neither a hawk nor a dove by Andrew J Bowen, Arab News, )

Xenia Wickett, Head, US and the American Programme; Dean, The Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership international Affairs, observed, “The world today is a more dangerous place. Trump’s enthusiasm for unpredictability will make it worse. But the steps required to mitigate the worst are clear (albeit difficult): Europe will need to step forward, to take more leadership, and to bear more burdens.” (.(Time for Europe to Take the Reins by Xenia Wickett, Chatham House website, 11 November 2016, originally published by Berlin Policy Journal)

Professor Gilbert Achcar Professor at SOAS
Donald Trump most unpredictable man
Gilbert Achcar Professor at SOAS, University of London commenting on foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular, said, “Donald Trump, as the new president of the United States, would stand out as the most unpredictable man to have occupied this position ever since his country started deploying an overseas imperial policy in the late 19th century.”

Economist Paul Krugman: Shock Horror
The economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that “People like me…. Truly did not understand the country we live in …We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law. It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of people – white people, living mainly in rural areas – who don’t share at all our idea of what America is all about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy.” (Quoted by Niall Ferguson in his article in The Sunday Times, 13 November, 2016)