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President-elect Donald Trump in 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore, flickr

President-elect: make America hate again?

in Politics/Society by

Donald J. Trump is the president-elect. Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. President Donald Trump. Whichever way you say it, those elements put in the same phrase don’t sound right, or believable – except perhaps to those who made it a reality.

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In our collective consciousness, Trump had been this slightly ridiculous tycoon pop culture icon who seemed to have reached the apex of ridiculousness when he announced he’d run for president. But perhaps we should have either taken him seriously or not paid attention at all, instead of constantly giving fuel to his supporters and campaign.

We should have remembered the notorious American worship of celebrities and distrust of government.

President-elect Trump played upon both, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represented the latter (as in the “corrupt establishment”) and lacked “star power.” It is, of course, hardly an adequate measure of a president’s fitness to rule, but personality cult often drives the populace’s choices in a presidential system. (Think Hugo Chavez, who had some parallels with Trump.) Plus, she was out of touch with blue-collar voters.

In other words, Trump’s right-wing populism and rhetoric as a political underdog won over more states as a whole than Clinton’s lack of charisma, her image as an “ice queen,” the lack of trust she inspired. A major contributing factor was the distrust sown by WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange at a crucial moment. We’ll see what Assange’s role in the president-elect’s victory means for his current status – will he finally get to come out of the embassy in which he has been holed up?

Add in sexism, lack or disregard towards factual information, fear or scapegoating of immigrants, hatred over the liberal reforms in the U.S., frustration over a depressed job market, and other elements of the recession that left deep scars for blue-collar people, and you’ve got our current predicament with the president-elect. Also, half of eligible voters did not cast their ballot.

And let’s not forget, of course, the apparently synchronous right-wing global moment – it seems to breathe, eat and grow together like a beast with tentacles reaching across the planet. It’s enough to keep the most pragmatic of us “lefties” – and minorities – up at night. The world is watching in disbelief, chaos looming on the horizon. The markets are plunging.

Goodbye, Obamacare. The Republicans now have control of the Senate, the House of Reps AND the White House. Goodbye… gay marriage? The right to abortion? Hopes of gun control? Amnesty? How many hard-fought battles, over many decades, will just go down the drain with this explosive combination?

Because the president-elect will have to cater to the people who elected him, somehow.

It would probably be tough to argue that this wasn’t a democratic election – unfortunately – within what “democracy” means in the U.S. electoral system. They were close: Both had 48 percent of the popular vote overall, with a difference of only 35,586 votes thus far. But it was not close enough to merit a recount – anyway we know how that ended up with Florida in 2000.

Like Al Gore back then, Clinton won the popular vote, but it’s the electoral college that matters in the end, the “winner-takes-all” system. Trump carried the electoral college vote with 276-218 as of right now. He also won in most of the swing states, and solidly across the South and most of the Midwest.

Clinton called him to concede. She probably won’t run for president again.

Many of us voting against President-elect Trump feel a sense of impending doom. We envision a dystopia, a reign of the KKK, a wall being built splitting North America between north (“the desirables”) and south (“the undesirables”). All we can hope for in the near future is that the Republican government will act somewhat responsibly as a unit – the Republican establishment didn’t want Trump – and that his supporters are overall more reasonable and sensible than the ones most visible at the rallies.

Screenshot from Google/Associated Press map.
Screenshot from Google/Associated Press map (with 96 percent of precincts reporting).

It is a quarter of U.S. voters that elected him. They cannot all be ignorant racist bigots. Right?

I’d also like to think Trump’s sober victory speech could set the tone for a less maniacal, narcissistic presidency than what he displayed as a candidate. Maybe he was just pretending to be xenophobic? Maybe he didn’t really sexually assault those women? Maybe his lies were just a script he was sticking to and will shed from now on?

Not likely. But perhaps there is hope among his constituents.

A Trump voter – passing through town and hanging around at the U.S. Consulate’s election party in Leipzig – told LeipGlo that he actually liked neither Clinton nor Trump but tended to vote Republican in presidential elections. He is white, in his early 30s, and from Atlanta, Georgia, a state Trump carried. He is a pilot by profession.

“Trump is an idiot, but I know what we’re getting into with him,” he told us. “With Hillary, she’s a liar, and I just don’t know.”

He said he likes his Mexican and black friends. He doesn’t believe there is as much racism as the media make it out to be in the U.S. In the end, he thanked us for expressing our different points of view, said he learned something, and we shook hands. This Trump voter was respectful, said he agreed with some points we raised, and he listened. We tried to listen, too.

As for American foreign policy, it could change drastically from one president to the next. President appoints Secretary of State, who in turn directs the action of embassies, as a Consulate employee reminded me. There isn’t much autonomy there. This could be disastrous – at best for the U.S.’s already heavily damaged image abroad, and at worst for our general coexistence, for what we have left of peace in these increasingly scary times.

There will be hate – but hopefully a lot less powerful than what we envision.

An aspiring social scientist and former newspaper reporter, an avid eater, a pseudo-philosopher and poet, an occasion-propelled singer, a semi-professional socializer, a movie addict, a Brazilian-American nomad. In this space, she will share some of her experiences and (mis)adventures regarding various topics, but with special attention to travel, entertainment and lifestyle.

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