Michael Edwards, Editor, Transformation: “Everyone Hates Each Other Now, Don’t They?”
I’m in aisle six at Shoprite in Liberty, New York, two hours north-west of Manhattan in the Sullivan County Catskills. “Everyone hates each other now, don’t they?” a voice says to me while I’m head down in my shopping cart, starting to unpack my groceries. You know things are bad when the supermarket checkout clerk is moved to sum up the state of US politics like this on the day of the election.
Judging by this morning’s results she was right to be concerned: a nation thoroughly divided, full of pain and rage, shortly to be ruled by the man the experts said could never win. Angry white rural, blue collar and suburban voters came out in droves for Donald Trump, who proved to be the strongest motivator — Michael Moore was right in his predictions.
Sullivan County mirrored these results — turning from solidly Democratic (it voted twice for President Obama) to a majority of 55 per cent this time around for the Republicans. The county’s population is poorer and less educated than the rest of New York State, and three-quarters white. Rising progressive star Zephyr Teachout also lost her race to represent us in Congress.
So now we have our very own political shockwave, much bigger (for us) than Brexit but rooted in similar emotions. What happens now?
I would say that the prospects at the national level are completely uncertain — who knows what a Trump administration will do? Many wheels will be spun in the weeks and months ahead in trying to predict the unpredictable. But ‘everyone hates each other’ is not a sustainable condition, so something has to give.
Could a more positive variant of the popular revolt that Trump has manipulated be hammered together at the local level as the red mists start to dissipate? In terms of the work that must be done, party affiliations mean much less in a county of 60,000 people where anger and insecurity are shared. At least it’s worth a try — it’s either that or hunker down and start again in four years time in the hope that Trump will screw up mightily, while the Democrats search for a more attractive candidate. But somehow that doesn’t feel enough.
As usual, we have to go on.
Francesc Badia Dalmases, Director, democraciaAbierta: “A Business Tycoon as the New CEO of America Inc.”
Latin Americans were expecting North Americans to elect the next president of the United States, and yet what they have got looks more as if they have appointed a business tycoon as the new CEO of America Inc.
Among the many anxieties Donald Trump is raising this morning, his total lack of political experience may be the most disturbing one. With his explicit rejection of the political establishment (and of politics as such), he has instead leveraged his experience as a private entrepreneur. He is ready to run the most powerful country on earth as he has been running Trump enterprises. Yet, one out of two voters has trusted him on this, reaffirming one of American dream’s core narratives: in the land of good opportunities, if you can run a business and become a millionaire, you can run the country and make it richer. Remember the story of Citizen Kane?
Almost everybody knows that things are not that simple, and that politics is more about reaching reasonable compromises than about making profitable deals. Yet, in the age of anxiety and uncertainty, an oversimplified and populist message clearly hits hard. We have seen this happen recently in the UK, even more recently in Colombia — and we now are witnessing it in the US.
Many Americans thought that populism was a typical phenomenon of southern, underdeveloped countries like the ones of Latin America. Not anymore. After hearing the direct threats the newly elected President of the United States was posing to the Hispanic community, many were expecting a surge in the Latino vote against him. Instead he has got 30% of that minority’s votes; more or less the same as Mitt Romney four years ago. If the Latino community’s higher turnout to the polls was supposed to make the difference between the two candidates, at the end of the day, this isn’t what happened. Not even the plan of building a wall along a more than 3000 km long border with Mexico — a wall that is supposed to be paid for by the Mexican government — was scary enough to awake that “sleeping giant”.
In any case, the unexpected results are sending huge shockwaves across the continent south of Rio Grande. The Mexican peso has plummeted. The NAFTA might come under new scrutiny and become a more asymmetric deal. Contingency plans are on in most factories around a country that has the US as its primary customer. Many Central American economies depend on the migrants’ revenues, and fears of massive deportations are high. In Colombia, the Plan Colombia 2, with its extra 350 million dollars may still be approved by the US Congress, but the positive involvement of US diplomacy in the peace talks with the FARC may be revised.
Something similar could happen in Venezuela, where the US has been supportive of the ongoing talks between Maduro and the opposition. The chavista rhetoric about a US-led conspiracy and economic war against Venezuela would make much more sense with Trump in the White House. Brazil’s new government was hoping to quickly normalise its relationship with the US after the deep mistrust caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA’s tapping into Dilma Rousseff’s phone. Putting the economy back on track is top priority, and uncertainty about how the new US president wants to deal with Brazil will certainly not help. In Peru, Pedro Pablo Kaczynski was expecting to do good business with democrats in power, but now he will have to wait and see. In Argentina, President Mauricio Macri, who had an unpleasant experience with Trump back in the 80’s à propos some real state business in New York, was very happily hosting the Obamas in Bariloche, Patagonia, and was dancing tango with them some months ago. He will have to renew all of these diplomatic efforts, but now with somebody he doesn’t trust.
All in all, what Trump has in mind for Latin America — as it is the case for other regions around the world — is basically unknown. Latin America will have to navigate these unchartered waters with caution amid a reinforced anti-American feeling. And there are those on the left cheering how the worst case scenario of a Donald Trump’s victory has come true, as this could well revive anti-imperialism forces and give them a chance to regain power. The Kremlin is smiling, and pundits from RT in Spanish were in high spirits today. As Trump knows first-hand, just like Farage in the UK or Uribe in Colombia, having someone to blame about all your anxieties works amazingly well at the polls.
Thomas Rowley and Natalia Antonova, Editors, oDR: The View From Eurasia
The spectre lurking behind Clinton’s email hack, a source of alleged financial and political support for Trump and, of course, a partner-cum-rival in the ongoing negotiations over Syria — Russia has been a huge topic in the elections.
The words “Russia” and “Putin” were mentioned more than any other subjectduring the presidential debates. The speech marks are, of course, telling. So often, it wasn’t just the evidence of the Kremlin’s interference that mattered, but perceptions and assumptions of Russia. As Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, tweeted late last night: “Putin intervened in our elections and succeeded. Well done.” The Democrats’ tendency to externalise domestic problems all too often made Russia into a convenient scapegoat.
Yet Trump’s position on Russia and eastern Europe will have many worried — and rightly so. Unfortunately, as with many of his positions, what will happen in practice is hard to predict. How will the president-elect’s softer position on Russia translate in terms of State Department activity, and what position will a renewed House and the Senate take on Russia? What will Trump’s desire to toe the Kremlin’s line on Ukraine mean for Kiev’s reform process and the international community’s resolve in supporting Ukraine?
Indeed, Ukraine is likely to be the biggest immediate loser of a Trump presidency. The US has long been a key rhetorical and financial supporter of Ukraine. (Back in the year 2000, Bill Clinton appeared before a crowd in central Kiev and, in a classic JFK moment, quoted Taras Shevchenko to applause: “Boritesya – poborete”, or “keep on fighting”.) Ukraine has received millions of dollars in US aid for years, as well as US political pressure on an aggressive Russia and a deeply troubled domestic reform process — Ukraine may find itself abandoned when Trump takes office.
Trump has gone on record to say that “Putin is not going to go into Ukraine” — after Russia seized Crimea and ignited a shadow conflict in the Donbas. It’s not just Trump’s soft stance on Russian aggression toward Ukraine that should be worrying now, it is his lack of knowledge, and clear disinterest in gaining said knowledge.
The Kremlin is likely to seize on all of this (in fact, Putin would be stupid not to). Considering Trump’s contempt of both NATO and America’s other international commitments, we could see a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, under whatever pretext the Russian state media manages to drum up, whenever the Kremlin turns its eyes away from Syria.
That said, though Putin may initially enjoy the same “buddy cop”-like relationship with Trump that the former had with Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, if Trump’s long history of burning is business partners is any indication of his future political dealings, the relationship is likely to turn sour. The kind of narcissistic tendencies that Trump has displayed on the campaign trail suggest that Putin’s expectations of a more equal relationship with a Trump-led United States will eventually be disappointed. Of course, such expectations may also be offset by the possibility that Russian intelligence has cultivated and compromised Trump.
Ultimately, it may be argued that Trump has compromised himself enough as it is — with his boasts about assaulting women and reports of him hosting sex-parties for rich men eager to sleep with young models — and the American voters simply didn’t care enough about that. At this point, the idea that the Russians can control Trump by threatening to impugn his moral character seems almost laughable.
Much like Ukraine, the US’ strong strategic interest in Georgia and Moldova could take a hit — though their public support for “pro-western” politicians across eastern Europe is questionable, US embassies in the region and the State Department itself are powerful behind-the-scenes actors in political adjudication and reform processes.
Inside Russia, it is likely that parts of the Russian public will welcome Trump’s victory. Not only he has come to symbolise many people’s desires for a US that doesn’t lecture and doesn’t intervene, but also a moment of transatlantic schadenfreude at a rival’s upheaval.
When it comes to Syria, Trump has said that the focus should be on defeating ISIS, not the removal of Assad, and suggested that a no-fly zone could lead to World War Three. On the eve of the election, it was reported that Russian navy and air forces were preparing for a significant assault on Aleppo. It seems like Putin and Trump could have a lot to talk about. The real question is, will they hear each other?
Putin’s senses are dulled by too many years spent unchallenged at the top. As for Trump, we’re dealing with a president-elect who has no political experience, but ample experience at evading responsibility for his costly business ventures. In light of that, this bromance isn’t likely to be very heartwarming in the long run, and the most vulnerable nations in Russia’s orbit may bear the brunt. We wish we could be more optimistic, but sometimes, optimism is simply another word for naivete.
Adam Ramsay, Editor of oD-UK, Reporting From the West Bank
The Israeli settlers I met on Monday will be celebrating this morning. The Kiriat Arba settlement, outside Hebron, was largely a Middle Eastern alcove of America’s now not-so-‘alt’ right, complete with guns and Humvees; suburban shopping centres and religious zealotry. They railed against Clinton’s ‘political correctness’ and complained that she is ‘a girl’ while he is ‘a strong man’. They thought that Clinton would be ‘good for Arabs’ and Trump ‘good for Jews’ or ‘better for Israel’. One man told me I should follow the arch conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and another, that Trump is ‘a straight talker’. They were helpful, interested, passionate and fascist. And tonight, they will celebrate the victory of a man who gives license to their racism.
For Palestinians, it is a different deal. “It will make no difference to us” was the attitude of the vast majority I spoke to over the last few days. They can list you the dates, they can list you the presidents. They remember the promises, and they no longer believe them. “Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama” more than one person said to me, almost like a national catch-phrase “they all promise a Palestinian state. They all break their promises.”
That doesn’t mean that they are all ambivalent about the result. A notable majority of people I spoke to, in Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah, will be worried about Trump’s victory tonight. “She is a better diplomat” one said “he is a fascist” said another; “he’s racist”; yet another. Whilst surprising numbers talked about how the Democrats are “better on welfare”. Tonight, while many will switch on the news and conclude that their grim situation remains grim, lots of Palestinians will share in the wave of fear washing over the world.
In Israel, there is another thought circulating. If liberal American Jews see a fascist president and decide to make aliyah and move to Israel, what impact will that have on elections here? We’ll see.