The US Presidential Election – a Few Days Later


Another week, another drama, another revolution in the political landscape.  Here are some thoughts on the result of the US presidential election.

1          From hope to change – Barack Obama offered hope, but it seems that message is no longer enough.  People in the US have responded to Donald Trump’s message of change.

2          Shocks, Brexit and the US moment – I’ve heard Europeans say that Donald Trump winning the presidency would have been more of a shock if there hadn’t been Brexit.  The existential shock and realisation that there are fault lines dividing large groups within the country on a roughly equal basis, different views and values, different visions and objectives – the UK went through that at the end of June and the rest of Europe absorbed it.  From what I’ve heard from friends and family in the US, Brexit shocked, bemused and intrigued, but didn’t shake people to their core.  For half of Americans, that moment happened on 9 November.

3          Where next? – France, Italy, The Netherlands and other European countries have been flirting with populist and nationalist parties.  I wouldn’t be the least surprised to find the flirting turn serious in next year’s elections.  And with the US having shifted so significantly to a right-wing populism, it becomes more acceptable for voters in other countries to follow suit.

4          We need to re-think the assumed political landscape – the institutions that have marked international politics for the last 70 years and the political order that has prevailed since at least 1990 no longer necessarily represent business-as-usual.  And it’s no longer safe to make assumptions (for instance, regarding US military intervention) that would have been reasonable at the beginning of the year or even a week ago.

5          The potential for new norms and values – I’m very concerned that a message has been given that it’s acceptable to say things that are offensive and that courtesies and decencies no longer matter.  That it’s acceptable to refuse to extend a hand of friendship to those who need it, that an I’m-alright-Jack nationalism is a perfectly appropriate alternative.  That education is over-valued.  That it’s acceptable to demean and devalue women.  That people who do and say these things are selected, that they win.  This feels a retrograde step on all levels.

6          This is what it feels like – after the vote for Brexit, it struck me that the frustration, the sense of doors being closed and the feeling that government policy didn’t resonate with me or do what I’d like it to must be what a lot of other people had felt for some time.  The same might well be true in the US now.

7          And finally … Michelle Obama’s heels – she smiled, she posed for the cameras, she played nice, but you’re not telling me that Michelle Obama, low-heeled familiar, just happened to put on a super-high pair of heels the day she welcomed Melania Trump to the White House.

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