I can assure you that that was not a headline I thought I would ever be writing. At all.
Last night, the unthinkable happened. The absolute stone cold outsider, they guy with 0% political experience, the TV celebrity, the outrageously outspoken man, won. If you thought Brexit was a shock, this shadows that ten-fold.
Let me try and digest what has happened, at least from my point of view.
I stayed up watching the results last night on TV. I have Sky so I get CNN and Fox, as well as all the other UK news channels. I have to say that the UK news channel coverage was pretty poor. I avoided Fox as they’re so heavily biased towards Republicans that you can’t get a balanced view at all. So CNN it was. They did a very good job, were on the button for projections and breaking news. They also managed to communicate to viewers the magnitude and gravitas of what was happening.
The reason I stayed up to watch is that whichever way it went, it was going to be historic. We’d either have our first female President of the US, or the first person to be elected to office without any previous experience and with a background of TV and business. We got the latter, much to the enormous shock of TV analysts, presenters and of course the rest of the world too.
I was always of the opinion that Trump could still win. The pattern of their opinion polls followed a very similar pattern to ours during the EU Referendum. Remain always being that little bit ahead. With the end result being the opposite way round. As the final votes are counted, it looks like Clinton will win the popular vote, but Trump has won based on winning the right states to rack up the electoral college votes required. Only the fifth time in American general elections that has happened.
I’d also like to mention how wrong the US media and opinion polls were. I kept a close eye on what US media outlets were saying. Almost all were leaning, some even becoming cheerleaders, for a Clinton win. For me, this shows a gross misjudgement of the tone and emotion of the American people. It was much easier to back a Clinton win. She was the status quo, predictable, media-safe option and that was easy to report on. Very little attention was paid to middle America and what they thought. Headlines and coverage was almost always left-leaning. When they say the media in America is biased, proponents of that had their point proved on Tuesday night.
As for the opinion pollster, I think it’s time for a change. Here in the UK and and over the in US, they haven’t been right in a long time now.
A big task ahead to rebuild
To say 2016 has been an uncertain kind of year would be putting it mildly. Tumultuous probably doesn’t even cover it. It has been one of those years where we’ve discovered that in the Western part of the world at least, we probably know and understand less than we thought.
One thing we do know though is that America is a very divided nation. Again, drawing similar comparisons to the UK after the Brexit vote, this US election has managed to split communities, families and friends. It has shone a spotlight onto the deep divisions that ultimately have led to this shock result.
As with Brexit, there was a hidden vote, not picked up by opinion polls, that came out to vote for the first time in a long time. These were Americans that were unhappy with the status quo. Donald Trump has the unenviable task of trying to reunite a country that he helped to divide in order to win power.
Why Trump won
For me, there are a few key factors as to why Donald Trump won.
The first, although not the primary reason, is down to the Democratic candidate in Hillary Clinton. This was about as weak and inappropriate a candidate to put forward at this time. America was yearning for change and a new direction. Clinton represented decades of Washington politics. You could not get more establishment if you tried. It was always going to be an uphill battle. I think if Bernie Sanders was allowed the candidacy then it might have been a different story. America didn’t see him as establishment. They saw him as change. He might have won.
Donald Trump also won because he was able to speak to a huge portion of the US electorate that Clinton was simply not able to reach. He was able to tap into decades of discontent in the swing states he won, empathise, sympathise, and talk to the residents of those states in a way no politician could. With simple, effective and often incendiary rhetoric. It gave the people in those states an energy and a reason to vote for someone new. Trump was able to do that across a larger portion of the US than most gave him credit for.
He won because he is not a politician. There is a monumental change underway in the Western world. A large proportion of the general population, here, in the US and certain European countries, are now completely out of patience and time for the current system. Donald Trump was able to harness that change. He was able to appeal to those desperate for change, and tell that he was going to right wrongs. It can be argued that as a billionaire, he’s not really one of the working class, or that of a person with a similar background as those from the rust belt states. But that’s not the point. As I was listening to an interview on BBC Five Live this morning, a person being interviewed said he voted fro Trump because he and his family was able to make it in America. They see him as a self-made man. He’s now showed a widely ignored portion of the US that anything is possible once again.
However, what was said during his campaign cannot be ignored. He said he wants to build a wall across the southern border to keep Mexicans out. He said he wants to send Syrian refugees back. He said he wants to ban all Muslims coming into the US. He’s made some vile comments about women. He made fun of a disabled person. In any other election race, just one of the above would have derailed his campaign and sent him to the gutter. But the desire for change by so much of the US was so strong, their disengagement for the political establishment so angry, that it seemed no matter what he said or did, they were prepared to look over his divisive rhetoric.
And that is something we should all be looking at very closely. If the anger and disenfranchisement is that strong, that vocal, existing political systems should be taking a very close look at themselves and how this current brand of democracy is functioning. Change is afoot. If they don’t change with it, they may find themselves dangerously redundant.
A global failure
Easily the two biggest shocks this year has been Brexit and the US Election. The media, which is increasingly being shown to be either biased or woefully behind the times, expected the status quo to remain. They got the opposite. They weren’t prepared.
But whilst these singular events are shocking, it’s the causes of them that are many time more important.
You only need to look at those who voted, and the reasons why the voted. On both sides of the Atlantic, voters in Britain and voters in America both said in very large numbers that they were very unhappy with the status quo. They felt ignored for decades. Missed out on economic and social progress. The existing systems weren’t working for them and hadn’t been for a very long time. This was their chance to vote for change.
For them, globalisation has failed.
Jobs that have moved abroad have left vast areas of the US stagnant and depressed. Local economies are bumping around at the bottom. No prospects of growth or prosperity. President after President promised change. Change for everyone. It never came. Globalisation has worked for some. It has worked for the areas that jobs have arrived at. China has done very well out of it. In fact most of Asia has done very well out of it. But it cannot be denied that the change has been largely unbalanced.
The British steel industry is a perfect example. It is in dire straights. What is left of the sector has been teetering on the edge of abyss for the last 18 months. Ask those who work in the steel sector what the problem has been, it is foreign steel being used for British infrastructure projects, rather than home made steel. It’s cheaper. But it’s not creating business for British companies. It has led to vast job reductions. Local economies flat-lining. A deep distrust of the authorities promising solutions and never delivering on them. I think the people and companies that have benefited from globalisation should look at these kinds of areas so that they understand that this current form of gloablisation has failed them.
It is this form of gloablisation and a stagnant political system that has helped to create a wave of populism that has given hope to the disenfranchised and despondent. It’s not going to go away.
Think we’re done for global shocks for the year? Think again. You need to turn your attentions to Italy. In a few weeks time in early December, Italians are going to go to the polls in a referendum on constitutional reform. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised to resign if he loses. Problem is, every single opposition party is campaigning against him, and masses of opinion polls are already pointing to a “No” vote. At this point, Renzi loses and he resigns. If this happens, that’s another country voting against the political establishment and forcing out a leader. My personal worry for this scenario is the Italian banking system. If Renzi loses and resigns, the political instability will turn into business uncertainty, and with the anemic frailties of the Italian banking system, it’s dangerous. If Italians banks go, Greek banks would go with it. It’s no wonder EU leaders are very worried right now.
A time to pull together
Overnight in the US, there were protests against Donald Trump’s election in New York, LA, Chicago and other major cities. You can understand their frustrations. These are liberalist population centres who would have voted heavily for Hillary Clinton. However, the result is the result, their democracy at work.
The task ahead is huge, but unifying the US is a priority. Americans shouldn’t look to their new President to do that. The things he’s said mean that he will probably be unable to achieve that. They should look to themselves and each other. They know what is right and wrong. They don’t need Government to tell them how to do it.
If there are any Americans reading this right now, I would urge you to not follow in the footsteps of Britain after the Brexit vote. In the days and weeks after the EU Referendum, those who voted to leave the EU were branded as all racist, dumb, uneducated, fascist and stupid. Many who voted to remain in the EU took aim at Leave supporters and refused to acknowledge their concerns. It led to a nasty atmosphere that is only now just beginning to heal.
I would urge you to come together, listen to each other, accept that you all have opposing views, but to respect the ways in which you all voted. Once you have done that, then work together to take your country forward. Only you can do that. It won’t be easy. Some people will have polarising views that others will be actively against. But to start tearing yourselves apart at this moment in time will be more damaging that anything else.
We’re undergoing a massive period of change, caused by a political system and globalisation that has worked for some, but not all. We all have to come together and start to listen and learn from those that the world has left behind. If we do, then perhaps we can start to heal a few divisions and work on ways to improve business and political infrastructures that work for all, not just some.
This will be easier said than done. And with the Italian referendum coming up in a few weeks, and German and French elections next year, we’re going to have more seismic changes to come.
To get weekly updates from DGB sent to your inbox, enter your email address in the space below to subscribe: