Donald Trump wins White House race to inherit a divided nation

As he claimed victory, Mr. Trump urged Americans to "come together as one united people".

November 09, 2016 02:01 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 10:50 pm IST - New York

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump smiles during his victory speech in New York on Wednesday.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump smiles during his victory speech in New York on Wednesday.

Republican Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, the first public office that the 70-year-old real estate mogul-turned politician will hold.

Mr. Trump defeated Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton — who would have been the country’s first woman President in its 240-year history — and succeeds Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the U.S. Mr. Trump is the oldest person to be elected President.

By praising Ms. Clinton and promising to seek the guidance of all people, including those who opposed him, Mr. Trump sought to open a new chapter after victory. “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country,” he said.

Calling himself the “ultimate insider-turned ultimate outsider”, Mr. Trump built a hyper-nationalistic campaign that accused Ms. Clinton and leaders of his own party of being in collusion with global corporations to squeeze the interests of the American working class. “He had six people and a Twitter handle when he began,” as a Republican strategist put it. Over 512 days, his comments about immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, women, veterans, and the disabled generated an unending train of controversies that his opponents and commentators thought would destruct him.

But they did not, and Mr. Trump built a popular upsurge for change that breached conventional Democratic strongholds and captured the White House for the Republicans in a nail-biting finish to an acrimonious and hostile election season. The Republicans have also retained control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

As the night grew chilly in Manhattan, jubilation and excitement began to fill the gathering of Mr. Trump’s supporters as he began picking up key States in fierce contests. With Florida and North Carolina falling into his kitty and the solidly Democratic State of Michigan gradually slipping away, gloom descended on the venue where Ms. Clinton was planning to celebrate her victory only a few blocs away. By 3 a.m. when Mr. Trump appeared on stage at the Hilton, his supporters had begun chanting, “lock her up”, a slogan that embodied the intense hatred for Ms. Clinton that drove them through this campaign.

Flanked by wife Melania, children, and the handful of Republican leaders that supported him in his mostly single-handed campaign, Mr. Trump sang a different tune from the previous evening. Ignoring chants to “build that wall”, and “lock her up”, Mr. Trump said in a calm and measured tone: “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. I mean that very sincerely. Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

The applause may have been the meekest that welcomed him in the last one year, but he went on. “...It is a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs, who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will,” he said. Mr. Trump then came down from the dais and shook hands with the invitees.

Trump’s constituency

Most polls and analyses of Mr. Trump’s politics focused on his support among white working class and concluded that his appeal was limited to them and predicted that he had no path to victory in a country that is increasingly diverse, ethnically and linguistically. Since the widely shared forecast that Mr. Trump had no path to victory has been disproved, the underlying assumptions about the social constituency that catapulted Mr. Trump also begs a revision. Mr. Trump’s own formulation has been a call for unity “as one nation, under one flag and under one god”, constantly singling out “radical Islamic terrorism”, as the enemy. There was no mention of Islam or terrorism in the victory speech.

Conscious of the fact that his campaign that centred on anti-globalisation and anti-trade themes that have already created heartburns in world capitals, Mr. Trump said: “All people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.”

The President-elect said America will “no longer settle for anything less than the best”, but that will not be in conflict with other nations. “I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone.”

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