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Imagining Trump’s America

Donald Trump’s >stunning victory in the U.S. presidential election has sent >shockwaves across 50 states and ripples beyond America’s shores. It will be days before that country comes to grips with the new reality that 48 per cent of its citizens voted for.

As they pick through the debris of failed poll analyses, frustrated voter registration drives and inadequate return on a billion-dollar campaign, one question will dominate their minds: How did we get this so wrong?

There are several ways to answer that question. The first is that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton never really grasped what the Trump campaign was trying to achieve: a deep connection with white, blue-collar men and women of America.

The middle America disconnect

These were people who, despite President Barack Obama’s successful efforts to cut unemployment rates and spur economic growth after the Great Recession of 2008, felt a sense of isolation from the distant machinations of Washington and were frustrated by a lack of opportunities for upward economic and social mobility.

In Mr. Trump they found a patron who not only promised to Make America Great Again, but one who would do so by Draining The (Beltway) Swamp and subtly pander to racial insecurities. Once this bond was forged between the white masses and their messiah, the rest was history. No wonder then Mr. Trump was voted in by a majority of whites over non-whites, school graduates over college graduates, and those below the age of 45 over the older cohort.

By no means, however, does Mr. Trump’s victory guarantee that this gash ripped in the fabric of American society will be mended overnight. To get to that point, bridges will have to be built, empathy will have to replace apathy, sympathy will have to substitute hate.

Media’s blind eye

This brings us to the second reason for Tuesday night’s election earthquake. Mainstream liberal U.S.A. was simply not ready to hear the message of the Angry White Man.

Pollsters and media pundits put down Mr. Trump’s remarkable primaries victory over an eclectic smorgasbord of Republican candidates down to pure luck or a moment of electoral insanity that could not survive the fight with a far more coherent, experienced Secretary Clinton.

They were wrong.

Similarly, they attributed Mr. Trump’s promise to build a wall along the Mexican border and his denigration of Mexicans as rapists and criminals to pure theatrics or a tendency to be obnoxious. Had they instead sought to reach out to more of those who had fears, however irrational, about immigration swamping their country and depriving them of jobs, they may have stumbled upon a real story, something that even Ms. Clinton may have appreciated hearing about.

Shaping SCOTUS

With Mr. Trump now in office, it is tempting to think this is a moot point for the next four years. Yet it is beyond doubt that liberal America will face many more setbacks in the coming Trump term in office, for a multitude of reasons.

Among his early actions it is likely that Mr. Trump will nominate, and in all likelihood get passed, a Justice to the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS), in the wake of the vacant spot owing to the death of conservative judge Antonin Scalia in February.

This would tip the SCOTUS over into the conservative zone, with Mr. Trump’s nominee able to offer a decisive vote to break a 4-4 tie with the liberal Justices.

If he does so, then this literally opens the floodgates to re-litigating and potentially overturning landmark judgments and smaller decisions that form an integral part of the Obama legacy.

Among these are the Affordable Care Act of 2010, Mr. Obama’s epic healthcare reform law, the decision on marriage equality that brought succour to so many members of the LGBT community, even something as fundamental as Roe v. Wade, which crystallised women’s reproductive rights.

In addition, a ninth Justice appointed by Mr. Trump could set the clock back on numerous smaller legislations or orders relating to immigration restrictions and deportation of undocumented workers, pertaining to climate change mandates, and gun control reforms.

Shifting trajectory

Outside of SCOTUS, Mr. Trump would be bolstered by the fact that Republicans now control not only the House of Representatives but also the Senate. This would facilitate easy passage of laws relating to tax cuts for corporate America or wealthy Americans, spending cuts for middle class welfare programmes.

Would the Trump administration be mindful of history, of the reckless risk-taking behaviour, low interest rates and loose credit laws that the George W. Bush regime pushed so blithely, until it brought almost the whole world to its knees in the throes of financial crash and economic recession? Hard to say.

Yet what will be clear to all Americans when the dust of this feverish election season settles is that they have placed their country on an entirely different trajectory from what they so poignantly chose when they elected Mr. Obama eight years ago.

Unless Mr. Trump takes on a very different tone towards healing the self-inflicted wounds of his countrymen, four years might seem like an eternity to many.

narayan@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 4:38:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/Imagining-Trump%E2%80%99s-America/article16441023.ece

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