Unless you are living in a cave on a remote island, you must have heard by now what may potentially be the biggest political news of your lifetime: the election of businessman Mr Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world.
The worldwide reaction to what global analyst Pepe Escobar calls ‘a geopolitical 9/11’ has been one of complete and utter shock. Millions of those outside the US may be thinking this is a sick joke and wondering if the Americans have lost their collective mind. Many of them have been only passingly paying attention to the presidential race and had long assumed that Hillary Clinton would easily trounce the often unstable and buffoonish supposed billionaire. The disbelief of her own supporters and the mainstream media in the US mirrors those from outside.
Here are 3 reasons to help better explain how Trump managed this seemingly unlikely political upset:
1. The Brexit Effect
Similar to the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign earlier this year that saw Britain divorce itself from the European Union, this election was shaped by working class white voters who felt betrayed and abandoned by higher political elites. This deep-seated anti-establishment fervor needs an avenue to express itself. In the case of the US election, Hillary Clinton, backed by major media corporations and the financial industry, became the literal face of the establishment and no matter how much she tried to portray herself as a vehicle of progress, she embodied continuity. Trump’s victories were secured by the ‘Brexit’ states in the US, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, whose demographics of lower-middle class workers heavily favored his message of change.
2. Trump: The Master Communicator
Whereas Trump was continually derided for his low-grade communication style and lack of vocabulary, this is precisely what struck a chord with millions of working class voters. Trump spoke at their same level and without the polish and artificiality attached to most politicians, which made him a compelling candidate for the average American. Trump expertly used repetition of certain phrases (‘Make America Great Again’) and monikers for his opponents (‘Crooked Hillary’) to ingrain certain perceptions in the voting public. His constant Twitter-war and use of social media allowed him to directly reach the American people and circumvent the mainstream media messaging.
3. Hillary: A Consistently Weak Candidate
Hillary Clinton seemed to bank on her political experience as a Senator and Secretary of State to sway the minds of voters, but it was exactly this experience that worked against her in an election in which voters wanted an outsider. She lacked much of the charm and finesse of the previous two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who were able to woo voters to their side. On top of this, a scandal over her use of a private server to deal with government emails while Secretary of State dragged her down even in the final stages of the campaign. Many voters found Trump’s personality dislike-able, but Hillary was burdened over issues of trust and honesty, in which she would often score even lower than Trump in polling averages.
In the end, this election became a classic case of ‘lesser of two evils’ in the minds of voters. Voters may not have been deeply excited by either candidate, but Trump offered an apparent opportunity to shake up the political system and deliver a blow to the ruling class that had so long neglected the average voter and left the country with fewer jobs, lower incomes, unending wars and increasing national debt. Whether Trump can change the status quo for the better or blow it all up remains to be seen, and that uncertainty has got the world on its toes.