By Arunima Singh:
The unthinkable has happened. Donald Trump, whose bid for presidency started as nothing short of a joke for most Americans has now become the 45th elected President of the United States of America. As the news pundits around the globe try to understand what Trump as President would mean for the world, it is very interesting to understand how this happened.
For months before the election day, news outlets and pollsters were all predicting a comfortable victory for the Democratic Nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In fact, some had suggested that this race was over, and it was only left to see if she could get more than 300 electoral votes and win by a landslide. One week before the elections, the memory of some leaked emails decreased the margin with which she was expected to win in the polls, but most news outlets still predicted a win for Clinton.
But what happened on November 8 changed everything. The outcome was a stunning revelation to say the least. It showed how inaccurate the pollsters were. And it wasn’t the first time. From the Brexit in the UK to the state and national elections in India, we have all witnessed how off the mark polling can be. It is difficult to understand how Donald Trump managed to win the electoral vote in America despite his sexist-racist-xenophobic-Islamophobic rhetoric. How could he win even after 11 women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault right before the election? Does America not respect women anymore? Do Americans really hate half of their country?
Let’s not even pretend for a second that racism and sexism were not an important part of this. There are groups like Alt-Right and Klu Klux Klan. White supremacy is a huge reason why Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ was widely celebrated. Even if some people in the USA are indeed racist, we need to ask one question. Why did Trump win? It is true that a large number of Trump supporters were homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist and sexist. But was that enough to make him President? Highly unlikely. Let us not forget that it is the same country that elected a black man as President twice. Obama also had the highest approval ratings that any President has had in the US. Why did it come to this then?
The American middle class. Especially the people from the white middle class and the lower middle classes have been sick of the nation’s politicians for a long time. From the Republicans to the Democrats, there is barely a real connection left between political parties and the working class of America. One look at the polls show you a lot of things we should take into account before we fall back into despair. There was a race divide, but there was also a class divide. There was also an urban-rural divide between the voters. The Democrats had built a base for themselves in some states, but even in those seats, Trump won. Something about Trump’s message made people of these states change their minds. He inspired a lot of working class and rural voters, and the major difference compared to the Clinton campaign was that Trump supporters were gladly willing to stand in line and wait to vote. Clinton’s biggest failure was not those who voted for Trump. It was those who didn’t vote at all.
According to the Edison National Election Pool, almost 30% of Latin Americans voted for Trump. A similar percentage of Asian Americans voted for him. More African Americans and Latinos voted for him than the Republican nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney. Hillary led the college graduate vote with 49% against 45% for Trump. Compared to the 44% for Hillary, the current President had 52% share of the votes among the ones without a college degree The younger population favoured Hillary compared to the older, which favoured Trump. The stunning total of 42% females voted for Trump, while 54% of white women voted for him. Males favoured Trump over Clinton with 53% to 41%.
Trump, with his anti-illegal immigration policies and rhetoric against NAFTA and TPP, seems to have not only convinced, but inspired a group of voters who were sick and tired of policies that they felt did nothing for them. Clinton and the Democratic take on climate change also had coal miners worried. They did not see a real alternative for themselves in the market. Clinton has also been projected to be for immigration and open borders, with her policies to get more Syrian refugees in the US being widely disliked by many of the voters who see Muslim refugees as a threat. Like some other powerful countries, the masses are desperately and increasingly becoming insecure about their financial and social status in the changing economy with the changing demography, and politicians haven’t done much to address it.
Hillary Clinton also has the baggage of being a long-time politician, and most of what she has done or can do is overshadowed by her public image of being a pro-rich, pro-Wall Street, pro- establishment career politician who only cares about her interests. All of that with her email scandals hasn’t helped the cause either. It is important to note that due to all these reasons even those who were not going to support Trump did not want to vote for her. And even if they did, it was with zero excitement.
Another great divide is of that among the intellectual class and the masses, and a deep disconnect in their politics, which could have resulted in this grave misreading of the polls. It would make sense to argue that the poll predictions added to the disinterest of what Michael Moore has called the ‘depressed voter’ by predicting she would win. These voters probably did not want to come out and vote, and even if they did, not with much vigour, and certainly little encouragement for the people around to do so. Few politicians like Bernie Sanders were able to sense the discontentment of the American working classes who have played a huge role in this election.
It was probably the accumulation of all of these factors along with the horribly divisive, racist and sexist politics the Republican party has been flirting with, that Donald Trump found himself winning this election. It was most importantly because of all the different sections he inspired to come out and vote. It was something which the opposition just couldn’t do. Hillary just couldn’t inspire enough of those who did not want to vote for all that Trump stands for.
The agitated rural and working class of America has made a statement. Unfortunately, that statement was made by electing a fear mongering, racist, sexist and narcissistic demagogue. Sure, many elected him for that, but many voted for him despite that. This is their statement to the two party system that no longer looks at their dreams and aspirations, to these two parties which have failed their electorates, to the media and the intellectual class. Everyone will remember the consequences of this together.