The five things you need to know on Wednesday, November 9…
1) TRUMP STAKE, WITH BREXIT SAUCE
The American public have driven a stake through the heart of the US Establishment, and that stake is called Donald J Trump.
The Brexit comparisons are obvious, but nonetheless all too true: a mass of ‘hidden’ voters (many previously unregistered) not captured by the polls; high turnout; TV-savvy populism armed with a simple message; and an anger among the white working class at decades of being ignored.
Trump himself had warned it would be ‘Brexit times ten’, before upgrading his own prediction to ‘Brexit, plus, plus, plus’. Sarah Palin declared that millions were backing the billionaire ‘to take back control’. Nigel Farage’s tweet yesterday - “Is this Brexit day in the US? I hope so” - was ridiculed by the Twitterati as it was pointed out the US’s Brexit from Britain was 200 years ago. But just as Britain and Twitter are not the same thing, America and Twitter aren’t either.
But of course Trump was right. This is much, much bigger than Brexit. Trumpxit trumps it. A man who has never held elected office is set to hold the most powerful office in the world. Which was exactly his appeal among voters who felt that ‘Washington’ wasn’t listening to them. The ‘outsider’ card is often played by politicians (even Yale-educated-son-of-a-President George W Bush played it), but Trump was in a different league. Yes, he’s wealthy, but he was never a career politician.
In a supreme irony, the most successful messenger of the left’s anti-globalisation chant - ’the 99% v the 1%’ - is a member of the 1%. No wonder Wall St, and much of Washington, are worried that America is about to enter a new age of protectionism at home, and possibly isolationism abroad.
Trump exploited undercurrents of voter anger with all the ruthless soundbite efficiency of a TV star. Yet he didn’t just win because of a hard core of angry blue-collar voters, he held together a coalition of Tea partiers, libertarians, social conservatives and even ‘moderate’ Republicans who chose what they say as the lesser of two evils.
And, as much as he personally up-ended the Presidential race, the Republicans’ victories in taking the Senate and House of Representatives tells you the bigger story of more usual electoral forces of gravity. After eight years of the Democrats in the White House, the pendulum swung back. Professor Allan Lichtmann forecast a Trump win, based on key factors (mid-term elections, policy successes, charismatic candidates) that led him to correctly call every election since 1984.
Reading his victory speech (falteringly as he isn’t used to sticking to the script), Trump said this morning: “Now is the time for America to bind the wounds. It is time for us to come together as one united people”.
For many voters, some of the inflammatory things Trump said didn’t matter. What mattered more was his promise of deeds, not words. As the disunited States of America - and the world - comes to terms with a Trump presidency, that’s going to be his key test.
2) CLINTON’S MUTE POINT
Hillary Clinton called Trump to concede defeat just around 7.45am UK time, but only after yet another Clintonesque moment of indecision and wobble. Originally, her campaign chief Jon Podesta (yes, he of leaked emails fame) said she was basically going to bed and would wait for the final result. That sparked outrage among the Trump camp, who claimed it was rank hypocrisy from Democrats who were furious at their man’s hint that he may not accept the result.
But will Clinton have the grace to accept the scale of her failure? Just as Al Gore was to Bill Clinton, and Gordon Brown was to Tony Blair, so too Hillary Clinton is to Barack Obama. It’s tough to follow a political rock star, yet even by Gore’s and Brown’s standards, she was a terrible candidate.
The old saying is that good politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Clinton campaigned in leaden, flat-footed verbiage. Trump’s closing speech was pithy and brilliantly messaged: “I’m not a politician, I have no self interest, you are my interest, I want to make American strong again..great again”. Clinton’s final TV ad was a soft-focus appeal to inclusivity.
That eve-of-poll video of Clinton and her team doing ‘the mannequin challenge’ now looks like not just hubris, but also a premonition of the state of suspended animation into which Trumpism plunged her on election night.
When you add in all her negatives on trust (even with Trump’s proven lies he outpolled her on honesty), it underlines once more that elections are lost as much as won. Her much-heralded ‘ground game’ and big data advantages melted in the face of Trump’s tightly-targeted slogans tapping into deeper, underlying forces of discontent. Despite belatedly criticising free trade agreements and calling for taxes on the rich, on the key issue of making the economy work for working people, she seemed mute to too many voters. And not 'on our side'.
I've been banging on (and Tweeting) George Packer's New Yorker piece for some time now. But if you want to understand more of why Clinton failed to connect with the core working class vote, read THIS. It's long but worth it.
3) IN HIS WAKE
Were you up for Kalamazoo, Michigan? Or for Milwaukee, Wisconsin? With the margins so tight, was in the individual counties, rural and urban, in swing states that this race was won.
It was around 3.52am when Florida was being called for Trump, the first sign that Clinton’s hoped-for victory party was turning into a wake. By 4.35am, with Ohio and North Carolina heading his way, the much-derided path-to-victory was beginning to look clearer. When Michigan and Wisconsin were leaning to Trump after 5am, Clinton was doomed. One commentator on the BBC played to the British gallery with the line: “This point of the evening does look like an episode of the West Wing and Veep.”
In one more clue to her divisive nature, even if she’d clawed her way near the magic 270 total, a Sanders-supporting member of her own party raised the bar to 271. Robert Satiacum, a member of
Washington state’s Democratic delegation to the Electoral College, told the AP: “She will not get my vote, period.” Satiacum, a member of Washington’s Puyallup tribe, described Clinton is a “criminal” with a “lacklustre history” on native American issues. With friends like these…
The story of the night was that Trump won bigger margins than usual in rural areas, but also got those white working class votes in urban areas of the states dubbed ‘the Rust belt’ (a phrase that may now be seen as part of the condescension that drove the result?).
By contrast, Clinton couldn’t mobilise white or black blue collar Americans in places like Fint, Michigan. This despite support from Michael Moore, the man who put the town’s fate on the map, and Jesse Jackson. In Ohio, Trump didn’t just win, he won by a big margin. Those ‘firewall states’ of Colorado and Nevada couldn’t hold back a political bushfire as big as this.
BECAUSE YOU’VE RED (STATES) THIS FAR…
Watch this Pennsylvania couple, married for 37 years, who voted different ways. Kinda sums up the divided America narrative.
4) NEW POLITICS
In his victory speech, Trump declared: “Ours was not a campaign, but an incredible movement”. And he’s right that it certainly tore up all the usual rules not just on acceptable rhetoric but on how to win votes.
Trump was outspent by Clinton, had nowhere near as good data or ‘field operations’, and deliberately goaded a media he saw as the enemy. Yet hundreds of thousands of people turned up to his rallies. The parallels with Jeremy Corbyn will be pored over this side of the Pond, despite many of his supporters loathing any comparison with the Republican tycoon.
Trump’s pledge to speak for “the forgotten people”, to reject free trade agreements and to rebuild highways and railroads in a massive infrastructure project all have echoes of Corbyn too. The one construction project Trump seemed to fail to mention this morning was his wall with Mexico (though the plunging Peso spoke volumes more).
Curtis Ellis, Trump’s spokesman in New York, said that it was time to end “this free trade philosophy” and “not sacrifice [the workers] to some utopian theory that has proven in practice to not work”. For all the new jobs created under Obama, for all its headline economic growth, it’s the five million jobs lost in manufacturing and the growing inequality that is driving the new protectionism. But will Trump really ‘double our growth’, as he again claimed this morning?
When Bill Clinton’s leaked words about the Labour leader - that he’s “the maddest person in the room” - emerged yesterday they were initially seen as unhelpful. Senior Labour sources told me it was obvious Clinton had meant that Labour reached in 2015 for ‘the angriest’ person in the room, not the craziest. And if nothing else, the US election proves that anger is a powerful political force.
Yet harnessing that anger is something the right is proving adept at, as much as the left was in Greece. There’s a downside for Corbyn too. A coalition of motivated students, liberal graduates (Clinton led by four to one in this category) and minority groups just isn’t enough for victory. Maybe that’s partly why Labour’s Jess Phillips tweeted in the early hours: “When my children wake up I shall tell them that when I was little Thatcher & Reagan were in charge. I'll tell them things get better.”
5) WHAT NEXT
With the Republicans winning the Presidency and both House of Congress, Trump can get through Supreme Court judges of his choosing, something that will have lasting impact way beyond his term. That will outlast even the immediate demands Trump will face to really ‘lock her up’, and prosecute Hillary. Rudy Giuliani, seen as one of the more sensible people around Trump and a possible Attorney General, said ‘no comment’ when asked if he’d be keen on that.
There is the rival problem of Trump’s own alleged conduct, with possible depositions for sexual assault. One woman in New York this morning tweeted: “Street vendor here just yelled, "hey guys, at least now it will be legal to grab p*ssy!" And high-fived a group of men who laughed.”
The line up of personnel on Team Trump also undercuts hopes that ‘moderate’ Republicans will act as a brake on his wilder ambitions. Mike Pence, his vice president (thanked almost as an afterthought by Trump this morning), is much more right-wing than Trump on social issues. Newt Gingrich, who could be his Secretary of State, will terrify some foreign capitals. Will the Republican leadership, long backers of free trade, cave to Trump? Trump had a hint this morning of compromise that he will ‘seek your guidance and your help’.
Still, everyone said he’d tack to the centre once he’d won the Republican nomination, and that didn’t happen. Will it happen now? Will he really deport millions of undocumented migrants? Will he build the wall? And if he doesn’t, won’t the anger just get stronger?
All those long counterfactual pieces on what a Trump presidency would look like, written once with an air of fantasy, are now being updated. He likes the idea of Brexit Britain and derided Obama’s ‘back of the queue’ warning. But when US economic interests come first, will he want a bilateral trade deal that does anything other than help the US?
On foreign policy, he declared this morning “We will get along with all nations who get along with us”. Some commentators are already saying that the big winner today is Vladmir Putin, whom Trump admires as a strongman and won’t trouble in his spheres of influence in Syria and Ukraine.
Finally, on the one really global issue, climate change, Trump is a denier’s dream. My HuffPost colleague in the US Sam Stein said today “I’ve had my first Jill Stein [Green party candidate] supporter tell me he regrets his vote. Anyone else?”
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