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Trump's Victory Shows The Manifestation Of America's Discontent

11/11/2016 13:08
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DONALD Trump's announcement to run for presidency in June 2015 was met largely with laughter and disbelief. Almost 18 months later, his seismic election victory sends shockwaves through America and again causes people to disbelieve- though there are few laughing this time round. It's unexpectedness is borne out of consistent polls that antithetically predicted a comfortable win for Hillary Clinton, and the often chaotic nature of Donald Trump's campaign. Several comparisons can be drawn between the U.S. election and Brexit; pollsters, academics and the media failed to foresee a large turnout in support for the anti-establishment, right-wing movements. Trump's unanticipated victory was underpinned by a surge of votes from white working class men (both university and non-university educated) and a smaller than predicted number of minorities and women voting for Clinton. Of the myriad of reasons that made millions more than expected choose the business tycoon, it was the disenchantment at the current establishment's approach to pressing issues, such as immigration and Middle-Eastern policy, that played the central role in securing his remarkable victory.

Although not apocalyptic, the state of affairs in the U.S. over the last decade has been turbulent at the best of times. A poll carried out by the Economist this week on whether respondents thought the U.S. was heading in the right/wrong direction revealed 32% more people believing their country was heading down the wrong track. In March of this year, 61% of respondents in a survey carried out by A.T. Kearney believed that immigration 'jeopardizes the nation'. The salience of immigration has also sharply risen in the minds of most Americans- in 2002 the Harris Poll found that just one percent of respondents ranked immigration as one of the two most important issues for government- this figure rose to 19% this year. Rhetorically brash and brazenly offensive, Trump's proposed solutions to America's ills evidently attracted millions of voters towards him over Clinton, whose liberal stance (she proposed to increase the number of Syrian refugees America accepts by 550%) did not sit well with those who favour a precautionary approach in the face of the mounting terror threat.

Immigration is one of multiple grievances and fears that U.S citizens hold. As many as 70% of Americans view ISIS as the number one threat to American interests; although Clinton did repeatedly pledge to eradicate them, Trump's stalwart claims of forceful and immediate intervention struck a chord with Americans anxious about the ISIS threat, and made Clinton's proposals appear liberal and overly tentative by comparison. His language throughout the campaign was colourful, and his often daring rhetorical devices used to win over attention and support - through the use of ad populum, ad baculum and ad hominem fallacies - instilled confidence that he would implement tangible change in American foreign policy and bolster defense in a climate against the backdrop of maximum levels of terrorism threat. On the economic side, both candidates repeatedly prioritised the middle class in a bid to successfully attract one of America's biggest demographics- but Trump's direct appeals to the middle class to ensure they would no longer be 'forgotten' with his proposals to collapse the current seven tax brackets down to three, and effectively reducing the income tax rate for low-income Americans to 0, was instrumental in drawing swathes of support from the disaffected working classes.

One of Trump's most vital components in his victory was that of his opponent. A full overview of the misdemeanors and dubious histories of both candidates would perhaps necessitate a short novel, but the actions of Hillary Clinton over her lengthy political life- the most notable being the deletion of over 30,000 emails and flirting with prison charges- was sufficient to repel enough people. Although her campaign was well thought-out, and her outlined policies in the televised debates logical and with substance, the combination of a deceitful history and imperfect policy ( her idea to make college education debt-free worried economists due to its potential impact on the national debt ) made Trump - who is not without his own plentiful scandals - the worthier option. Indeed, a poll by the Washington Post in August showed that 56% of Americans have a negative opinion of Clinton. Whether the more energetic, charismatic and 'cleaner' Sanders would have performed better than his female counterpart will always remain unknown, though Democrats will inevitably wonder about what could have been.

Brexit demonstrated that the collective rise of the disenchanted working classes and right-wing against the traditional establishment is possible, the U.S. election highlighted it is by no means a one-off. Citing his representation of 'the working man and woman', Trump embodied a protest against the status quo, and emboldened millions of Americans to translate their serious concerns about immigration, the economy and ISIS into a vote for him. Aggrieved by the current state of affairs and the Democrat incumbency over the past eight years, Hillary Clinton represented a continuation of establishment policies that millions of ordinary Americans felt 'silenced' by. To most people, the result on Tuesday came as the biggest shock is US election history. But to some, the element of surprise is not so considerable; for the millions of people who felt forgotten and afflicted by the establishment, and disaffected at the cautious approach to immigration and terrorism, were bound to rise up eventually.

Thomas Smith

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